It’s always a bittersweet time for Mondello racers when the Leinster Trophy comes around. It’s the biggest meeting of the year (although the Vee Festival comes close) and was traditionally the one everyone wanted to win. Well, that or the Phoenix Par,k and preferably both! It remains as a two day meeting even though the live RTE coverage of the event is long gone and in recent years, Mondello classes have even had the chance to race for the hugely famous trophy.
BOSS Ireland raced for the Trophy for the first time last year and in wet conditions, UK visitor Hywel Lloyd repelled a late race challenge from Paul Dagg to take the honours. For 2017, BOSS Ireland again raced for the trophy and with Cian Carey and Gino Ussi bringing their Chris Dittmann Racing team across the Irish Sea for the occasion, it was never going to be an easy win. Carey was quickest in Friday testing, as he dipped into the 1:32s despite encountering traffic on most of his runs. He was on pole for the Saturday BOSS race and as the heavens opened, he dominated proceedings. With standing water on track, there were a few spinners, including the hugely impressive Stephen Daly, making his F3 debut and with the race ending early, Carey took this win, some 12 seconds ahead of team mate Ussi, with Dagg in third.
Come the big race itself, it was Carey on pole, with former holder of the trophy Paul Dagg alongside and claiming it would “all be down to the start” as F3 machines are notoriously hard to get off the line. In the event, they all got away cleanly, except for one- Stephen Daly! A push start got the former double Leinster Trophy winner under way, but surely he would not feature at the front- or would he?! At the front, Carey held sway but Dagg, wary that Carey might have more pace once he settled down, was on the attack straight away.
Some oil had been dropped by an earlier class and the difference in how the drivers dealt with it was radical. Whilst Carey looked like he was being careful, Dagg was throwing caution to the wind- all over kerbs as he piled the pressure on. It almost worked too, as Dagg oh so nearly made a successful run around the outside at turn one, only to find that Carey, as we say in the commentary box, was not being too generous with the tarmac on the exit. Once this happened, Carey turned up the wick and began to ease away.
Meanwhile, Daly was uncorking an incredible recovery drive, scything through the pack, which was boosted by a horde of battling Formula Sheanes, before homing in on the impressive Donal Griffin, who was third overall in his Reynard 90D. Around this time, the safety car was despatched…… This meant Dagg had another chance but even more excitingly, it meant Daly drew right up to the back of the leaders as they circulated. In the event, they were released with just a lap to run and when Dagg spun on the restart, Daly was clear to claim a hugely impressive second place with Carey’s team mate recovering to clinch the final podium spot. Having suffered a tough F3 cup season so far, there was no happier face in the Mondello paddock than Cian Carey, who had done it all to perfection and now found himself added to the very exclusive list of Leinster Trophy winners.
Bernard Foley’s rumbling MGBGT V8 made a return to the HRCA grids and it would have been reasonable to expect him to dominate proceedings, once he shook off Steve Griffin’s Modsport Midget. It looked as if that would be the case early on, but Steve is as tenacious as ever and kept pushing for the duration, having closed the gap to just over a second by the chequered flag., the pair’s fastest laps matched to a hundreth!
Clive Brandon’s immaculate Lotus was third from the Zetec powered TMC Costin of Val Thompson. Tommy Doherty’s glorious sounding Capri was fifth, evoking memories of Production Saloon glory days at Mondello with it’s warbling V6, whilst class chairman Wolfgang Schnittger was first of the “tiddlers”, bringing his BMW art car liveried Midget home in sixth ahead of the Midget based MDGT of Seamus Hobbs. In his wake, Liam Ruth just came out tops of a hectic scrap with Garth Maxwell, the pair crossing the line as one! In the second race, with the rain pouring down, Foley was untouchable, the gap to Griffin just under 50 seconds. Thompson was third this time, with Brandon fourth and Schnittger next up.
David Parks is the 2017 Formula Sheane Champion and he stamped his authority on proceedings over the weekend with two more strong wins. The evergreen Brian Hearty pushed him hard in the first race with Richard Kearney in third, whilst in race two, Kearney was second, after a race long battle with Mark Dunleavy in the Enda O’Connor car. The win in race two meant that Parks won the famous Holmpatrick Trophy, capping an incredible successful year in which he also won the Northern Ireland Championship too!
The 2017 Formula Vee season has been dominated by two men. Dan Polley and Colm Blackburn have done most of the winning and have been closely matched all season. Generally in the class, when the rain falls, Polley is the man. This was the case in the opening race, as he eased clear of the pack, the reigning champion at one with his LOH Sheane. Blackburn though, fought his way to second and, although he couldn’t catch Polley, he took fastest lap and was just two seconds off him at the flag. To put perspective on this, the pair were a further 26 seconds clear of third place man Anthony Cross, himself a man known for impressive wet weather performances!
This performance was also enough to clinch a delighted Blackburn his first title in his Stephen Kershaw run Platinum Motor Company Leastone. In race two, the pair went at it again, this time joined by class returnee Jimmy Furlong. As they battled, Furlong and the Blackburn made contact at Mobil 1, with the newly crowned champion being pitched into the gravel, ending his race. Polley appeared to have won when the red flags came out, and indeed was initially awarded it- but on countback, Furlong was ahead and so got the win. Jack Byrne completed the podium, but only after a black flag and subsequent exclusion, which briefly elevated Kevin Grogan to third, but was overturned on appeal.
Ginetta Junior Ireland has suffered from miniscule grids this year for some reason, and that is a shame as it is a class that has produced drivers of the calibre of Niall Murray, Sean Doyle, Andrew Watson and many many more since its inception here in 2012. The racing didn’t suffer this year though as Cameron Fenton and Patrick Dempsey were incredibly closely matched all season long. This was also the case at the Leinster Trophy meeting. Dempsey took pole but as ever, Fenton grabbed the lead off the line in the opener. He looked comfortable in front but possibly defended too early giving Dempsey the chance he needed. They were side by side on a few occasions before Dempsey elbowed his way through at turn one, with Fenton rotating as they were side by side at turn two. This robbed us of the battle and in race two, Dempsey dominated, being clearly quicker in wet conditions. This also gave him the 2017 title- the third time this car has taken the series honours! Both Dempsey and Fenton were highly impressive this year and it will be interesting to see where they decide to race in 2018. Rob Parks Junior and Chris Grimes took a third place each over the weekend, both having improved greatly as the season progressed.
Recently crowned ITCC Champion Shane Rabbitt qualified in an unaccustomed fourth place in his inimitable flame spitting Mazda RX-7, giving himself plenty of work to do in the first race. Production champion Jay O’Reilly was on top form, annexing his first overall pole position almost two seconds ahead of closest challenger Rob Savage. Pa Hudson had taken production pole as the track dried towards the end of the session, early pacesetter Alan Healy having returned to the paddock mid session. The race was held in drier conditions and once Rabbitt got settled, he despatched the Honda duo to assume his normal position at the front, annexing the lead with an impressive move into Parabolica. The battle behind him raged though, as O’Reilly tried everything he could to get past Savage, finally managing it with a perfectly timed switchback on the final corner, nosing ahead as they headed for the chequered flag! Having qualified badly, Keith Campbell matched Rabbitt’s times as he charged up to the lead battle but unfortunately the Honda powered Corrado didn’t make the finish.
Hudson took production honours despite a late race charge from Daniel Faherty, with Healy, still in problems, touring round at the back. In race two, as ever, the top six were reversed. This meant Rabbitt would have to do it all again, but interestingly, left class returnee Philip Burdock on pole in his newly built Golf turbo. The car showed great promise as he led away and managed to hold sway early on, despite massive pressure from Ian O’Driscoll, Eric Carroll and Savage, but predictably the orange Mazda soon appeared at the front, going on to do the double and celebrating with a portion of crowd pleasing donuts on Rallycross 1! Jay O’Reilly kept him honest though with a late race charge, and just over a second separated them at the flag with the impressive O’Reilly also claiming fastest lap. Hudson took the Production win again from Faherty, assuring him of the Production title to boot. Early class leader Healy had taken fastest lap but once again, failed to get to the flag.
All eyes were on the Fiesta ST grid for their opening race, as the title was to be decided on the day between Dave Maguire and Shane McFadden. McFadden had taken pole with a stunning lap, aver a second quicker than the rest, with Graham McDonnell next up and reigning champion Maguire languishing down in 8th. A cracking start from Barry John McHenry in fourth saw him level with McFadden and just ahead of McDonnell. As they approached Turn one though, there was contact between him and McDonnell, with McHenry being pitched into the gravel, from where he would go no further. Two laps behind the safety car backed the field up with Darragh McMullen heading the field. Kevin Doran, in a car he built in ten days, had somehow charged up to challenge for the lead but contact with McMullen as he dived down the inside at Southside saw him retire with a puncture.
Despite his best efforts, McFadden could do nothing about the leader but tracked him across the line for second, meaning he led the title chase by two points coming into the second, and final, race. There was much speculation about what would happen in the title decider, as Maguire and his team mates were ahead of McFadden on the grid, once the top six were reversed. As the lights went out, John Denning led the field away and predictably, the seas parted to allow Maguire to climb to second, which subsequently became the lead when Denning pulled aside- Bottas style!
McFadden meanwhile had not made a particularly good start and looked, perhaps understandably, to be taking his time progressing through the cars ahead. He usurped Hugh Grennan before pulling up to the back of one of the toughest, and most successful Mondello saloon car racers, Michael Cullen. Cullen was never going to hand it away without a fight and the inevitable contact happened at 7A & B- what happened afterwards is still in the hands of the officials, and as a result, the championship results are provisional. At the flag, held out a lap early by the officials to prevent the possibility of more antics, it was Maguire, from Grennan, Niall Hourigan and Denning.
Peter Barrable was on top form all weekend, pretty much dominating proceedings in the Irish Supercar Powered By Pirelli series. He qualified on pole, over two seconds ahead of his nearest challenger. In race one, he eased away from title leader Alan Dawson to take the win, while series organiser Alan Kessie came out tops of a great battle with class newbies Pat McBennett and Gary Corcoran for third. Dawson was closer to Barrable in race two but could do nothing to stop the former champion doing the double, whilst the impressive Corcoran just pipped McBennett to third in a photo finish.
Former multiple Stryker Champion Alan Watkins made a return to the class to take on newly crowned, and thus far unbeaten, champion Alan Auerbach. They qualified within a fraction of each other and in race one it was Auerbach who took the honours, with Watkins just a few seconds behind, from series organiser Andy Dalton in third. In race two the rain came and it was Watkins’ turn to shine as he eased away from the pack. Auerbach was second with ex FF1600 racer Bill Griffin right there too!
With Jonathan Fildes not racing, Murray Motorsport slotted reigning champion Erik Holstein into their Fish Graphics car- a decision which proved to be a good one as he snatched pole position, but only just, from Shane Murphy and newly crowned 2017 Champion Rod McGovern. Holstein eased away in wet conditions to take the win, with McGovern second and Sam Mansfield third. Murphy had dropped back but crucially, this gave him pole for the reverse grid second race. The World Hot Rod Champion rocketed away when the lights went out and immediately began to pull away, obviously determined to grab his first Supercup win. Holstein though, was on a charge, passing Farrelly at 7B and then displacing team mate Sam Mansfield with a last minute dive into Mobil. He then closed the gap to Murphy but as he was about to challenge a rare mistake at turn two dropped him back. With Murphy on top form and making no mistakes, that was that as the Hot Rod man took his maiden Mondello win!
MJ Farrell took pole for the first Future Classics race with Daniel Byrne’s FWD Corolla GTi starting alongside him. Farrell’s Levin broke the barrier time on a number of occasions though, dropping him down the order. Despite a time penalty, Ken Byrne’s Celica took the win, from Ger Byrne’s BMW 323i and Aidan Byrne’s Celica, with Daniel in fourth. In race two, Farrell again started from pole, this time with Ger Byrne for company. Daniel Byrne and Tommy Byrne scrapped mightily but once again Ken Byrne judged it correctly and took the won once penalties were applied. Aidan Byrne also took the championship in what was another successful year for the relatively new class.
Zetec Fiestas, as we have come to expect, were hugely entertaining on both of their outings over the weekend. Owen Purcell was on pole for the first, wet race and as William Kellett pipped him off the line, both were outdragged by class returnee Brendan Fitzgerald on the run to turn one. Nobody knows Mondello Park better than Phil Lawless and he also loves the wet so it was no surprise to see him displace Kellett for second on the opening lap. A few laps later he had taken the lead and by half distance was easing away.
Darren Lawlor, meanwhile, had got by Fitzgerald and Kellett to assume second. Kellett got back up to Lawlor before a trip through the gravel dropped him back. Lawlor managed to grab the lead from Lawless but all eyes were on Lloyd Murphy, the former Veester charging up through the grid, loving the wet conditions. He ran out of laps, but managed third with fastest lap to boot, while a delighted Lawlor took the honours. Race two was dry, but no less action packed. Fitzgerald again led away but Purcell, having displaced Kellett, piled on the pressure. At one stage no less than ten cars were in the lead battle but Fitzgerald was first across the line. A technical infringement excluded him though, handing Purcell the win.
Star Drive: It would be easy to pick Cian Carey for this one, after a faultless weekend, dominating on both days. However, we expected it from him. What we didn’t expect was the pace of Stephen Daly on his F3 debut. As ever, he was spectacular to watch and his charge to second in the Leinster Trophy race was stunning. As you can see from Michael Chester’s superb image below, it didn’t take him long to get used to an F3 car!
Next up is the Fiesta 6 Hour….