Experience to the Fore – Strykers Head North After Thrilling Mondello Opener
Now, entering its 21st year as a race series, the Irish Stryker class is still as popular as ever, and looks to grow even more in 2018. While the cars look similar to the originals launched by Racetec back in 1997, they have gradually been developed and now lap the Mondello Park National circuit some 5 seconds faster than they originally did.
With many classes struggling for numbers, the Stryker class ran a test day specifically for potential new drivers towards the end of 2017. As a result of this, they had strong numbers at the opening meeting of the season at Mondello Park in April.
With a few drivers away and a car or two not yet ready, a healthy grid of 15 Zetec powered Strykers ventured out onto a wet Mondello Park National for their first qualifying session of 2018. The powerful but light 1800cc sportscars take a bit of taming in wet conditions and experience showed when the times came out at the end of the session. Des Bruton, a self professed fan of wet conditions, topped the timesheets over a second clear of ex FF1600 ace Bill Griffin. Class returnee Stephen Ross was third with impressive rookie Conal Shipman fourth, confirming his status as a wet weather expert after a strong showing in Kirkistown last year. Andy Dalton and Greg Kelly were an unaccustomed fifth and sixth respectively and both were keen to move towards the front in the opening race.
When the lights changed, with the track still decidedly greasy, Des made no mistakes to lead the pack down to turn one and by the end of the opening 2k lap, was already beginning to ease clear. As the rest began to sort themselves out, Des used all his experience to open a commanding lead which was enough to allow him to ease off towards the end, as the conditions dried out. In his wake, Dalton and Kelly had predictably charged through and were running second and third, eventually crossing the line in that order, separated by the smallest of margins after a thriling battle. Next up was Nicole Drought, after an incredible charge up from 14th on the grid on her first outing in the car. She relieved Conal Shipman of the place with a couple of laps to run and he was with her as they crossed the line. Roger Welaratne was next up just ahead of David Reynolds and Dominic Ryan. Stephen Ross had been right in the mix but unfortuantely was black flagged for having loose bodywork after some contact in the early laps.
In race two, with the track almost completely dry, it looked like we were in for more of the same, as Des Bruton once again, nailed a perfect start and began to ease away once again. Andy Dalton though, had other ideas as he first stablised, and then closed the gap. When he got the nose up the inside on the exit of Southside corner the pair ran side by side to turn one, where Andy finished the job on the brakes. He then began to ease away as Des fell back into the clutches of the charging Greg Kelly. With a carbon copy of the Dalton move, Kelly snatched second and latched onto the back of the leader. Despite Kelly’s best efforts, Dalton held on for an impressive win, with Bruton completing the podium in third. Bill Griffin was fourth, a fraction ahead of Stephen Ross, with Welaratne, Robert Griffin and Colin Deering next up.
After two exciting races, Dalton leads the title chase, just, from Bruton, with Kelly in third, Welaratne in fourth and Drought in fifth and heading the Rookie series too.
This weekend, the Zetec powered sportscars are headed North, to the high speed former airfield Bishopscourt circuit. With Bruton not entered, Dalton and Greg Kelly will be aiming for the top step but they will be challenged by a host of less experienced drivers, all keen to mount the all important podium!
Images from Michael Chester.