With multiple champion Alan Watkins having a go at Supercars, and reigning champion Alan Auerbach taking a year out, Irish Strykers will have a new first time champion this year- for the first time in 10 years!
At the opening rounds at Mondello Park, Des Bruton showed the pack a clean pair of heels in wet conditions, qualifying on pole and easing away to win the opener as he pleased. In the second race, with conditions drier, perennial pacesetter Andy D’Alton charged up to relieve Des of the lead, with Greg Kelly following him through. For the next two rounds, the sportscar class headed North, to the ultra fast Bishopscourt circuit. Greg Kelly took pole position and managed to take both races with relative ease, his task perhaps made slightly easier by the titanic battle for runner up sport between D’Alton and Nicole Drought, the pair swapping places on numerous occasions with Dalton getting the nod in both. The Zetec powered machines then returned to Mondello for the left hand in race meeting last month. Kelly, no doubt on a high from his recent double, once again qualified on pole and was unchallenged in the opening race. In race two, Bill Griffin chased him throughout, with Nicole Drought closing them down in the closing stages, having missed the first race with gearbox issues.
So, it is reasonable to assume that Kelly will continue his domination as the class return to Mondello this weekend- or is it? D’Alton is hugely experienced, having raced in the class since its inception some 20 years ago. He has already beaten Kelly on the National circuit, when he took the honours in the opening round. Des Bruton was strangely off form- at least in relative terms- at the last anticlockwise meeting and will be keen to make amends for that. Drought has taken to the Strykers like a duck to water and was only a tenth off Kelly in qualifying last time out when her gearbox let go- could she be the first woman to take an outright win at Mondello in recent years? Conal Shipman and David Reynolds have also been impressive this year so keep any eye out for them, especially Shipman in the (extremely unlikely) event the rain falls, as he has carved out quite a name as a rainmaster, despite his relative inexperience. Des Meehan also returns this weekend, having missed the last meeting die to a holiday. He mixed it with the leaders in both Bishopscourt races and will be keen to continue this form in Mondello. Robert Griffin showed great pace last time out too so will be looking to continue that this weekend. Similarly, Paul Yeomans excelled on the left hand out layout and will be worth watching. Drought, Shipman, Reynolds and Dominic Ryan are also fighting it out for “Stryker X” honours for novices too.
The Strykers take to the track for qualifying at the Formula Vee Festival tomorrow at 8am, with races at 10:15 and 14:25!
Images from Michael Chester