Rallycross may have struggled for numbers at times this year, but there were no such issues at Mondello Park last Sunday for the final found of the 2018 series.
Entries were up in all classes and a number of exciting new additions, especially in the Fiesta Zetec class, promised to add spice to proceedings. The Barrable brothers, Rob and Peter, fresh from winning the Fiesta 6 Hour Endurance race in their Michael Barrable Motors Hyundai car, had thrown in a late entry, as had the Naas Court Hotel pairing of Michael Leonard and Erik Holstein. Predictably, the quartet were bang on the pace from the off and took the majority of the heats too. Holstein had the fastest individual lap of the day in the class, but that is not how Rallycross works and a scary 360 degree spin cost his time in his second heat. Peter Barrable was right on it, but wasn’t as lucky in traffic as Rob and the final was set be a battle between Rob and Leonard. Leonard led away but Barrable stole the lead with a superb switchback at the final corner. Not to be outdone, Leonard, using all his circuit racing experience, replicated the move at Rallycross 1, just managing to get alongside Barrable on the exit and retaking the lead into the Hole in The Hedge. Barrable fought back, but couldn’t find a gap and that’s how they finished with Phil Lawless getting a grandstand view of all the action in third. “That was the most amount of fun, for the least amount of money- ever!” said a laughing Leonard afterwards.
Perhaps mindful of the need to finish and score points, Fiesta title rivals David Maher and Denis McCrudden were relatively low profile all day- a spin costing McCrudden time. When the points were totted up Maher and his Team Fasasbarr crew were delighted champions. It is worth noting that David and team put a lot of work into the promotion of the class over the year too- running Facebook competitons for tickets to come see them race and even displaying their car at the 6 Hour Fiesta Race, inviting drivers to try their hand at IRX!
The Modified title battle had also gone all the way down to the wire, with Peter McGarry and former champion Michael Coyne both in the mix- and needing to beat the other, to take the title. A slow start to the day hampered Coyne, but problems sorted, he was in classic form and on maximum attack every time. McGarry though, had done enough and was crowned champion in his first full season in the car.
With Derek Tohill having already sealed up the Supercar title, he decided to take on the role of spectator for the final round as an unprecedented 8 Supercars battled it out, including very welcome UK entries from Mike and Liam Manning. Runner up spot to Noel Greene for Mike was as good as it got for the visitors, as both retired with mechanical maladies early on. Tommy Graham showed incredible pace in his ex Dermot Carnegie Fiesta, but luck was not on his side, as the centre diff let go, removing him from the equation. Noel Greene was on fine form, as was his AMF run Mitsubishi Mirange and he made it a clean sweep of heats before easing away to take the Supercar final. Derek Jobb was second and posted notice of his potential with fastest lap, a second quicker than anyone, whilst Darragh Morris, who had impressed all day, was third.
Jack Newman had dominated his Rallycar heats all day, despite the best efforts of Michael Nolan. Unfortuantely for Jack though, the throttle stuck open on the opening lap of the final, the resultant contact with the bank at Rallycross 3 and roll causing extensive damage to the immaculately prepared Keoghs Crisps backed Escort. This left the way clear for Dick Sheenan to take the win, having dominated in his heats too, with Jack Deegan’s 16v 205 in second and Jason Keogh right there in third.
Aaron Dalton had rented back his old Production 106 GTI from Tom Murphy and was straight back into it with an impressive win in the opening heat. Derek Lenehan took heats two and three though, and the final, with Dalton just over a second behind and Eugene Ward in third. Ciaran Murphy had already been crowned champion and elected to sit this one out, Tohill style!
Juniors were as hectic and impressive as others. Many thought that the introduction of the Zetec Fiestas into this class was a mistake, as they were immediately quicker than the previous Micras and Starlets, but they have proven to be hugely successful and are more readily available. More Juniors means more stability for Irish Rallycross and also provides us with a stream of young talent into the other classes going forward. Jack Byrne took two heat wins and was also on pole for the final. Conor Kehoe forged his way into the lead and eased away before his car ground to a halt, almost within site of the finish line. This allowed a delighted Byrne though to take the win and the championship with Michael Ryan next up, from impressive newbie Seanie Bellew.
With Martin McAteer grinding to a halt in the opening Buggy heat, Russell Woods didn’t need to be asked twice, and took a relatively easy win, from Eoin Roe Skelly and Paul Nolan. McAteer fought back with a win in heat three, from Padraic McHale, with Woods in third. The final was a great battle with Woods getting the nod, just from McAteer and McHale!
Greene took the Superfinal with realitive ease, with Darragh Morris driving well to second, ahead of Michael Coyne and the Mobil Lotus of Lloyd Spendlove. Michael Leonard also received the partsforcars.ie Driver of The Day Award too.
All in all, a great day of Rallycross action and things are certainly looking up for the discipline in 2019 and beyond. The IRX Prizegiving will take place this Friday at the Night of Champions at Finnstown Castle Hotel. Tickets are available HERE.
All images from Barry Cregg