Last Saturday saw the deciding 9th and 10th rounds of the 2019 Formula Boss Ireland championship take place at Kirkistown Race Circuit, Co Down.
Limerick’s Paul O’Connell held a commanding lead in the championship coming into the weekend and was determined to try to seal the championship with one round to go. O’Connell, driving an ex-RedBull Junior Team World Series V6 car, took pole position for both races despite a low fuel level scare that halted the car out on track while Sam Mansfield in his Radical SR8 lined up alongside.
With oil down from a previous class, O’Connell made a great start to race one from pole but local Co Down man Eamon Matheson in in his ferociously fast Jade sportscar made a similarly great getaway from 3rd to jump a stalled Mansfield to be 2nd on the run into into the first corner. Barry Rabbitt in his Formula Renault – starting from P5 – was late on the brakes into Colonial One and moved up to second place around the outside of both Matheson and former class champion Fergus Faherty. However, come the back straight, Matheson wound the boost to “11” and powered past both Rabbitt in his 2.0litre Renault and the the Dallara World Series of O Connell – clocking nearly 180mph to take the lead before the end of the opening lap. O’Connell then decided to try to pass Matheson and made an audacious move on the outside of Colonial 1 under braking on the oil soaked track. “I’d love to say it was it was a great Daniel Ricciardo type move but I half outbraked myself on the oil!” said an O’Connell after the race. He managed to evade the clutches of Matheson on the back straight and was able to build enough of a gap to break the slipstream over the course of a few laps, and win the race. Meanwhile Rabbitt, running in P3, closed onto the back of the leading two cars when Michael Roche in his Suzuki motorbike engined machine unfortunately blew up leaving a large amount of additional oil at turn one. However, despite getting close, the leading two pulled away again once the oil started drying up and Rabbitt was left to try and deal with a closing Fergus Faherty in his Dallara F3 for the win in the 2 litre class.
A great tactical battle ensued as Rabbitt opted to try back-up Faherty into Mansfield who had restarted the Radical SR8 after stalling on the grid and was charging like a man possesed through the field. “When I saw Sam closing on Fergus and myself I knew I was going to be under pressure from both if they got a clean run at me” said Rabbitt. In the end, the Meathman’s plan worked as Mansfield and Faherty battled enough to let Rabbitt escape their attention with Mansfield taking 4th place from Faherty at the hairpin on the pneultimate lap. Meanwhile John Stewart in the Mygale Ecoboost finished 6th. John had been struggling for pace this weekend at a track that should have suited him and he was seen wrestling with this high powered turbocharged car at high speed but unfortunately the times just didn’t flow for him in race 1. Michael Roche had been running well until his engine failure on this notoriously tough track.(we lost Joe Courtney and Donal Griffin to engine issues also in qualifying and testing).The failure led to an oil leak and consequently a small fire started but was quickly put out by fast acting trackside marshalls . His pace had been encouraging up to then in the turbocharged Dallara and despite the setbacks he remains unwavering in his belief that a turbocharged Suzuki-Dallara combination could be a winning machine. His pedigree in winning championships will hopefully prove him right soon.
Race 2 saw Matheson on the front row beside O’Connell and he used the prodigious power of the turbocharged Jade to blast off the line into the lead. All O’Connell could do was follow and try to figure a way past the firebreathing Jade sportscar. Eventually a rare mistake from Matheson gave O’Connell the chance to pounce making a brave move on the inside of the 150mph Debtors corner. After making this pass stick, he began to try to build a lead over Matheson to break the slipstream but just a lap later made a mistake and ran wide onto the grass at Colonial 1 putting him back behind Matheson and Sam Mansfield. A race long battle ensued with the trio ending in O’Connell just managing to squeeze past first Mansfield and then eventually Matheson to take his second win of the day. Matheson then started to suffer fuel pressure problems and began to fade. Sam Mansfield smelled blood in the water and set about hunting down Matheson and duly passed him on lap 6.
Having taken the best out of his tyres he kept pumping in the times to try to pressure O’Connell and ready to capitalize in case of another mistake form the Limerick man. Fergus Faherty had been running a comfortable 4th behind the higher powered cars but again was rewarded with his pace when Matheson came into his clutches on Lap 14. Making no mistakes Faherty duly passed Matheson to take the final spot on the podium. Matheson coaxed the wounded Jade along to finish 4th. John Stewart in the Mygale Ecoboost made improvements to the car and finished behind Matheson in 5th. Barry Rabbitt after his heroics in Race 1 was rightly optimistic about getting another good result in race 2 but ran into fuel hose problems leaving the assembly area going to the starting grid. A major panic ensued with mechanics from Paul O’Connell’s team and others hurried to diagnose and fix the problem. Thankfully he got going but lost 3 laps in the process so used the remaining race distance as a test session ahead of the Leinster trophy race in September. The results from the weekend meant that 2018 Champion O’Connell will retain the Finnstown Castle Hotel FormulaBoss Ireland championship. T
here is still a lot to play for in the last race as the final championship podium positions are decided and also Hawthorn Trophy points are available. It’s the Leinster Trophy weekend next for FormulaBoss Ireland on September 14-15th. If you want to see and hear these cars first hand come to down to Mondello Park. The garages are open to the public and the drivers are only too delighted to meet people and talk about the cars. Formula Boss aims to be Irelands Fastest, Friendliest, Firm but Fair race series.
Header Image from Cregor Elliott