Despite the pandemic which severely affected the 2020 racing season, it was something of a classic year for the Palletstorage.ie Fiesta Zetec Class. The entry list for the opening round read like a who’s who of motor racing champions, and with the top nine cars covered by just two tenths of a second in qualifying for round one, the championship was never going to be easily won.
Alastair Kellett, a six time saloon car champion, had originally planned to tackle a UK based series, but when it became apparent that this would be difficult due to the covid pandemic, he decided to join the Irish Zetec series, alongside son William, who was defending his 2019 title!
Predictably, both members of the Meath family were in the title mix all season long, with the hugely experienced Michael Barrable forming their main opposition, on his return to motor racing after a 20 year haitus! Last weekend, Mondello Park hosted the final two rounds of the series and, although Alastair led the points standings, there were three other drivers with a mathematical chance of denying him title number seven.
It was an interloper who briefly clinched pole position though. Harry McGovern posted the fastest lap but was excluded from the session when his car was adjudged to be underweight, meaning he would have to start right at the back. This left James Fleming on pole, from Alastair with impressive novice Darragh Brennan pushing William down to fourth with an inspired performance. Michael Barrable was fifth, but just two tenths off the pole position time, indicating that the race would be another Zetec thriller.
When the lights went out for race one, Alastair got the better start and chopped across the bows of Fleming to grab the lead. It was short lived however, as the race was stopped when the unfortunate Brennan rolled his immaculate Fiesta at the Esses. He was fine, and once the car was removed to the paddock, the cars lined up for a restart. This time Fleming made no mistakes and it was his Rigs For Gigs car who led the pack down to turn one. William soon ousted father Alastair, who was no doubt adding up championship points in his head, and chased down Fleming. Despite setting fastest lap, there was nothing William could do to stop a delighted Fleming taking his first Zetec win! Alastair completed the podium in third, his points haul already meaning he couldn’t be beaten to the title with a race to run.
James Fleming “I got a bit of luck. Alastair beat me away but there was an incident which stopped the race and on the second restart I got a much better start. Then it was about managing the tyres and controlling the gap to William until the chequered flag. I’m delighted to win today!”
As ever, the top six finishers from the opening race were reversed to form the front of the grid for race two, giving Andy Kavanagh pole position with McGovern alongside. Kavanagh managed to rebuff a strong challenge from McGovern off the line and his Miles Plus Archer Motorsport machine led the pack out of turn on for the final time in 2020. Despite McGovern’s best efforts, Kavanagh refused to be unsettled and crossed the line to take a fine win, becoming the second first time Zetec winner of the day! Michael Barrable used all his experience and racecraft to charge through to second, with the equally experienced Alan Dawson completing the podium in third. Ian Fishbourne was fourth in his Murray Motorsport machine, just ahead of Lawless in fifth.
Andy Kavanagh: “I’m delighted. It’s been a long time coming. that’s my first win in almost six years trying, although I have come close before. It was a tough race, I was defending all the way to the end. It’s a great end to the season!”
All this meant that Alastair Kellett won his seventh championship, an incredible achievement. William did enough to make it a family 1-2 by taking runner up spot, with Michael Barrable in third. Fleming’s win elevated him to fourth from former champion Phil Lawless, with Andy Kavanagh rocketing up the leaderboard to sixth courtesy of his victory in the last race of the season. Despite his accident, Darragh Brennan was eighth and top Rookie, with Lar Whelan second novice and tenth overall, having improved greatly all season long.
Alastair Kellett, Palletstorage.ie Zetec Champion: “It’s great. Another championship! I had never considered this. We were supposed to race in the UK. That was stopped because of Covid, so we pulled the cars out of the shed a few days before the first race and somehow I ended up winning the championship. It’s been great racing all year. There are a lot of good guys in the class so it was all very enjoyable!
Leo Nulty, Fiesta Championship Manager: “It has been a great season. We set out to ensure close, competitive budget racing, as that is why this class was set up originally. The cars were superbly presented this year and we stepped up the race day coverage with graphics, interviews and videos from Oisin O’Briain. A big thanks to Paddy Byrne and Elaine O’Sullivan too for their work during the year, and of course to Michael Chester for the photos. Bring on 2020.”