There were quite a few newcomers on the grid for rounds five and six of the Siltex Safety Zetec Championship, meaning that even with a number of the regulars not appearing due to holidays etc, there were 20 cars on the grid for race one. Amongst the additions were multiple saloon champion Tomás O’Rourke, the Wexford man having borrowed ST star Jack Byrne’s car, previously having being used for Junior Rallycross escapades. Aimee Woods was also back on the grid in her Shakey Bills backed machine and Mikey Leeson was guesting in the Rob King Digital Motorsports car, which he had helped to build in just 48 hours ahead of the July meeting. Class regular Garry Bradley unfortunately suffered a broken ankle on Friday after testing and kindly offered his car up to the class organisers. Stryker regular Vinny O’Rourke stepped in to qualify the car but when he wasn’t keen on tackling turn one with 19 other Zetecs, hired gun Richie Kearney was spotted in the paddock and press ganged into action!
Championship leader Michael Barrable took the all important pole position, but only just, with Andy Kavanagh just six thousandths of a second behind. Alan Dawson and Mark Johnston shared row two, with Ian Fishbourne, whose immaculate car (above) was the talk of the paddock, in fifth. Incredibly, the top five were all separated by less than two tenths of a second! Round four winner Harry McGovern was sixth ahead of Aimee Woods, Phil Lawless and Roy Tobin, with O’Rourke rounding out the top ten.
When the lights went out, Barrable made a superb start with Kavanagh immediately slotting in behind on the run to turn one. Their battle was cut short though, when Kealan Noone upended his immaculate GTI Direct car at Southside Motor Factors corner on the second lap, bringing out the red flags. At the restart, it was a carbon copy as Barrable led away with Kavanagh once again tucking in behind. Despite the best efforts of the Miles Plus liveried car, it was Barrable first across the line to take his third win of the year and increase his lead in the championship standings. Alan Dawson was third, just managing to hold off Phil Lawless, who had the impressive Fishbourne on his rear bumper. When Johnston, who had crossed the line third, was excluded for a technical issue, this promoted everyone behind up a place. The big winner was McGovern, who was elevated from seventh to sixth, meaning he started race two from pole.
He made no mistakes to lead away with fellow front row starter Fishbourne in his wheel tracks. Dawson was on a charge though, and having scrabbled by Lawless on the opening lap, immediately pulled away. Lawless soon had his mirrors full of Barrable who had his race one rival Kavanagh in close attendance too. As Dawson displaced Fishbourne, Barrable and Lawless touched at the Esses, with an opportunistic Kavanagh pouncing to relieve Barrable of fifth. Aimee Woods was flying on her first outing of the year and had latched onto this lead train too. Just as Dawson began to challenge for the lead, McGovern’s car slowed on the main straight. With Dawson momentarily delayed, Fishbourne challenged for the lead, piling on the pressure until a massive sideways moment at turn three. With Lawless unable to avoid him, the pair were delayed, letting Dawson away and Kavanagh once again pouncing to relieve Lawless of third.
At the flag then, it was Dawson, becoming the fourth winner of 2021 in the class. A delighted Fishbourne was second, with Kavanagh equally happy in third. Lawless was fourth, leading the train of Barrable, Roy Tobin and Aimee Woods across the line in a thrilling race. O’Rourke and Kearney, running line astern, had been slowly closing on the lead train in the second half of the race, but ran out of laps.
All this means that Michael Barrable has moved one step closer to the 2021 Siltex Safety title, as his lead increases to 30 points. It’s far from over though with four rounds still to run. Alan Dawson has leapfrogged to second in the standings with former champion Phil Lawless in third. Full standings are below.
Ginetta Junior Champion Jack Byrne has impressed on his graduation to the Coffee 2 Go ST series this year, even taking a win last time out. That was from a reverse grid start though, impressive as it was. This time round the Wexford youngster fired a warning shot straight across the bows of his more experienced competitors as he grabbed pole position ahead of the pack.
Just four thousandths of a second behind was the Suzuki Drogheda liveried machine of Kevin Doran with Eddie Peterson in third just three thousandths further back. Title contenders Graham McDonnell and Michael Cullen were next up with a inspired run from Trevor Farrar putting him sixth.
When the lights went out, the front row left the line as one, but as they gained traction, Doran began to ease ahead. Predictably, he put the squeeze on as they went under the bridge, but Byrne refused to be intimidated and the pair clashed- this delayed them both with Peterson grabbing the lead as the pack streamed into tune one. The race was short lived though, as David Kidd went off and unfortunately rolled in the gravel trap causing a red flag. At the restart Doran was away like a rocket as Byrne dropped back. “I just got the head down and went into qualifying mode”, said Doran afterwards, explaining his early race pace as he eased away. At the flag, he was 1.1 clear of the chasing Peterson, who had his mirrors full of series leader Graham McDonnell, with Byrne fourth and Dave Maguire and Michael Cullen rounding out the top six. A much improved Christopher Grimes Junior was next up, from Victor Cullen, Ross Barnes and Brian Flanagan in what is a best described as a race of attrition.
This, of course, put the wily Michael Cullen on pole for race two, with his Murray Motorsport team mate Dave Maguire alongside him. Having already won both Stryker races on the Saturday, Cullen was keen to add to his tally and he made no mistakes to lead away, with Maguire tucking in behind. A safety car intervention when Max Turley and Simon Deane come together didn’t affect the order and at the flag it was Cullen, with Maguire in his wheeltracks. McDonnell was third, just ahead of Doran with Grimes Jnr an excellent fifth. Ross Barnes was right with Grimes and had Jack Byrne, who had earlier tangled with Peterson, on his tail.
A strong weekend for Cullen then, means he closes the gap slightly to series leader Graham McDonnell with Jack Byrne running third on his debut season, Doran fourth and Ross Barnes fifth.
Images from Michael Chester