Whelan Takes First Zetec Win but Barrable’s Siltex Safety Title Defence Continues with Race Two Victory!
Michael Barrable is the reigning Siltex Safety Fiesta Zetec Champion and was already at the head of the 2022 series tables after the first four rounds. Once again it was his MB Motors car which took pole position when the series returned to Mondello Park for rounds 5 and 6 but joining him on the front row, was an equally experienced and equally sucessful driver, Johnny Whelan. Whelan is an ex double Dunlop Supercar Champion and has also won in ITCC, Strykers and a number of other classes. Phil Lawless, who was competing in four races in one day, was third, from Andy Kavanagh, Keith Rabbitt, Keith Dawson and reigning ITCC Champion Ulick Burke. James Byrne was fastest of the Rookies, from usual sparring partner Eduardo Gonzaga with Brian Hutton in third.
When the lights went out, Whelan, with a fractionally better start, immediately moved across on Barrable and contact was briefly made before Whelan took the lead, with Barrable tucking in behind. Andy Kavanagh had got ahead of Lawless, with Keith Dawson and Alan Dawson right in there too. With all of the cars so equally matched, Whelan took the choice to go defensive and it soon became clear that it was going to take a pretty inventive attempt to oust the experienced driver from the lead. When he went slightly wide at 7B, contact was made and the duo emerged side by side. Once again, Whelan moved across, and Barrable, perhaps thinking of his title aspirations, backed out of it. The big benificiary here was Alan Dawson, who had driven superbly in the opening laps, carving his way from an unaccustomed lowly grid position to third, which became second as he swept by Barrable. Lawless had a run at both though, and hung on round the outide of Birrane’s Bends to grab second behind Whelan with Barrable having dropped to fifth, behind Kavanagh- all within two corners! It calmed down slightly from then on and Whelan it was who took his first, highly entertaining, Zetec win. Lawless was second across the line but was subsequently excluded for running the wrong tyres, leaving Dawson second and Barrable taking another portion of championship points in third. Kavanagh was next up from Burke, Keith Dawson, Collie Barrable whilst Kaleb Shanley once again impressed in the Spirit car, mixing it with far more experienced drivers.
James Byrne took yet another Rookie win, and ninth overall, with Gonzaga next up from Chole McLaughlin. The usual reversed top six for race two gave Keith Dawson pole position with Ulick Burke second ahead of Kavanagh, Barrable, Alan Dawson and race one winner Whelan. With a slight drizzle falling, it was Burke who matched revs and grip to perfection to lead the pack down to turn one. Barrable immediately attacked Keith Dawson, getting round the outside at Turn One and claiming the line for turn two Whelan had taken a run at Dawson too, but ran out of road and lost out to Andy Kavanagh, with Shanley right on his bumper too. Barrable, sensing a win, was immediately on the attack, almost getting the switchback at Lola on the opening lap. Burke saw it coming though and just managed to cover the move, nothing separating the pair as they headed down to 7 A and B. Almost immediately though, the Safety Car was despatched, as some debris had to be cleared at Turn One. When the Safety Car returned to the pitlane, Barrable was on the attack once more, and when he got the nose alongside on the run up to BIrrane’s Bends, the Tyre Brigade car gave him racing room and the lead changed. It was far from over though as Burke fought back, in what became one of the, if not the, best battle of the weekend. In an excellent display of racecraft, the pair went at it, but stayed apart too. When Barrable covered Burke’s switchback at Southside Motor Factors corner, Burke used the head and made the run round the outside the following lap. He was ahead as the crossed the line, but Barrable held on to the inside line and took it back on the brakes into Turn One! The following lap, as they started their final tour, it was a carbon copy, with Burke showing as the leader on the timing system but Barrable taking it back again. No doubt Ulick was planning on replicating this again on the run to the flag, but he hadn’t planned on them catching Brian Matthews at 7A. “Patch” left them room but Burke was comprimised slightly and took too much kerb on the exit costing him a fraction with just a few corners to run. At the flag, it was Barrable for his third win of the year, from Burke, with Keith Dawson just holding off Whelan for the final podium position. James Byrne took yet another Rookie win, with Gonzaga again his closest challenger and a delighted Kelsey Kirby third.
Images from Marc Quinlivan Photography