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“The Champ is Back!”- Coffee2Go Fiesta ST Race Report

2021 Coffee 2 Go Fiesta Champion Graham McDonnell has made a very successful transition to the SEAT Supercup class in 2022, and as I write this, he is still very much in the Championship hunt, making him a fine ambassador for the ST Championship! With the SEAT class not racing at the July meeting at Mondello Park, Graham decided to return to his old hunting ground for a bit of fun.
When I say fun, he wasn’t messing around in qualifying, driving like he had never been away and not only claiming pole position, but lapping within a tenth of the lap record in the process! His closest challenger was the on form Michael Cullen’s Beacon Medical car, with series leader Eddie Peterson’s “Peterson’s- Cars Like New”machine taking an unaccustomed visit to row two, with young charger Max Turley for company. Row three was made up of Dave Maguire (Junior) for and Trevor Farrar, followed by the newly liveried TSG Charge car of Phil Lawless and the second Beacon car of Victor Cullen.

When the lights went out for race one, McDonnell made a cracking start, as did Peterson, directly behind. This meant that in Turn One, Maxus Corner, Cullen found himself boxed out and emerged door to door with Turley. Contact was made at turn two and after a territorial dispute, Turley was spun and Cullen delayed. With Turley parked up and Lawless being pushed back into the pitlane after a mechanical problem, Simon Deane parked in the Southside Motor Factors gravei after an ambitious lunge had gone wrong, making it a hat trick of first lap retirements!  Unsurprisingly, the BMW Ireland Safety Car was despatched, shortly followed by the red flag.

At the subsequent restart, Peterson made a cracker and got the nose ahead. As the tried to close the door though, McDonnell held station and the resultant contact unsettled the Peterson car, with Cullen diving for the gap immediately as McDonnell reassumed the lead.Peterson rebuffed Cullen, just, as the pack streamed through Turn Two with Victor Cullen holding a watching brief in fourth. Another lunge from Cullen, keen to not allow McDonnell away, briefly gave him second at Turn Three, but Peterson executed a perfect switchback to take the place back on the exit. Cullen made another attempt into Southside, with Peterson hanging on- all this allowing McDonnell to ease away out front.  Further back Kian O’Brien had displaced Christopher Grimes and began to chase down the battling pair of Farrar and Maguire, who was going nicely on his ST debut. Having set fastest lap, Cullen challenged Peterson again at Turn three. The pair came together and then appeared to both go off the circuit- on different sides of the track (!) with Peterson emerging still in second. Cullen dropped back immediately, with Victor taking the place a lap later, Maguire also following him through. At the flag then, it was McDonnell for an impressive return win, from Peterson, but there was heartbreak for Victor who went off on the final corner, dropping to fifth and giving Maguire Junior a very impressive podium on his first race in his Dad’s ST. Kian O’Brien and Farrar had been embroiled in a monmental scrap for sixth, with O’Brien taking the place by virtue of an impressive move around the outside at turn three on the final lap.This gave the young Dundalk driver pole position for the second race, with Victor Cullen alongside him and Michael Cullen on his bumper. Victor got a great start to lead them away with father Michael also managing to scrabble past O’Brien into Maxus Corner At the end of the opening lap, it was an LOH Motorsporrt 1-2, with O’Brien firmly stuck to Michael’s rear bumper. Next up, a few lengths back, was Peterson, from the battling duo of McDonnell and Turley. McDonnell eased away from Turley and latched on to the back of Peterson, the pair also closing in on O’Brien. McDonnell, brimming with confdence, fired his car down the outisde of both into Maxus and managed to make the move stick with O’Brien, not shy in such experienced company, fighting off Peterson through Turn Two. Victor defended well but eventually McDonnell made it stick on the exit of Southside. Michael Cullen though, had extended his lead to over three seconds and he controlled the gap beautifully to take the win. Peterson also found a way by Victor to take the final step on the podium and move a step closer to the 2022 title. Max Turley and Victor were joined by Maguire and the three battled mightily towards the end with Victor, his tyres past their best, dropping to sixth after a valiant effort. One thing is for sure in the Fiesta ST series- there might be plenty of experience and talent up front, but make no mistake- the young guns are coming!

Images from Marc Quinlivan

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