David Travers has had quite the year. The youngster was the winner of the Mondello Park supported Junior MINI Scholarship for the first year of the new Junior Series. He competed against a number of karters, off road racers and some completely inexperienced drivers. All drivers had an interview with Sports Mindcoach Alan Heary and were subsequently ascessed behind the wheel on a number of criteria by experienced Mondello Park instructiors. This gave him quite the boost ahead of his first season of car racing. His prize was the use of a brand new 1600cc Junior MINI Challenge car, all of his registration, entry and test fees, and also his TOYO tyres for the entire season.
From the off, it was a straight fight between Travers and highly rated karter Codey Keogh. Keogh took frst blood at the opening round with pole and two wins. Travers was right there on pace but a DNF in race two wasn’t an ideal start to his championship campaign. For the second meeting of the year, Keogh once again had pole, but it couldn’t have been closer, with Travers just .005 back. They were joined by UK Ginetta frontrunner Fergus Chalmers for this one, with the young Scot being right on the pace, despite never having seen the track before- and never having raced with a manual gearbox. Travers got a cracking start and as Chalmers and Keogh battled, began to ease away. Unfortunately, neither made it to the finish, leaving Travers to open his 2022 winning account, well ahead of Luke Marmion. With neither Chalmers or Keogh managing to get their cars repaired before race two, Travers stomped away to an easy win once more, and the title battle was on.
The third race meeting, in September, was in Mondello once again and as ever, the title protaganists occupied the front row, with Keogh grabbing pole. The big surprise in this one was the pace of 14 year old karter Holly Dunnion. On her car racing debut, she showed impressive pace, qualifying in third ahead of Luke Marmion. In the first (of three) races, Travers eased away to take the win, with Keogh second. An early race spin at Turn Three dropped Dunnion way back, but a superb drive saw her close Marmion right down, catching him on the final lap and just missing out on a podium by a mere .4 of a second! Race two was held in treacherous conditions and, in front of the Mondello live stream cameras, Keogh put on a masterclass of wet weather driving, flinging the car around on the way to avery impressive win.
Travers took second, from Marmion, with Dunnion dropping back with ABS failure, meaning she only had rear brakes! A superb start saw Travers grab the lead off the line for the third and final race of the weekend but disaster struck as they arrived at the high speed Lola corner on the International loop. The leader appeared to go in too fast and slid off on the outside, handing the lead to Keogh and dropping to fourth in the process. Travers charged back to second and, setting fastest lap, began to close Keogh down. Codey had it all in hand though, and took his second win of the weekend, closing up the title race once again.
Approaching the final weekend of the championship, it was all to play for and to add to the tension, the competitors had not only to battle on the track, but also in the Virtual Race Academy, as- in a fir st for Irish Motorsport, three rounds of the series would be digital!The guys and Digital Motorsports opened the VRA early on Sunday morning to allow the drivers to get some practise on their state of the art Simulators, ahead of qualifying and two races. Despite minimal Sim experience the drivers acquitted themselves well but Travers it was who dominated, taking three strong wins with Keogh chasing him home in all three and Marmion in third.
On the track, Keogh took pole, by just over a tenth from Travers, but Keogh, along with Marmion, received a penalty for not returning to parc ferme at the end of qualifying. This meant Travers would start alone on the front row, with the two penalised drivers alongside on row two. Travers led away but slowed and appeared to briefly stop on the main straight at the end of the opening lap. He recovered to take second though with just one race to go.
The final race of the Championship was an absolute cracker. Travers and Keogh had been closely matched in terms of pace all season long and when the lights went out the two who had dominated all year, really went at it. Keogh led initially but Travers stole the lead away with a brave move around the outside into Turn Three. A lap later though, Keogh returned the favour at the exact same spot setting us up for a great race. With the lead changing on numerous occasions, the two Junior racers could have given a lesson in saloon car racing to their elders in the paddock. They gave each other racing room for the duration, with Keogh just ahead when it counted, and when they returned to the paddock, they both had their door mirrors intact, something that is usual in a tin top battle as hectic as this!
When the points were added up, Travers was a worthy inaugural Patch Tyre Equipment Junior MINI Champion, with Keogh just 7 points behind in second place. There are already a number of cars in build ahead of the 2023 Championship and plans will soon be announced in relation to some strong incentives for pontial competitors- these will include a number of free test days during the season and subsidised entry fees too. If you are between 14 and 17, get in touch with the class organisers now and organise a test in their two seater MINI Challenge car at Mondello Park.