There was added excitement at the sixth round of the 2022 partsforcars.ie Irish Rallycross Championship last weekend at Mondello Park. Derek Tohill is pretty much Mr Rallycross in Ireland- he is a former double European Champion and in 2021 he added the close fought British Rallycross Championship to a number of domestic titles. To put it mildly, he is not easily beaten. Tommy Graham returned to the IRX for the October meeting and raised pulses in the grandstand when he inflicted a rare defeat on Tohill in the opening heat. Predictably, Tohill fought back, taking both of the remaining heats and the final, but the local man really made him work for it, and you could sense that Derek relished the challenge too.
Last weekend then, was set up for another head to head between the experienced pair- but a late entry fired a cat right into the middle of the pigeons. Michael Leonard has some Rallycross experience, but not much. He has plenty of race experience and success though. Having done the 6 Hour Fiesta race a few years ago, he threw in an entry for the following weekend’s IRX event and managed to beat all the Zetec class regulars, taking the flag after a hectic battle with Rob Barrable. This time though, the Naas Hotelier had something a little more powerful. A Tohill-like Mk7 Fiesta Supercar no less! Having done a few laps on the International loop to shake the car down on Friday, both Leonard and his Murray Motorsport team were happy with their new purchase and decided to go ahead and compete.
In free practise on Sunday morning, Leonard was just a second off Tohill around a lap and on his second run, he matched the champion elect. Tommy was in the mix too but didn’t appear to be pushing, most likely saving it for the heats, when it actually mattered. Darragh and Michael Morris were both going well, but having had a great scrap with him last time out, were probably missing Pa Ryan in his ever improving home built Mitsubishi Colt Supercar. Unfortunately both hit bother in the opening heat, which Tohill won with ease. Tommy wasn’t far away though, and as he crossed the line, he had the impressive Leonard right under his rear wing, the newbie clearly showing he meant business! Having made a great start in heat one, Leonard was keen to do even better next time round, but unfortunately he jumped the start, meaning he had to complete the Joker lap not once, but twice, effectively removing himself from contention. Once again Tohill was first over the line, Tommy second with Leonard third. It was a hat trick of wins for the partsforcars.ie Supercar in Heat three but there was excitement in his wake, as Leonard, beginning to get used to his new charge, was second, albeit with Tommy Graham right on his tail. Unsurprisingly, Tohill also took the Supercar Final, with Graham close behind in second. A scrappy Joker lap had dropped Leonard back, but he wasn’t short on comittment, driving the car sideways everywhere in his efforts to close the gap. After plenty of hard work, Michael Morris made it out for the final and took fourth.
The action in Modifieds was superb all day with the Coyne brothers showing everyone that their Novas are still as competitive as anything else out there. In heat one though, it was the Cluna Contracts Volvo C30 of Peter McGarry that took the honours, from Brian Sexton, the circuit racer still developing his Des Hughes Motors ITCC Corolla and moving closer to the front at each round. Kieran Curran returned to IRX at the previous round with a new 2.1 engine and he managed to hold off Michael Coyne for third. Willie Coyne picked up a puncture at the Hole in the Hedge and fearful of damage to his diff, pulled off immediately.A delighted Curran punched the air as he crossed the line to take a strong win in his second heat.
McGarry had hit trouble in his second heat, the Volvo limping home with a misfire and his crew hurriedly rushed to diagnose the problem. Despiite this, it was he who had pole for the eagerly anticipated final and he was joined by Willie Coyne and Kieran Curran on the front row,. The now repaired Volvo looked strong in the early stages, but when he emerged from the Joker lap towards the end, he was greeted by the sight of Coyne’s Nova ahead, Willie once again having used the Joker to great effect to take the win. McGarry was second with Curran in third. Fourth was the ever improving Sexton, still working hard to make the unusual Corolla a Modified frontrunner.
In the Open Clubman class, Anthony Kane (above) has been the dominant force in his Palfinger Civic all season. This time round though, Nicole Drought’s Joe Mallon Motors Clio 172 had visited POB Motorsport the week before for some setup work and was far closer to the pace of the flying Civic. Indeed it was the Tipperary lady who took the opening heat with Kane second. He fought back with victory in heat two but the Clio was first over the line for the final heat, giving Nicole pole for the final. Colin Dowling’s beautifully rebuilt Saxo was their closest challenger. In the final, Kane matched Drought off the line and the Civic just outdragged the Clio on the run to Rallycross 1. His trademark banzai opening lap opened the gap and not even a huge effort by Nicole on the final lap was enough to stop him taking another impressive win! Dowling was third, with the improving Peter Quigley next up in the Focus. First of the Zetec Fiestas was Christopher Grimes Junior, with Jerry Kinsella’s Corsa splitting him from Loughlin Farrell. Circuit racer Nicky Brennan was next up on his Rallycross debut.
Just two Buggys entered the Rallycross class, with many others choosing to race against the clock with the Autocross competitors, running concurrently as part of the same meeting. Despite the spectacular efforts of Robbie Allen, it was Sé Óg Martin who took the honours in the final.
The Rally car class gave perhaps the best entertainment of the day. Thomas O’Rafferty, Emmet Watchorn and Shane Mulligan were locked in combat all day, all three clearly on the limit- and the crowd in the stand. O’Rafferty, his Corsa repaired after a roll at the previous round, took first blood in Heat One, from Mulligan, wiith Watchorn third. Jack Deegan was a close fourth on his welcome return to Rallycross, with the diesel Skoda of Wayne Keogh right on his bumper from PJ Doyle and Paul Doyle in his spectacularly driven BMW Compact. Watchorn was flying later on though and took strong wins in Heats Two and Three, with the other pair on his tail. This gave the little Citroen C2 pole for the final. At the flag though, it was O’Rafferty, by a fraction, with Watchorn almost alongside and Mulligan, who clinched his class championship in the progress, taking third.
Once again there were just two Juniors, but Josh Power and Toby McGuire were living proof that you only need two cars to have a race. They generally separated early as one grabbed the Joker, and then got together again on the final lap for a dash to the line! Power toook two Heats, with McGuire taking one, whilst in the final, it was McGuire who took the honours, but only by a few tenths, Power’s last lap last corner effort to wrest the lead away having not quite worked.
In the Superfinal, Tohill powered away for a strong win but there were plenty of scraps behind. Leonard had somehow scrabbled around the outside of Tommy Graham at RX1 to snatch second and initially closed the gap to Tohill, before dropping back. Tommy charged up to the back of Leonard in the closing stages and at the flag, all three had lapped within a tenth of a second, meaning we should have quite the battle next time out.
The final round of the 2022 IRX season is on December 11th at Mondello Park and it’s bound to be exciting. Declan Kelly is apparently back out, along with Paul Nolan in the ex Noel Greene Mitsubishi Mirage. They will be joined in the Supercar class by both of the Morris Subarus and more than likely Pa Ryan, with his rapidly improving home built Mitsubishi Colt.
So, can Tommy or Michael topple Tohill? Can the Modified Volvo hold off the charging Novas, Can Nicole beat Anthony Kane’s Civic? Find out at Mondello Park on December 11th! Tickets available HERE.
All images from IRX.ie media team.