Guesting O’Hara Dominates Bill Griffin Stryker Championship Opener
The Irish Stryker Championship has been around for quite some time now. Initially introduced, well over 20 years ago, with a 1600cc Ford CVH engine, the Lotus 7 styled sportscars were an immediate hit on the Irish circuits.
Since then, the spec has gradually imporoved and the cars are now far faster and far better to drive. The XR2 sourced CVH engine has been replaced by a far more powerful 1800 Zetec engine, the Dunlop Historic spec race tyres have given way to a stickier trackday spec tyre, previously, Yokohama, replaced this year by a Nankang. Unsurprisingly, the laptimes have fallen and in fact, the cars are now capable of lapping the Mondello Park National circuit tantilisingly close to the magic minute. In fact Michael Cullen holds the lap record at 1:00.353.
For the 2023 season, Dublin’s biggest used car supermarket, Bill Griffin Motors were back onboard as title sponsor and, as in many classes within the ICCR, numbers were looking strong ahead of the 2023 season. Since joining the series a couple of years ago, Michael Cullen has been the pacesetter but the return of Jonathan Taylor, who was involved in the introduction of the class back in the day, gave him stiff competition. Happily, both were back to renew their battle in 2023.
Unfortunately though, Cullen was not on the grid for the ICCR opener in April. He was instead racing a Lotus Cortina at Goodwood, so one could hardly blame him! He had a worthy substitute though, as Kevin O’Hara, who prepares the Beacon Hospital machine is also a former Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the Year, so it’s fair to say, he wasn’t going to there just to make up numbers. And so it was- when the qualifying results came out, it was the Beacon car on pole, impressively having lapped just a tenth shy of Cullen’s lap record mark, despite the fact that the new for 2023 Nankang tyres were generally opined to be slower than the previous YOKOs. Kevin McGrath is a longtime class spannerman, but since joining the class as a driver in the past few years has continued to make progress and it was he who was second fastest, making it an all Kevin front row! 2022 Champion Jonathan Taylor was joined on row two by former class champion Dave Reynolds with class stalwarts Andy Dalton and Roger Welaratne on row three. The updated Timing.ie service for 2023 has many new features, with the speed trap on the main straight being the talk of the paddock in all classes after qualifying. Roger Welaratne was fastest through this, recording 146.5 km/h, from Taylor and McGrath, both on 145.5 km/h. The big surprse though, was the fact that O’Hara, who was on pole by a significant margin, languished down in seventh, recording just 141.5km/h!
Once the lights went out, O’Hara rocketed off the line and, predictably, began to pull away almost immediately. In his wake though, there was one of the best races of the day, as Taylor got up to second but had to fight off the impressive McGrath for the duration. Reynolds was next up, just, from Welaratne. Dalton was a lonely sixth, from, the battling duo of Des Meehan and Pat Bergin, with Meehan getting the verdict by two tenths at the line. Colin Marnane was next home, from Michael Ward and Willie Flaherty.
For 2023, the grid for race two consists of the top six finishers from race one, in reverse order. This meant that D’Alton and Welaratne started from the front row, ahead of Reynolds and McGrath, with danger men Taylor and O’Hara sharing row three (below)
When the lights went out, if anyone expected the seas to part for O’Hara, they were wrong. He met strong defence as he moved towards the front, with a feisty D’Alton leading the chasing pack in the early stages (below).
The Beacon car soon eased its way to the front and once again, began to pull clear. At the line then, it was O’Hara for the double.Taylor had got the head down in his efforts to chase down the leader and was well clear of an incredible battle for the final podium place comprising Welaratne, McGrath, Reynolds and D’Alton. After 15 laps of hectic action, the quartet crossed the line as one, McGrath taking the place by just three hundredths of a second from D’Alton in a drag race to the line! Reynolds was right in their wheeltracks and was fifth, with Welaratne dropping to seventh, courtesy of a ten second penalty for a jump start.
Once again the speed trap figures made for interesting reading, with Welaratne once against fastest, from McGrath and Reynolds, with top two finsihersTaylor and O’Hara just fourth and ninth respectively!