Cullen Launches Title Attack with Double Bishopscourt win in Bill Griffin Motors Stryker Championship
Rounds two and three of the 2023 Bill Griffin Motors Irish Stryker Championship took place at the high speed Bishopscourt Circuit in County Down last weekend.
Kevin O’Hara it was who led the title chase, having successfully subbed for Michael Cullen at the opening ICCR event in April, taking two strong wins. This time round Michael Cullen was back- but so was O’Hara, this time driving Victor Cullen’s Beacon Hospital machine. O’Hara it was who topped the timesheets for qualifying, but only by a fraction, from team mate Cullen, the two LOH Motorsport cars well ahead of the rest. Kevin McGrath was an impressive third, with Niall McFadden’s Murray Motorsport car joining him on row two. Row three comprised of Dave Reynolds and Roger Welaratne, with former champion Greg Kelly and Pat Bergin seventh and eighth respectively.
Kevin O’Hara is widely reckoned to be one of the fastest drivers around. He is a former FF1600 star and Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of the Year. Standing starts however, have never been his strong point. Some say it is to give mere mortals a chance. When the lights went out for the opening race, Cullen was away like a shot. O’Hara, not so much! McGrath it was then who tailed Cullen into the high speed Turn 1/Turn 2 complex. Predictably though, the second Beacon branded machine was quickly up to second, but Cullen, keen to add to his non existant points tally, had the head down and was away. McGrath pushed hard and kept the LOH cars in sight for the duration.
Greg Kelly, getting used to his ex Vincent O’Rourke machine (above), was fourth, from Roger Welaratne. On the final tour, the lead car began to slow and O’Hara closed in on the identical machine. It may have been a heart stopping moment for the team, but it turned out Cullen was merely waiting for O’Hara in order to cross the line together, after a dominant performance. McGrath was a delighted third, from Kelly and Welaratne.
For 2023, the Stryker class has adapted a reverse grid for the top 6 for race two, a formula that has added spice to many other classes in recent times. This left Welaratne and Reynolds on the front row, from Kelly and McGrath, with the two immaculate blue LOH machines together on row three. As they all sorted themselved out, it was Kelly who grabbed the early lead, but he was powerless to stop the charging Cullen easing by. O’Hara had once again dropped back at the start and had the job of working his way back up the grid. After some good scraps, he eventually climbed to second, but once again Cullen was, at this stage, well down the road. Once again though, the leader eased off in the closing stages, for a second formation finish for LOH, whilst Kelly completed the podium on his return to the class. McFadden, who didn’t finish race one, just pipped McGrath to the line for fourth after a great scrap, with Welaratne right with them too. Reynolds was next up, from Pat Bergin, who went well all weekend, Des Meehan, Colin Marnane, Andy D’Alton and William Flaherty. Meehan and D’Alton have previously been frontrunners at the County Down circuit, so will no doubt be going through their cars with a fine tooth comb after the weekend. D’Alton had a suspension breakage in race one and suspected carb issues in race two.
Images from Cregor Elliott