Barry Rabbitt: Flying solo!
February 5, 2013 by Barry Rabbitt
My first visit to Mondello Park of the year was in an official capacity, that of commentator in fact. Regular announcer Matt Feeney was busy celebrating his birthday and had asked me to cover for him. Over the years I have helped Matt and Motorsport.ie boss, Leo Nulty, out behind the mic but this was to be my first proper solo attempt. I was hoping for some close and exciting race action to make my job as easy as possible and despite the relatively small entry list the rallycross guys (and girl) didn’t disappoint
A wet and oil covered track made for tricky conditions in the morning’s opening heats with no shortage of sideways action in all classes. In fact it was the front wheel drive cars that were most drift like in their attitude with plenty of bury it and pray saves that Yvan Muller would be proud of!
As usual the 8v Stockhatch class drew the biggest grids and from the get-go it was obvious that perennial pace setter Noel O’Brien was going to be the man to beat as he romped away in the heats despite the best efforts of Fergal ‘Figgy’ Bowes and Peter McGarry to hold him off. In the final O’Brien got a tardy start which allowed fellow front row starter Bowes to jump into an early lead, meanwhile O’Brien began his comeback and used the ‘Joker Lap’ to his advantage to avoid slower traffic and in the end performed an F1 style leapfrog of Bowes when the erstwhile leader had to take his own Joker Lap towards the end of the run.
In the 16v StockHatch class it was a very similar story to that of their 8v counterparts with Eoin Murray leading the charge through the heats. His closest challenger came in the shape of Aaron Dalton and Eddie Peterson. In the final Murray got beaten off the line by Peterson who was alongside him on the front row, Peterson was not fully passed the pole man when he started moving over to defend the first corner, this resulted in contact with his rear drivers side on the front left of Murrays machine and a big sideways moment for Peterson who did well to not only avoid a spin but somehow managed to still lead through turn one. The coming together slowed Murray who was then demoted to 4th place as Dalton from the outside of the front row moved into second position. Murray opted to take his joker lap early while Peterson set about building his lead. When all but the leader4 Peterson had completed their joker lap Murray was now up to second and closing in fast. An early joker lap from Peterson could have thwarted Murrays ‘pitstop style’ overtake and ensured that Murray would have had to pass for the lead the old fashioned way, however in the end with Peterson taking his joker lap on the last circulation Murray had enough pace in hand to move ahead and cruise to the flag from Peterson and a smokey Aaron Dalton.
The exciting Kart Cross buggies had a relatively tame days racing but the sights and sounds of these little machines more than made up for any lack of door to door action. The motorbike engined machines screamed their way around Mondello Park, exploring parts of the circuit never previously visited with the drivers arms a blur trying to point their machines in roughly a straight trajectory. In the final it was Ian Barret who took the top step from William Bolster and Ronan Mackle.
Tomorrows race and rallycross stars in the Junior series undoubtedly put in some of the best races on the program, with the only female driver of the day, Sophie Byrne, winning 3 of her 4 heats to line up on pole from Dylan Curley, James Huddleston and Jake Dooley. As the youngsters all headed for the very same piece of tarmac at turn one mirrors were quickly sacrificed and paint swapped. Through the melee it was Byrne who emerged first with the Starlet of Curley right in her wheel tracks. The race quickly became a fierce battle of two parts with the race for 3rd between Huddleston and Dooley getting very heated. On the 3rd lap as Huddleston performed the perfect switchback move to get alongside Dooley he was edged unceremoniously into the pitwall and forced to wait until later in the race to demote Dooley to 4th. Meanwhile upfront Byrne was under incredible pressure from Curley, exchanging fastest laps between them the pair circled as one for the entire encounter. Championship leader Byrne withstood immense pressure and drove to a fine victory.
With 5 supercars on the entry list most races were a battle between Subaru and Mitsubishi as these fire spitting monsters put in a great display of racing throughout the day. In the final no one had an answer for Andrew Morris who streaked into the distance from pole position and was never threatened all the way to the flag. Behind him the Evos of John Kelly and Derrick Jobb along with the Impreza of Paul Pascoe raced each other so hard that they lost sight of the task at hand and ended up finishing right towards the back. Thomas O’Rafferty in his Fiesta took a fantastic second place finish holding off the newer Fiesta of Declan Kelly who crossed the line in third.
In the Modified B final Philip Lawless took an unexpected victory when both of his competitors ran into mechanical difficulties. The Tigra of Dessie Tierney failed to get off the line which left just Lawless and Colm Mullins to fight it out. Mullins led most of the way until a mechanical issue slowed him to almost walking pace which allowed Lawless to cruise by to take the win and with it promotion to the A final.
Ian O’Connell in his Lotus Exige competed in just 2 of the 4 heats but such was his pace and confidence that he knew those two results would be enough to see him get pole for the Modified A final. Obviously with an eye firmly on the championship O’Connell chose to try get maximum points with minimal risk and his strategy paid off as he took pole position and a comfortable win in the final from Pearse Browne’s M3 and Willie Coyne’s Corsa.
The next round of the Irish Rallycross championship takes place on March 3rd at Mondello Park