“Champion of Mondello” 2014 Championships off to a successful start!

March 26, 2014 by Leo Nulty  

Well the points have been released for both the FF1600 and Formula Vee Champion of Mondello series. Unsurprisingly, with a win and a second at the opening meeting, the experienced Neville Smyth heads the FF1600 standings on 74 points. Niall Murray probably rues what might have been, as he had great pace all weekend, but in reality his weekend was saved to a certain extent by the race one stoppage just after he had spun to the back. He is second on 66 points. Tom O’Connor is third overall in his immaculate Van Diemen RF90 with 42 points and he also tops the pre ’99 class. Andrew Noble, who has improved immensely over the winter, equals O’Connor’s score while danger man Stephen Daly is in fifth place with 40 points. Noel Dunne and Séan Doyle have plenty of work to do, languishing down in seventh and eighth respectively, courtesy of their spectacular race stopping shunt. Andy O’Brien is second in pre 99 and seventh overall in his debut FF1600 season. He should be one to watch if dad Noel and himself make progress with the car setup before the next round. Ivor Mairs heads the Pre ’87 standings and is sixth overall. Not a bad start for FF1600′s return to Mondello and with the promise of more cars due out for round two in April, the future is bright. Vee refugee Lloyd Murphy is waiting for parts for his Van Diemen and he should be a contender for pre ’99 honours as will Barry Rabbitt, who will no doubt wheel out his Swift at some stage. Denis Sheehan had an off in qualifying in his Crossle 20F and unfortunately damaged it quite badly. The veteran single seater driver is made of strong stuff however, and I believe the chassis is already in Hollywood for repairs! Son Keith should also make the next one in his father’s old Reynard, probably the ultimate pre ’90 machine!  The Vivion Daly Trophy, which will be presented to the winner of the Formula Ford Festival in June at Mondello, has also attracted great interest and the prize fund continues to grow for this one. Ads are available, as are hospitality options, with all monies raised going to the prize fund to make the event one of the biggest weekends on the race calendar (details from corporate@mondellopark.ie) . Cliff Dempsey has expressed an interest in travelling back to Ireland with a few drivers for the event as has former Mondello Palmer-Audi winner Richard Tarling, who could challenge the modern machines in his Van Diemen RF80 if the heavens open.

The Formula Vee Champion of Mondello season opener also had plenty of action. Colm Blackburn was impressive in 2013, with help from Paul Heavey, even earning himself a nomination for the Motorsport Ireland Young Driver of The Year. In There was no sign of 2013 National Champion Adam Macaulay. Having apparently abandoned his plans to graduate to Formula Ford, he has rebuilt his Sheane chassis over the winter and should be out at the next meeting. Blackburn qualified on pole, but stalled on the grid. Happily the

Winner Blackburn leads a crossed up Byrne, Morrin, and O'Brien. Image from Con Connolly.

Winner Blackburn leads a crossed up Byrne, Morrin, and O’Brien. Image from Con Connolly.

officials allowed him a push start before the lights changed. Avanti Sport’s Kevin Grogan, the man on form at the end of last season, immediately grabbed the lead and the pair went at it straight away. Grogan was struggling though with a new front end on the car that the team felt was perhaps too stiff. In greasy conditions, the pair battled mightily with Blackburn grabbing the lead back before Grogan spun off. Blackburn made no mistakes, despite a safety car intervention when Roy Kelly parked in the gravel at Ford Corner in his first race, to take a strong win. He leads the championship then on 41 points, from class stalwart Ger Byrne on 34 with local man Stephen Morrin third on 28, no doubt a little disappointed with his distant third place. Impressive newcomer Anthony Cross did a great job to take fourth place overall and as a result he is fourth in the standings! Grogan charged back to fifth from the back and grabbed a handful of points which may come in handy when they are all added up at the end of the year. Mark Elliot is sixth in the ex Trevor Delaney car from Brendan O’Brien, Shane McBride and Pat McCabe all who did well in decidedly difficult conditions.

All in all, not a bad start to the season for both of the single seater classes, and with a dropped round, it is easily possible for the late starters and/or non finishers to make up some ground before the awards are presented at the end of the year! Speaking of which, plans are afoot to have a Gala Awards Evening for all the Champion of Mondello championships at the seasons’ end- watch this space for further details.

All races were shown on www.mondello.tv of course with over 10,000 live views on the day and the hits still coming in since the coverage was subsequently uploaded last week. This should help drivers to attract sponsorship as well as making the racing more accessible to the public- all around the globe!



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