Mondello Season Opener Blog- with Cregor Elliott
March 29, 2014 by Cregor Elliott
It was great to have the season starting back at its early St Patrick’s weekend slot after a few years of April beginnings, but there was nothing spring like about the mid March weather which was damp and gloomy. The not too hectic schedule saw me arriving just after ten having dispatched my F1 duties early following the Australian GP.
Qualifying was a bit behind but not too bad given the wet track and a lot of new drivers making their debut. I grabbed a coffee and took a walk around the paddock where I met the Dodger, and we had a good chat about our recent boxing match for the Naas Lions Club. A quick stop into the Patch garage on the way back is timely as there are sausages on the Barbie and Brian sorts me out with a quick feed to keep me going till lunch.
Racing starts early with the Fiesta qualifying race where John McGovern takes a good win and the full grid provides an exciting opener to the 2014 season. The GT race has a good grid but the battle between Finn and Bennett is great to watch. The Ginetta is in full defensive mode and frustrates the Lotus for the whole race as another Ginetta driven by Paul Monahan takes the overall win. The ITCC race is the usual battle of the Beamers with Holstein holding off O’Brien for its duration. The SuperCopa Seat of Fitzy makes its Irish debut, and hopefully it will soon challenge at the front as he gets to grips with the grips with the power. Lunch is a quick sambo and a delicious 99er from the ice cream van in the paddock that has returned for this year.
First up after lunch are the Formula Fords for the Champion of Mondello series. The field isn’t huge but full of quality. I head to Dunlop to catch it. Sean Doyle is leading early on
after a mistake from Niall Murray but when Noel Dunne passes him Sean goes up over the back of him and lands on top of the cockpit of Dunnes car. He’s out of the car like a light and lifts his car off Noel who emerges thankfully unscathed, not bad for a skinny lad. It was a nasty looking incident that thankfully led to no injuries, on the plus side I got a full sequence of photos. Neville Smyth wins the restarted race once the track has been cleared. I head for the tower and my stint on Mondello.TV that is delayed because one of the Future Classics ends up on its roof on the Esses during a race that was won by Ian Thornton.
I join Motormouth on commentary where we watch Colm Blackburn take the Vee race in his Leastone ahead of a grid with both new and experienced racers. Light rain starts to fall. Sean Lillis streaks away in the Patch Fiestas where the real battle is for runner up. JJ O’Riordan spends most of the race under pressure but crosses the line at the head of a bunch of cars, after a good defensive race. There are so many cars on their first day out its hard to pick out who is who but a couple of races will solve that problem. The race ends and when we hand over to Fergus for the interviews & attention switches to the phones so we miss the controversial incident when JJ is attacked during his interview. A driver comes in shouting and pushes him because he felt JJ had shoved him off track during the race. The broadcast doesn’t make it look too bad but JJ looks a bit stunned, and there’s no need for that sort of messing at the track.
I head back to the 1st corner during the Historics where
there have been a few changes over the winter. The bridge has a new sponsor (E Fox Engineers) and looks brilliant; it will provide a nice backdrop for photos during the season. Marshall huts have been provided for the new year too. I’ll be able to shelter from the rain for year, they just need a bench for the gaps between races. James Foley has jumped the fence this year after a long apprenticeship on the other side. It’s good to have another snapper on board, and he’s down there with Con so we do a bit of slagging between races. ITCC race 2 is a carbon copy of race one, where Holstein takes win number two for the day. Turley who’s racing for signatures and has been out in nearly every race fails to finish, I hope he’s able to get to Europe with the races he did finish. Stephen Daly takes the Ford win while both Doyle and Dunne are both in the race which is good to see, before McBennett gets the better of the Ginettas in the final GT race.
I get some podium shots for the Ford’s and ITCC and then it’s back into the paddock before Leo organises one of those old style selfies where you take your own photo. His arms aren’t long enough to fit Tightlips in though! Before long I’m packing up and heading for home at a reasonable hour. Overall a good start to the season, with some craic and some nice photos, long may that continue this year..