Motormouth’s Mutterings- with Leo Nulty
August 17, 2013 by Leo Nulty
It is almost the time of year where the radio stations start playing those depressing “Back to School” ads. They depressed me as a kid for obvious reasons and nowadays they just remind me that we are well into the second half of the motor racing season.
Most of the titles are still up for grabs as I type this, the exception being the ITCC- where Erik Holstein and Murray Motorsport have done a superb job to wrap up the championship with a couple of rounds still to run. The pace at the front has been superb with Dave O’Brien’s newly built E46 M3 pushing Holstein hard and Rob Butler’s Civic not being too far away either. The numbers have dropped worryingly though and the once packed grids are now dangerously small, with less than ten cars taking to track for the second race at the July Kirkistown meeting. The Production Class has had some good battles with Norman Fawcett topping the title chase but facing stern opposition from Owen Drought et al. Aimee Kershaw had a horrendous accident whilst testing at a track day in Kirkistown last month, the car landing on the access road outside the circuit boundaries after an off at the ultra fast Debtors corner. She has had a subsequent operation on her back and thankfully is recuperating well at home. Quite what the answer is to the class’ dilemma is unclear, many fearing the current situation is irrecoverable. The class organisers have been ringing around to try and gain some more entries but it is going to take a lot more than that to see the ITCC make a recovery. Holstein, as you can see on the sidebar on the right, has already put his car up for sale- but he does say he might build a Honda! There is talk of a Honda Cup being organised, which seems odd as the cars would be eligible for the ITCC- and I firmly believe that a Honda can challenge the M3s, at least on Mondello National Circuit- no more information is forthcoming thus far but if I hear anything I will let you know.
Conversely, the Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta series continues to grow, with over 40 drivers now registered for the series and some newcomers hoping to add to that before the seasons’ end. John
Denning still leads the title race despite a bad weekend last time out with Punto 1400 Champion Barry Hallion in second and Mondello’s Phil Lawless having charged up to third after a superb debut win at the Vee Festival meeting. Latest news is that multiple saloon car champion Michael Cullen will be reunited with Murray Motorsport as he has entered in one of their cars for the August 25th meeting. There is talk of living legend Stevie Griffin also joining the party, possible in the Mondello Celebrity car. Cullen’s Dunlop Touring Car nemesis Barry Barrable is also having a car built and will commute from Spain to race!
A vastly improved Adam Mcaulay leads the Crowne Plaza Formula Vee season having ended Ray Moore’s early season dominant run. Moore is still very much in the running though, with just 6 points separating the pair at the head of the table. Dan Polley remains in third, having had niggling problems all season, but if he returns to form he is one of the few with the pace to worry the leaders. Avanti Sport’s Kevin Grogan is next up, the ex karter now showing genuine front running pace. Morgan McCourt is another driver who has improved immensely and currently leads the Dunlop B Championship by just a single point from the equally impressive Colm Blackburn. Blackburn has come on in leaps and bounds since he came under the wing of the works Leastone outfit. Justin Costello leads the Veespares.ie C series just ahead of Brendan O’Brien with 16 year old Jack Byrne not too far away in third.
All to play for in all three championships then, in the budget single seater class. The class again did a great job with their Formula Vee Festival- a great weekend by all accounts, raising a large sum of money for The Laura Lunn Hospice, marred only by ugly scenes at the Podium after the Festival Final when the cars and drivers were ordered back into parc fermé.
Formula Sheane points do not seem to have been released yet but Kevin Sheane should still be leading as he bids to regain the title he lost to Brian Hearty in 2013. Hearty is not going to relinquish the number 1 without a fight though and has won two of the last three rounds. Barry Rabbitt upset the applecart in more ways than one with a fantastic win at the Vee Festival and looked set to repeat the performance at Kirkistown a few weeks ago until mechanical maladies forced him out, having led the race early on. Robbie Allen is never too far away either and he, along with Dave Parks and the returning Timmy Swail, can always be relied on for a strong performance. Gary Corcoran and John Linnane have also progressed well as has Jennifer Mullen, who took her debut Scholarship Class win and 6th overall at Kirkistown. The class has been awarded the Leinster Trophy again this year too, which will no doubt ensure a packed grid of Sheanes and some great racing come September. This has caused a great deal of paddock chatter though, as some assumed it would go to the FF1600 class, as Motorsport Ireland’s Young Driver Award is based around it and there are a number of potential career drivers in the class. Even some LMC members admitted to being surprised when the announcement was made. Perhaps the FF1600 class will put their proposal in a little earlier in 2014! ‘Nuff said….
Global GT Lights have been off travelling again for a few non championship meetings, first to Zandvoort and then to Anglesey where they had some close racing. Series leader Paul Fitzpatrick, Mark Twomey and Max Drennan have been the frontrunners although Jake Byrne jumped into a spare car when he had problens with his FF1600 and blew them all away.. The races are always close but one gets the feeling they are slightly scripted as Max hits the front and backs them up before they go for it in the closing stages. This caused Twomey to make contact with Richard Finlay in Anglesey with the unfortunate Finlay being despatched off the track- that certainly won’t have been in the script!
Mondello’s new for 2013 OPH.ie backed GT class got off to a flying start at the Mondello 45 meeting with impressive numbers first time out. Series Sponsor Connaire Finn did the double but Pat McBennett’s Lotus has since dipped into the 57 second bracket on the Mondello National during a Time Attack event so he will be hard to beat next time out. The former Dunlop supercars of Bob Cameron and Richie O’Mahony should be close enough too and there is talk of a number of quick machines also set to join the grids- watch out for the two driver pitstop race at the next round!
FF1600 continues to produce great racing ahead of its return to Mondello Park in 2014, when a four round series will be run. Ivor McCullough returned to his winning ways at Kirkistown recently, with Kevin O’Hara being too busy battling Niall Murray to worry McCullough, despite having briefly led early on. The Gary Gibson Trophy returns to Mondello for The Leinster Trophy meeting and should see a superb battle once again. If O’Hara is on form, he won’t be easily beaten, but Niall Murray and Sean Doyle have both shown superb pace in their debut year and one of them
is surely due a win soon! Noel Dunne should be back out too and Neville Smyth has sent his engine away for a build after a lacklustre performance at Kirkistown (by his lofty standards!). Jonny McMullen will no doubt be doing his usual giant killing act at the wheel of his elderly Mondiale but the big question is, who can beat Stephen Daly. The last time the 1600s visited Mondello, Daly dominated proceedings with two strong wins, earning himself a nomination for the Young Driver Of The Year Award, the Sexton Trophy. On that performance, he would have to be favourite, but there are a lot of very quick contenders out there that would disagree!
Alan Watkins would seem to be en route to yet another Stryker title, combining speed with consistency to enjoy a substantial lead in the series over the spectacular Alan Auerbach. Auerbach has the pace to match Watkins but always seems to be dancing on the edge and is great to watch. Dave Griffin is another who has race winning pace but his title challenge has been stymied by various issues. Ex Mondello Track Teamster Brian Kingston lies an impressive third in the standings and is close enough to challenge for second should Auerbach encounter any issues.
Dylan Curley leads the Ginetta Junior Ireland series but Jack Finlay has similar pace and is not far behind. Sophie Byrne proved to be the mistress of the standing start at Kirkistown, vaulting into the lead from the second row and if she can replicate this on home ground at Mondello, she won’t be easily passed. Johnnie Mulholland is a recent addition to the grids and qualified his Murray Motorsport machine on the front row in his first race, following this up with a win at Kirkistown, admittedly after only Curley and Finlay tangled early on. Charlie Linnane and Max Sheane have been steadily improving and enjoy the battle for the first Wicklowman home on each outing. The big news, however, is that 14 year old triple karting champion Nicole Coffey is to drive the ex Andrew Watson car in the remaining rounds of the series. The car will be backed by Motorsport.ie and The Naas Court Hotel and run by LOH Motorsport. She has shown very well in initial testing and it will be interesting to see how well she goes on Sunday week.
Mondello TV has been a huge hit so far in 2013 and promises to continue this with a host of improvements due before the Leinster Trophy meeting in September. The coverage has been hugely popular with tweets and e-mails coming in from all over the world during the live coverage- often from ex Mondello race drivers! (The races are still available on www.mondello.tv)
It has been an excellent season so far and all indications are that it will get even better as the championships come to their respective conclusions- probably at the Leinster Trophy meeting on 14/15 September at Mondello Park.