Well that was a weekend with a mix of highs and lows across the grid.
The weekend started with testing on Saturday. Seamus Ryan, Brian Kingston, Colm Divilly and Alan Watkins amongst the drivers making the most of the practice time run by Mondello Park. This was Colm’s first venture out on track with the Stryker run by Kevin McGrath and he wasn’t holding back by any means. A couple of spins but times consistent with a new comer to the class showed that he wasn’t going to be sitting back and enjoying the drive around Mondello on their 45th Anniversary weekend.
Mondello organised a tour of their Museum on Saturday evening which houses a lot of Martin Birrane’s collection of race cars. This was followed by a Q’n’A session, hosted by Leo Nulty, in the club bar where the story of Mondello Park was teased out of past and present owners, Stuart Cosgrave and Martin Birrane.
The TeamDG lads were set up and ready for the weekend and again opened up their growing team HQ to the class. A surprise entry for the weekend, Andrew D’Alton, was even convinced to hang around for a few hours after he tried to sneak into the track at midnight.
Scrutiny was difficult for some when issues over a rule change from the past crept up. Very hard to understand this as it was with cars which have gone through scrutiny on a number of occasions and at a number of venues. Thankfully common sense prevailed and they were passed and allowed to race.
Colin Deering and Sonya Fildes were a welcome addition to the paddock and unfortunately trouble started for the returning drivers early in the day. Colin had to pull into the pits during qualifying when his front wheel guard decided to release itself, thankfully easily fixed and sorted before race 1. Sonya however went off at Dunlop and hit the tyre wall. Thankfully it seemed enough speed was scrubbed off prior to the impact and it was only the car and pride that took the impact. Sonya emerged from the car quickly and remained on the bank till the end of practice. It was hugely disappointing for the Irish Strykers that she was not able to get out for either of the races.
A number of drivers received penalties following qualification as they either passed drivers or set fastest laps under yellow flags. Despite that Alan Auerbach managed to secure two pole positions for both races.
Race one was a mixed bag with people on the receiving end of penalties and mechanical issues. Alan Watkins made a hell of a start and was first into turn one, he held the lead for the rest of the race but was penalised for a delay in meeting his grid position. David Griffin seemed to have a visit from his past demons, a coolant hose failing after an impact with Seamus Ryan at turn 3 lead to his engine overheating and being damaged. He spun out which brought out the Safety Car and yellow flags. This gave the cars a chance to regroup. Alan Watkins made another fantastic restart pulling away from Alan Auerbach. Mark Baker stayed behind Colin Deering. Des Meehan, with his new found pace, was filling Roger Weleratne’s mirrors for much of the race. Turn 3 had some fluid/oil down and Alan Auerbach lost his 2nd position and found himself in the gravel, Colin Deering followed him in but wasn’t as lucky, ending up in the tyre wall. The race finished Watkins, Ryan, D’Alton, Kingston, Bruton, Baker, Weleratne, Auerbach, Meehan, Divilly. As previously mentioned Alan Watkins was penalised for his late gridding and lost his 1st place. Honours for this race went to Ryan, D’Alton and Kingston.
Colin Deering did not make it back out for race 2 as the damage was too great from his crash in Race 1. John Burke and his team battled against the clock and his Trojan work meant David Griffin had the club engine fitted and just started as the Strykers were called to assembly.
Race 2 and Alan Watkins again got away from the line clean. Alan Auerbach put him under more pressure during this race but they managed to keep their positions till the end of the race. The main battle seemed to be from 5th back with Brian Kingston, Andrew D’Alton, Mark Baker and Colm Divilly keeping the crowd entertained. David Griffin retired after the 1st lap with engine problems. Speaking with him in the paddock afterwards he said the engine overheated during the first lap and it was impossible to keep racing. Looks like the head gasket had previously gone on the club engine and no one was aware. Possibly more frustrating for John Burke who had perhaps changed the engine in record time for the Strykers to ensure Dave was back on the grid. Hopefully Dave will be back putting pressure on the front runners in Kirkistown. This race finished Watkins, Auerbach, Ryan, Bruton, D’Alton, Kingston, Baker, Meehan, Divilly.
So a testing weekend all, perhaps with Colm Divilly and Des Meehan having the most successful weekend out of the group. Colm completing his first weekend racing incident free and with two race finishes under his belt. Des’ new found pace showing during both races and no doubt more to come throughout the season. Mark Baker struggled with setup over the weekend and really should have been contending for a podium.
Going into Kirkistown there’s a lot to be done in terms of set up and repairs for some of the grid but it’s already shaping up to be a good weekend.
Well done to all on the podium this weekend and again welcome to Colm Divilly who we hope will be back racing with us soon.