After two exciting races at the high speed Bishopscourt circuit in Northern Ireland last month, the Irish Stryker Championship returned to Mondello Park last weekend for a double header which would mark the halfway point of their 2018 campaign.
For the Mondello specialists though, there was a change- the circuit was to run anticlockwise for the first time in over 20 years! This meant is was a new circuit to all but a handful and the playing was level. Unsurprisingly, many of the drivers took the opportunity to test the layout on the Friday of the weekend and the general opinion was positive- some actually going as far as to say they preferred this to the more conventional layout.
Come qualifying and all eyes were on championship leader Greg Kelly and his closest challenger Andy D’Alton as they headed the field out on track. Bill Griffin set the initial pace but with a handful of laps Kelly had snatched provisional lap, dipping into the 1:02 bracket as he stopped the clocks at 1:02.636. On the same lap Nicole Drought clocked a 1:02.813 to go second and Bill Griffin joined them in the “2s” on a 1:02.934. As Nicole crossed the line on that lap, however, she lost drive and coasted in the back paddock gate with a broken gearbox. As the clocked ticked down to zero, the top three remained in that position. Andy D’Alton and Paul Yeomans were next up and were to see plenty of each other over the two races that were to follow! The improving Robert Griffin was sixth just ahead Des “I didn’t bother testing” Bruton! David Reynolds, Conal Shipman and Dominic Ryan were just fractions apart in that order with Rallycross driver Vincent O’Rourke just pipping Mike Ward.
With Nicole’s gearbox not fixable, she missed race one as the team sprinted to Dublin to collect a replacement so Kelly was all alone on the front row . Unsurprisingly, the series leader converted this into the lead as the pack headed to the first, usually the last, corner. Confused? Don’t worry, everyone was! Andy D’Alton grabbed second with Bill Griffin in third as they entered turn one. Despite the early attentions of his pursuers, Kelly gradually got the head down and began to ease away as Dominic Ryan headed towards the paddock after a high speed off at the Esses.. In his wake, both D’Alton had eventually got by Griffin at the final corner, immediately taking off in pursuit of the leader. A lap later and Yeomans was also by Griffin and began to ease away, as Bruton, Robert Griffin and David Reynolds (who set the second fastest lap of the day)
all closed in. Yeomans was driving superbly and closed D’Alton down to kick off a great scrap for runner up spot. As the leader started his final lap, the pair behind were still battling, whilst Robert Griffin, after a charging drive, was right on father Bill’s tail. As the chequered flag fell, it was Kelly to make it three in a row, with D’Alton pipping Yeomans to second and Bill having to use all his experience to hold off Robert to the line, the pair having run side by side though turn three (or “Duckhams” as Bill says!) on the final lap!
For race two it was Kelly on pole once again, with Bill Griffin alongside. Drought was third, the team literally just finished the gearbox transplant as the cars were called to assembly, with Yeomans fourth, ahead of D’Alton and Reynolds who was the Stryker X winner of the weekend. Kelly held the lead as the cars headed away but the hugely experienced Griffin was on the attack immediately and the leader had to defend in the opening stages. Drought was third but Yeomans and D’Alton were right with her, the trio circulating as one in the early laps. Yeomans had a few attempts to rest third from Drought before turning his attentions to holding off the hard charging D’Alton, allowing the lead trio to pull out a gap. A safety car intervention bunched the pack up mid race and when the BMW M4 pulled off to allow the racing to recommence, Kelly and Griffin got the jump beautifully with Drought, Yeomans and Dalton nose to tail once again. As Kelly eased away to take the win, Griffin was second, with Drought closing him down in the final laps to take the final podium position. Yeomans took fourth, by a fraction, from Dalton with Reynolds and Bruton next up. Further back, Rallycrosser O’Rourke was flying on his first outing and manged to get ahead of both Conal Shipman and Mike Ward before the finish.
This makes it 4 wins from 6 starts for Greg Kelly and unsurprisingly, he leads the championship by a considerable margin. The next rounds of the series are at Mondello Park, which returns to the more conventional clockwise layout, on July 7/8 at the Formula Vee Festival. Can anyone beat the G2 Adventure Centre car?
Championship Standings After 6 Rounds
Greg Kelly 119
Andy D’Alton 101
Nicole Drought 58
Des Bruton 54
Conal Shipman 49
Paul Yeomans 49
David Reynolds 45
Mike Ward 44
Bill Griffin 41
Dominic Ryan 31