Mondello Park was the venue for rounds 9 & 10 of the MicksGarage.com
Irish Touring Car Championship, on a weekend that saw just 9 points separate the top three championship leaders in the Super Touring Class. It was all still to play for in Production class also with just 25 points separating Gregorz Kalinecki from Stephen Dunne and Nicole Drought, which would ensure some very close racing.
July would also see Dean Reilly make his championship debut, the former Irish Time Attack champion making the move to touring cars and it would be he who led the cars onto track for qualifying. Championship leader Eoghan Fogarty quickly stamped his authority on the session however, with almost a second between the RAE Autofactors BMW and the Honda Civic of Reilly. Fogarty would take pole position with Reilly along side on the front row, while Robert Savage and Erick Carroll would line up on the second row.
Production Class leader Kalinecki didn't have the same time advantage however, with Ian O'Driscoll piling on the pressure throughout the session, as they crossed the line at the chequered flag just 1 tenth of a second separated the two. Nicole Drought was a futher 7 tenths back and would line up third on the grid with Stephen Dunne alongside for company.
Eoghan Fogarty hooked up a great start off the line once the lights went out, looking finally to have gotten the hang of getting the BMW M3 off the line but it was Shane Rabbitt who stole the show from the back of the grid, challenging Robert Savage and Erick Carroll into turn 1. Rabbitt settled into a steady rhythm in the Mazda RX7 in 4th place and set off in chase of Owain Fogarty. At the front of the grid, Dean Reilly piled the pressure onto the BMW of Fogarty during the opening lap, and managed to get the inside line on the exit of Dunlop corner to lead over the line at the end of the first lap, but left the door open into turn 1 allowing the Roscrea man to re take the lead.
It would only take another 60 seconds for Reilly to pull the same move at Dunlop corner, but this time making sure Fogarty had no way past, and stormed into an impressive lead at the front of the pack. Rabbitt looked content to take third place and focused on getting to the chequered flag, while Robert Savage and Owain Drought continued to battle, with Savage eventually getting the better of Drought.
Dean Reilly would take the win on what was his Micksgarage.com ITCC Debut with Eoghan Fogarty taking second, and Shane Rabbitt rounding out the top 3. As Dean Reilly was not registered for ITCC Championship points in Race 1 the remainder of the class were promoted by one race position.
Ian O'Driscoll got a fantastic start in his Production Class Honda Civic, leaving Kalinecki to settle for second place into the opening corner. Nicole Drought and Stephen Dunne had a great battle in the opening laps, with Drought just pulling a slight lead to hold her position.
At the halfway point of the race Kalinecki looked to have technical issues with his SEAT Leon allowing Nicole Drought to make up a bundle of time on the SportChip.ie
run car and making a move down the main straight to take second position. Stephen Dunne looked to have also closed up to the SEAT on the penultimate lap, however a mistake into turn 4 saw the Toyota take a trip into the gravel trap allowing Kalinecki to take the final podium position across the line. Ian O'Driscoll looked untroubled at the front of the grid, a comfortable race win for the Louth man with Nicole Drought in second and Kalinecki in third.
The drivers looked to have kept all the action for race 2, with Erick Carroll lining up on pole on this occasion. As the lights went out both Carroll and Savage got away cleanly but Shane Rabbitt once again hooked up the Mazda off the line and challenged into turn 1, in a 4 way battle for the lead with Eoghan Fogarty and Dean Reilly also in the mix. Savage ended up the winner of that particular battle emerging in the lead on the run down to turn 3, with Reilly, Fogarty and Rabbitt giving chase. The Honda of Reilly seemed to find itself in the gravel trap at Dunlop corner, and retired shortly afterwards with throttle issues. Fogarty eventually found a way past Savage to take the lead but Rabbitt was laying on the pressure and giving no breathing room behind in third place.
It was bumper to bumper for the next number of laps and with just 1 minute left on the clock Fogarty was still leading, however the BMW ran wide on the exit of turn 1 allowing both Savage and Rabbitt past, and it would be in that order the cars would finish.
In Touring Class, Ian O'Driscoll once again got away cleanly from the pack and stormed into an impressive early lead. Kalinecki suffered the typical SEAT issue of getting off the line quite slowly and dropped to the back of the grid. Nicole Drought, Gareth Jennings and Stephen Dunne all settled into the battle for third place trading places and on occasion some paint but Drought eventually got the better of her competitors and opened up a small lead.
Kalinecki began making his way back through the grid and was impressive in his hunt to reel O'Driscoll in, with 5 minutes on the clock remaining he was within touching distance of the Honda. He made a move into the final corner stick for the lead, however O'Driscoll came straight back at him into turn 1 to re-take the lead. Contact between the two caused Kalinecki to lose some pace and it would be O'Driscoll who crossed the line in the lead, Nicole Drought rounded out the podium places in third position. An after race enquiry deemed O’Driscoll had jumped the start, which lead to a 10 second time penalty, which demoted him to second and promoted class lead Kalinecki to the top step, further reinforcing his position at the top of touring class.
Some fantastic action from the Micksgarage.com Irish Touring Car Championship and with all championships very tight at the top heading into rounds 11 & 12 at the Leinster Trophy meeting in Mondello Park in September, it is sure to produce some top class racing!
Image credits: Brian Walsh Photography