Irish Touring Car Championship rolled into Bishopscourt, Co. Down for rounds 5 and 6 of the 2015 season. For the first time since the series has been racing at Bishopscourt, drivers would use the longer International loop of the circuit, which added some very interesting looking corners, and even a blind crest!
With just 30 minutes to get to grips with the new layout available to drivers on Saturday morning, it would take a lot of concentration to pick out the best line to make the most of the 15 minute qualifying session later in the afternoon. Eoghan Fogarty seemed to do just this, now finally looking like he's settled into the BMW M3 and he duly put the car on pole position for Race one. Kevin Doran and his team put in a monster effort to get their Honda Civic rebuilt following a heavy impact at Mondello Park last time out. Almost as impressive was the Monaghan man's ability to drive, putting the Honda on the front row of the grid beside Fogarty.
Shane Rabbitt looked to have gotten on top of the gremlins that plagued the Mazda RX7 at Mondello Park, and he put in a time which was good enough for the second row of the grid, with Owain Drought and Kealan O'Connor also on the grid. No surprises on the Production class grid, with the very rapid Seat Leon of Gregorz Kalinecki setting the quickest time of the class and taking pole position.
A cold but dry circuit on Sunday morning would host race 1, and while Fogarty looked at home in the BMW around the circuit, he still hasn't quite hooked up getting the RAE Autofactors machine off the grid. Kevin Doran took an early lead around turn one, with Fogarty and Drought in hot pursuit. Robert Savage who started at the back of the grid as a result of missing the timed qualifying session made some ground up on the pack early in the lap, however heavy contact with Kealan O'Connor halted the early pace, and also put an end to O'Connors weekend, with the Navan man's Honda Integra suffering heavy frontal damage.
The Production Class Honda's of Nicole Drought, Doherty and Ian O'Driscoll can match the Spanish SEAT of Kalinecki around Mondello Park, but the Sportchip run Leon had the legs on the rest of the class at the northern irish circuit. Even Stephen Dunne in the Toyota Corolla, which is normally quite quick in a straight line, struggled to keep in touch.
At the front of the Super Touring grid, Doran was doing well to hold off the M3 of Fogarty, however the Roscrea native managed to find a way around the little Honda on the back straight through a chicane, and the top two would continue in that order to the finish line. The electrical gremlins returned to haunt Rabbitt in the Mazda in race one, with an alternator issue causing a misfire and lack of power, removing any chance of a podium finish for the Meath man.
Gregorz Kalinecki took a straightforward class win in Production class, with Ian O'Driscoll and Nicole Drought taking well earned second and third positions respectively, however not before a tight battle involving Stephen Dunne and Robert Doherty.
The race 2 grid would be a reverse of the race 1 results, leaving Shane Rabbitt to take his first Pole position of the season. Having seemingly worked out the race 1 issues during the 5 hour interval, it would be Rabbitt's best chance of a podium finish however as the lights went out, the electrical issue would rear it's ugly head again dropping the Mazda to the back of the field.
Doran also looked like he was struggling to find pace in the Honda, later discovering that a gearbox failure would leave the car stuck in fourth gear. Both the Mazda of Rabbitt and the Honda of Doran continued to lap the circuit at a slow pace to at least cross the line at the chequered flag. Eoghan Fogarty would cruise to a second win of the day once he found a way around the abnormally wide Honda Integra of Owain Drought. Drought and Savage would put on a great show of racing, battling for second place, with the Tuning Factory run Integra of Savage eventually making a move stick to take second place from Drought who would have to settle for third place.
In Production class, Kalinecki would also take his second win of the day, with an identical result in second and third of O'Driscoll and Nicole Drought, but again not before Stephen Dunne and Robert Doherty tried to position themselves on the winner's podium.
Rounds 7 and 8 of the MicksGarage.com ITCC will take place in Mondello Park on the 6th
Photo credit: brianwalshphotos.com