There’s been lots of hype surrounding the 2015 MicksGarage.com
ITCC Season with new sponsors, new drivers, and new cars all coming to the grid. With the largest grid over the past number of years, many eyes would be on the touring cars during qualifying - especially watching the new additions to the grid, the SEAT Supercopas of McGovern, Farrelly and Berry, the Honda Integra of Kealan O’Connor and the long awaited return of the Mazda RX7 of Shane Rabbitt.
Smart money would have been on the Spanish machines to lock out the front row of the grid and indeed Rod McGovern and John Farrelly did, however not having it as easy as they would have hoped. O’Connor in the Integra and Doran in the Civic both went quick out of the box, running in the low 60/61 second laps, and it took a number of laps for the SEAT’s to bring their tyres up to temperature. Once there however, it was a mere formality with McGovern sticking his car on pole with a stunning 58.4 second lap, Farrelly locked out the front row, just 6 tenths off the pole sitting time. Brian Berry and Kevin Doran would make up the second row.
In Production class, new addition Gregorz Kalinecki wasted no time stating his intention for the year with a pole position, while debutante Nicole Drought raised the eyebrows of many on the pit wall with an impressive 64.8 second lap time - good enough for second place on the grid.
Race one would go on to live up to the expectations placed on touring car racing, with some fantastic overtaking, crashes, and of course drama. Rabbitt was to be the unlucky driver of the race with alternator failure halting his car as he rounded Dunlop corner on the formation lap to the grid, which caused a slight delay in the race start. The lights staying on a little longer than their normal 5 seconds caused a lot of the cars to almost jump start, however once they did go out, the Copa’s of McGovern and Farrelly were almost immediately attacked into turn 1 by the Civic of Kevin Doran. Early contact between Stephen Maher in the ex-Dave O’Brien BMW M3 and the returning Zeljko Mistaovic Integra saw cars diving for cover around turn 1, and also forcing the early retirement of the BMW with a burst radiator, bringing out the safety car for the first time this season.
With Kevin Doran having gotten his nose in front following the early contact, he was to lead the race following the restart, cleverly backing up the grid in a bid to break away from the rest of the grid and opened up a small cushion from the oncoming cars of McGovern and Farrelly. Kealan O’Connor looked impressive on his racing debut also, mixing it up in 4th place with the SEAT of Brian Berry and more experienced drivers in Savage and Hayden.
It wouldn't be long however before the tyres of the Supercopa’s came on song, and sure enough they closed down the gap to mere car lengths, putting Kevin Doran under some real pressure. It would finally be too much for the Monaghan native, with both McGovern and Farrelly getting past in the same lap.
The overall result was almost inevitably going to be a SEAT 1-2 but with just 3 laps remaining, Farrelly got the switch back around Dunlop corner, and positioned his car on the inside of McGovern. Contact between the two pushed both cars into the wall causing big damage, and forcing both cars to retire, and the race would finish under a red flag. Under countback rules the win was given to John Farrelly, with Brian Berry taking second place, and Kevin Doran rounding out the top 3.
In the 2.0 N/A Class, Kevin Doran took top honours from lights to flag in the very rapid Honda. Owain Drought couldn't make the most of his impressive qualifying performance, leaving Garreth Hayden and Robert Savage to battle it out for the remaining podium places. Even after 15 minutes of very close racing the pair crossed the line with not much separating them – Hayden eventually taking the second place with Savage rounding out the top 3.
Touring class saw a number of new drivers in 2015, including Nicole Drought while Stephen Dunne returned following a stint in 2014, and Gregorz Kalinecki would return following a long absence from the series. Touring class has often produced some fantastic racing, and indeed the opening rounds for 2015 were no exception. With the appearance of a new SEAT in touring class, Kalinecki would be on pole for the first round, with Nicole Drought for company on the first row.
A frantic start saw veteran Anthony Murtagh spin on cold tyres coming under the bridge, leaving the unfortunate Brent Hughes with nowhere to go. Both drivers did very well to get restarted so quickly under their own power, but the mistake was a costly one for Murtagh in the VW Corrado having lined up on the second row of the grid.
Kalinecki was to dominate the opening race without being under too much pressure from behind. Last year’s newcomer Robert Doherty did well to finish in second position having started from fifth, while Stephen Dunne rounded out the podium places in his Toyota Corolla.
With a slightly depleted Super Touring grid following the earlier incident between the SEAT’s of Rod McGovern and John Farrelly, the reverse grid would see Owain Drought on pole position for the first time this year, with Robert Savage alongside on the front row of the grid. Eoghan Fogarty and Garreth Hayden lined up on the second row, with the Honda pairing of Kevin Doran and Kealan O’Connor on row 3 while a last minute driver change saw John Farrelly take over duties in Brian Berry’s SEAT.
A slightly less busy start saw all the cars around turn 1 with no contact, however following a slow start off the line, Drought lost the rear of his Integra causing Kealan O’Connor to take evasive action into the gravel trap. Savage stormed into an early lead with Doran and Eoghan Fogarty in the BMW M3 giving chase. Shane Rabbitt got his Mazda going and had a good battle early on with Farrelly in the Supercopa, while Drought and Misatovic started a 15 minute long battle with plenty of rubbing.
John Farrelly showed plenty of patience and started to make up positions having started near the back of the grid but early on it did look like he would struggle to make up enough places to trouble Doran in the Civic. At the front, Doran took the lead over from Savage with Fogarty still in close proximity all battling for the lead of the race.
The Supercopa of Farrelly eventually dispatched Hayden and set off in chase of the leading pack, not wasting too much time in the process, taking only a lap or two to close the gap. The race pace of these machines have really raised the eyebrows of some – the sheer ability to make up that much time in such a short space of time is nothing short of incredible.
The very unfortunate Fogarty spun in the second part of the Esses, later telling us that a wrong gear selection locked up the rear wheels flicking him off the track. This opened the door for Farrelly to attack Rob Savage for second place, and let Kevin Doran off the hook for another lap or two. Drought and Misatovic were still battling further down the grid, with both cars looking slightly worse for wear by the chequered flag.
At the front, Farrelly had closed right in to Doran in the Civic, the Monaghan man trying to make the little Honda as wide as possible but ultimately the SEAT was just too strong for the Honda to fend off. Farrelly was patient, waiting for an opportunity to take the lead and grabbed it on the switchback at Dunlop corner. The SEAT would sprint for the finish to take the second win of the day, with Doran taking his second podium of the day, and Garreth Hayden got his name on a trophy in third place.
In Production Class, it would be a baptism of fire for pole sitter Nicole Drought in race 2, with Brent Hughes alongside on the front row. A poor start from Drought would see Hughes and Robert Doherty challenge into turn one, with the Tipperary man taking advantage of the inside line to lead around turn 2, closely followed by Hughes and the Toyota of Stephen Dunne.
At the back, race 1 winner Kalinecki began to make up places, first getting past Anthony Murtagh and then challenging Drought and Gareth Jennings. Hughes and Dunne had a fantastic race long battle, with Dunne diving up the inside at turn one only for Hughes to sit it out around the outside forcing the Corrolla wide at turn two and retaining the position.
Kalinecki had caught Doherty at the front of the grid but could not find a way past the Civic, and it would stay that way until the chequered flag. Jennings would open his 2015 account with a fine 3rd place on his debut weekend, having gotten the better of Murtagh, Hughes and Dunne.
A fantastic weekends racing to open the 2015 MicksGarage.com Irish Touring Car Championship, and will surely have many looking forward to rounds 3 & 4 in Mondello Park in April.