Dubliner Niall Murray kept his slim hope of lifting the Jondol Junior Rallycross crown alive, with his second win of the season against all the odds at Mondello Park last Sunday (February 21st). Competing in the penultimate round of the 2009/2010 winter series Murray dominated the ‘A’ Final to take the championship fight down to the wire despite his Starlet being heavily damaged earlier in the day.
Maynooth’s Paul Barrett was the first driver to top the time sheets having come from behind with his Mini to win heat one by four seconds, from James Fleming who shares his Starlet with fellow Dubliner Murray. Another Mini pilot, Simon Quinn from Naas, was next to move to the top despite a major braking problem, as he beat Barrett’s time by a second on his way to winning heat two ahead of Northern Irish Micra drivers, Andrew Patterson and Mark Francis, but it was Murray who would top the times at the end of the first run as he cruised to a nine second victory over another Micra driven by Dundalk’s Paul McArdle in the third heat. At the end of the run the order was Murray from Quinn, Patterson, Barrett and Francis.
Barrett took another win in his second heat, this time from Jake Byrne’s Suzuki with the man from Coill Dubh, just a handful of miles from Mondello, putting together one of his strongest ever performances to take fifth fastest time. Barrett’s time stood as fastest right through the second and third heats to leave him top, ahead of heat two winner Francis and heat three victor Murray, who finished just ahead of Patterson and the previously mention Byrne.
The third win saw a third name at the top of the times as Patterson came out best ahead of Quinn, with another impressive drive by Byrne earning him third place. Fourth went to McArdle with Francs fifth, but missing from the results were Murray and Barrett. Murray’s absence was down to team mate Fleming putting their Toyota on its roof and causing extensive damage, making Murray a non-starter in his heat. During that incident Barrett took avoiding action and when the red flag flew made his way into the pit road rather than returning to the grid and was therefore not allowed to take the re-start.
Fleming’s accident looked like putting both himself and Murray out for the day but the Murray Motorsport team kept working on the car, despite it needing extensive repairs including a new windscreen, steering rack and suspension parts, all of which had to be borrowed. The team did a fantastic job and although Fleming missed his spot in the ‘B’ Final, the car was finished and passed safe by the scrutineers just in time for Murray to take up his pole position for the ‘A’ Race.
Murray’s hastily repaired car lined up on the front row of the grid with championship leader Quinn alongside and Patterson on the outside spot. Away from the start Murray got swallowed up by the pack as Quinn jumped into the lead, but as the cars took the first turn mayhem ensued behind Quinn with seemingly every other one of the eight car grid involved. When the dust settled Patterson and Francis were left stranded at turn one with damaged and stalled cars bringing out the red flag and allowing Murray a reprieve.
At the second time of asking Quinn got the drop once again but by the end of lap 1 Murray was able to fight his way past and duly romped away to take his second win of the season. Behind the winner a titanic battle went on for the entire race with Quinn, Barrett, Patterson and Cahill swapping places. Still suffering with locking front brakes, Quinn dropped as low as fourth, but got back past Barrett and then twice passed Cahill for second only for the Micra driver to fight back and regain the place. Towards the end of the race the field spread out slightly to finish in the order Murray, Cahill, Quinn, Patterson and Barrett.
Murray’s win takes him into second in the standings but he is still ten points off Quinn who remains as favourite for the title. The season concludes in two weeks time, once again at Mondello Park, with the outcome of the championship entirely in Quinn’s hands. Even if Murray wins the final event of the season Quinn will only have to start the ‘A’ final to be crowned champion in his first full season’s racing.