Newry’s Andrew Patterson, driving a Nissan Micra, dominated the deciding round of the Jondol Junior Rallycross Championship at Mondello Park today (Sunday March 7th), but it was Simon Quinn from Naas who secured the 2009/10 title despite limping home in sixth place in the ‘A’ Final. Quinn had started the day needing only to make the ‘A’ Final grid to be the champ and in the end took the crown comfortably following a bad day for main rival Niall Murray.
Most observers expected the story of the day to be the fight between Quinn and Murray, and to add to the tension these two were drawn together in the heats. It was Murray’s Starlet that took first blood with the Dubliner managing a narrow win over Quinn’s Mini in heat one. Heat two saw Ulsterman Mark Francis take the win with his Micra, again after a close battle, this time with Maynooth’s Paul Barrett in another Mini. Patterson lined up in heat three and set down a marker with a crushing win over the third Mini in the field, Sam Kinirons from Naas, to take fastest time of the run ahead of Francis, Murray and Quinn.
The second run of heats was where the tension of the championship finale really began to tell on the relatively inexperienced field of fourteen to seventeen year old’s, as two of the three heats had to be stopped following incidents. In the first heat it was Murray who was the culprit, spinning out at the Hairpin to bring out the red flags. In the re-run he redeemed himself by coming home second behind the ever improving Micra of Michael Cahill and just ahead of Quinn. In heat two Kildare’s Jake Byrne, driving the sole Suzuki Swift in the field, took the win following another re-start, but once again it was Patterson who topped the times with his heat three effort, where he once again had a comfortable victory. Cahill’s heat one time was enough for second with Murray and Quinn once again third and fourth.
At the beginning of run three Murray new he had a battle on his hands if he was to win the championship as he needed victory in the ‘A’ Final, with Quinn failing to qualify, in order to be champ. Patterson and Cahill were setting the pace and Quinn was doing just enough to keep himself safe and ensure ‘A’ Race qualification, so Murray needed to pull out all the stops in his last heat. Initially the Starlet pilot did a fantastic job to get himself into the lead with Quinn down in fourth, but at the end of lap three his day took a turn for the worse, as he thought the race was over and pulled off the track only to realise that the chequered flag had not been shown and there was till a lap to run. The Dubliner got back on track as quickly as possible but not quick enough to avoid a disastrously slow time. With Murray disappearing, Paul McArdle from Dundalk was the heat winner from Cahill and Quinn.
In heat two Jake Byrne drove brilliantly to take his second win of the day but having spent the whole race defending his position his time was only good enough for seventh place. In heat three Patterson made it a hat-trick with another dominant win to leave the order at the end of the run, Patterson from McArdle and Kinirons. Quinn contented himself with another safe run to sixth best time while the unfortunate Murray languished down in fifteenth. When the scores from the three heats were combined it was Patterson on pole for the ‘A’ Final with Cahill second, while Murray clinched the remaining front row position. Happiest of all was Quinn who lined up fourth with his goal of starting the ‘A’ final achieved and his first Junior Rallycross title in the bag.
Patterson’s domination of the results continued in the final as he sailed to victory, but behind him the season long battle between Quinn and Murray came to a head as they went side by side in to the first turn on the opening lap. Quinn held the inside line and with Murray trying to get across on to the best of the loose surface at the first corner, he leaned hard on the Mini of Quinn pushing him into the barrier from where he bounced back into Murray, damaging both cars in the process. The Starlet was out on the spot, with damaged front suspension, while Quinn’s similarly damaged car toured around at the tail of the field to complete his season with a lowly sixth place. Patterson’s win enabled him to move past Paul Barrett to take third place in the final standings.
At the end of a tough event, Quinn was suitably delighted to have a championship win under his belt in his first full season in the Irish championship. Having lost out last year in the British series by a single point, Simon will turn his attention over the summer months to making amends and adding the UK crown to his Irish one. Sunday’s event was however an unfortunate end to the season for two drivers who have been the undoubted starts of the 2009/10 championship, especially as there was nothing at stake, with Quinn already crowned and Murray certain of second in the championship irrespective of the race result. Murray will return to the Irish series in October where he will start as one of the favourites, but he may or may not have Quinn to battle against due to his Mini no longer being eligible to compete in Ireland. Having consistently provided the best racing of the Rallycross season the Junior class can only benefit from the return of both drivers next season for a resumption of their rivalry.