The Jondol Junior Rallycross Championship for 14 -17 year olds, once again provided some of the most hotly contested races at the latest round of the Irish Rallycross Championship at Mondello Park on Sunday (Feb 7th). With a bigger, more evenly matched field than ever before, the heats and finals were filled with incidents and accidents, but once again it was Kildare driver Simon Quinn with his Mini who emerged from the battles to take the win.
Due to the increasing numbers in the Junior class the drivers had to be split into three heats per timed run with the draw keeping the championship top three, Simon Quinn from Naas, Niall Murray from Dublin and Maynooth’s Paul Barrett apart. By the end of the first run of heats Murray and Quinn were right in the thick of things with Murray’s Starlet fastest following a five second heat one win over Newry’s Mark Francis with his Nissan Micra. Mini pilot Quinn won heat three to go second fastest by just 0.6 of a second but in heat two Barrett’s mini failed to make sufficient progress from his back row starting position and he could manage only seventh fastest overall.
The second run saw Murray again win his heat by five seconds, this time over the Micra of Wicklow’s Sean Doyle, to once more top the time sheets. In heat two Barret was back on form beating Newry’s Andrew Patterson to the win and taking second best time. The third heat was the most exciting of all with Quinn producing the drive of the day to win, despite being spun back to last place on lap one. A brilliant recovery drive saw him retake the lead on the final lap but his spin meant that the time was only good enough for ninth place, which would leave him needing a very strong third run to get onto the front row of the ‘A’ Final grid.
The third heats produced the first win of the day for Mark Francis as he fended off the previously dominant Murray in the first heat. Their battle however slowed both drivers and Francis’s time was only good enough for third place with Murray down in fifth. Heat two was once again a Barrett v’s Patterson affair as the Maynooth driver led from pole while the Ulsterman had to battle through to second. Their times were quick, but not quite quick enough to eclipse the effort of Quinn who in winning heat three took the fastest time of the day to top the run three times.
Just six cars made it to the ‘B’ Final grid to do battle for the final place in the ‘A’ race. Naas resident Sam Kinirons led this race from start to finish but did not have it entirely his own way. Paul McArdle moved his Micra quickly up to second from the outside of the front row and the Dundalk driver looked likely to push Kinirons Mini all the way, until he came under attack from the Starlet of Dubliner James Fleming. Fleming closed on McArdle and as the Micra defended its position Kinirons was able build up a comfortable looking gap by the finish.
Murray’s two fastest times, compared to one for Quinn, was enough to give him pole position for the ‘A’ Final with Quinn and Barrett completing the front row. Patterson lined up fourth from Mark Francis with Aaron Clarke, Michael Cahill and Kinirons completing the qualifiers. Quinn made one of his trademark lightning starts to lead into the first turn and was glad to have escaped the pack as Barrett, Patterson and the slow starting Murray got embroiled in some door bashing. The contact continued through the first and second turns as the competitive nature of Junior Rallycross became very apparent and the result was a spin for Murray on the exit of turn two.
The battling down the order allowed Quinn to make a break and also spread out the remainder of the top four as the field crossed the line at the end of lap one in the order, Quinn, Barrett, Patterson and Francis. Murray had been pushed back to last but was soon on the move overtaking Kinirons, Cahill and Clarke in successive laps to move back to fifth, setting fastest race lap on the way. At the front Quinn reeled off a succession of faultless laps to win by two seconds from Barrett, Patterson and Francis who closed up as the race progressed to the point where they were covered by only half a second at the flag.
The Junior Rallycross championship is really hotting up now with just two rounds left to run. Quinn looks to be favourite for the title with the chasing pack all losing ground following his third win of the season. The battle behind Quinn is now led by Barrett following his second place finish but he is only two points clear of Murray with Francis and Paterson also still in contention for the runner-up spot. All three will be hoping for a slip up from Quinn in two weeks time when the championship returns to Mondello for its penultimate round, as a similarly strong performance from the championship leader could see him secure the title with a round to spare.