Hodgepodge hatchbacks battle it out at Mondello
34 daredevils line up eager to race. Will your correspondent make the podium?
For one weekend at least, Mondello Park in Co Kildare resembled the province of Palermo in Italy from where it takes its name. With temperatures in the mid- twenties, competitors and spectators gathered in the heat for a weekend’s racing. Top billing went to the Formula Vee class but all our focus was on the recently launched Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta Zetec Championship.
As The Irish Times Motors reported last week, I’ve taken the plunge and invested a whopping €400 in an old Fiesta to enter in the racing series. So, after fitting the various safety features and tweaking the suspension, I was ready for the racetrack.
With 34 potent Fiestas entered, the fastest six would automatically qualify for the “A” race, with the remaining 28 drivers forming a full grid (maximum of 28 cars on the grid) for a B race. The top 22 finishers of this race would go through to the A race later in the afternoon. This meant that the vast majority of drivers would end up having two races between Saturday and Sunday.
After numerous discussions about things like what tyre pressures to run, I headed out for qualifying. Thankfully I had a clear track for a few laps and pushed hard early on, aided by a tow down the straight from another competitor. I actually managed to set the fastest time initially. My time was then improved on by Patrick Boland who set the fastest laptime (1:12.426).
By the end of the session I was third, thereby qualifying on the second row of the A race. Your second fastest laptime determined your grid position for race two, my second fastest time put me in second place on the grid for the final on Sunday.
Time to race. I lined up on row two for the first race alongside one of my best friends and former Abarth racing driver John Denning, with my work colleague Philip Lawless directly behind me in fifth spot.
My aim was to get a decent start and avoid contact with either of these as life could become difficult if I messed this up and took them off the track with me. Yet as soon as the last lights went out on the starting line, all the pre-planning went out the window. It was 27 cars and me.
Denning got a clean start and slotted in ahead of me in third place going into turn one. I tucked in behind and stayed with him for approximately half the race, under pressure from Lawless who was fast approaching. I made a few attempts to pass Denning, getting alongside on a few occasions, but he managed to make his Fiesta as wide as an old Ford Granada every time.