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March 10, 2009

Leeson Wins as O’Brien is Crowned Jondol Junior Champion

The Jondol Junior Rallycross championship reached its climax at Mondello Park on Sunday with Daniel O’Brien crowned champion, despite not competing, and local driver Padraig Leeson taking his first win of the season with his Nissan Micra.

The day had started with a very slippery track thanks to a short but heavy snow fall. Thankfully the Junior Drivers did not get the worst of the conditions however, as a number of other heats had run prior to their hitting the track, clearing away the worst of the conditions. The fastest five runners from the first round of heats all came from heat two which was run later in the programme in slightly more favourable conditions. Bunclody’s Darragh Morris took his first ever win in Heat One holding off regular front runner Co. Down’s Mark Francis, with the two Micra drivers crossing the line side by side. In Heat Two Carlow’s Seamus Curran took the win ahead of Eamonn Blake from Blessington with Bradley Bailey the first of the UK visitors in third place. The star of the previous event Simon Quinn could only manage fifth place after an off while leading.

The second run saw the Micra of Prosperous driver Padraig Leeson move to the front of the first heat ahead of the Mini of Sam Kinirons, from Naas, and Mark Francis. Heat two was again the quicker putting race winner Bailey on top of the pile ahead of Quinn in a Mini one-two. Third placed Micra driver Paul McArdle from Dundalk also was within a second of the winner at the flag, in one of the closest finishes of the day, and slotted in ahead of Leeson to take third overall.

Mark Francis really upped his game in the final run to take Heat One but despite setting a time ten seconds quicker than his previous best, finished second to Quinn in the overall times. Francis had finished well clear of Leeson and Sam Kinirons in an unusually spread out Heat One, but in Heat Two Quinn got a similar break and with a clear track was able to pip Francis to fastest time of the day and take pole position for the ‘A’ Final.

The six car ‘B’ Final was won by Sam Kinirons with his Mini ahead of the improving Darragh Morris. Back in third and fourth place were the unusually off-song Patrick Donoghue, with his Mini, and Andrew Patterson, who had shown so well previously with a Micra, and was now struggling with his newly acquired Mini. Kinirons win gave him the final slot on the ‘A’ Final grid which lined up with Quinn on pole, from Bailey and Francis with Leeson and McArdle making up row two.

When the lights turned green Bailey got slightly the better start but Quinn held on through turn one and showing no sign of his in-experience had a healthy lead going into the second lap. A wild slide for the Jondol mini driver saw his lead evaporate and despite gathered the car up brilliantly Quinn now had Padraig Leeson who had come out best in the first lap sort out between himself and front row starters Bailey and Francis, right on his tail. Despite surviving one sideways moment at turn one the leader was off again at the second corner letting Leeson and Paul McArdle through.

Next time through turn one, Quinn once more suffered a high speed slide but despite controlling the brilliantly was unable to hold onto his third place losing the position to Francis. After the race it was discovered that Quinn had a puncture which was causing his handling difficulties so the relative newcomer did well to complete the remainder of the race in fourth place. On the next lap Francis nipped past McArdle as both closed in on Leeson, but they could do nothing about the Kildare driver as he became the first other than Daniel O’Brien to take a win during the current season.

In the championship Leeson secured the runner-up spot from Francis, with Patrick Donoghue fourth and Sam Kinirons fifth. John Quinn Jnr. held on to sixth in the standings despite only competing half a season before moving into the rally car class, where he was Sunday’s ‘A’ final winner. With only three of the seven races completed Simon Quinn still managed tenth in the championship and will now look forward with some confidence to a season competing in the UK Junior Rallycross series.