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November 24, 2008

O’Brien Increases Lead in Junior Rallycross Championship


Daniel O’Brien took his fourth win of the season and his third in a row at Mondello Park to strengthen his hold on the top spot in the ‘Jondol’ Junior Rallycross championship for fourteen to sixteen year old racers. The win increased the UK drivers’ championship lead over main rival Naas resident John Quinn who spun out at the first corner in the ‘A’ final and finished down in sixth place.

With the Jondol Furniture backed series attracting a record entry for the third event in a row, fourteen drivers would line up to do battle over three runs of heats to decide the grid positions for the finals. Close racing was the order of the day with the minor placings being decided by tiny margins and the championships first ever dead heat being recorded.

In the first round, heat one saw the top two championship contenders go head to head with the Mini of O’Brien taking a three and a half second win over the similar car of Quinn who was well clear of third placed Paul McArdle’s from Dundalk with his Micra. The second heat was much closer with Meath resident Aaron Clarke’s Micra holding off the Nissan of Ulster’s Mark Francis by two tenths of a second while third, fourth and fifth places were decided by two thousands of second as three cars crossed the line side by side. In terms of times O’Brien was quickest from Quinn followed by Clarke and Francis.

Heat one of run two produced a repeat of the first race but this time Quinn was much closer getting the gap down to under two seconds as once again the rest of the field were left to squabble over third. In heat two it was Francis who came out on top from Newry’s Andrew Patterson, in another Micra, and Clarke. When the two heats were combined it was again O’Brien from Quinn with Francis and Padraig Leeson from Prosperous next up.

The third round of heats once again saw O’Brien and Quinn dominated Heat one, but this time the gap between the top two was less than second. Behind them a fantastic scrap went the way of Jake Byrne from Naas with his Suzuki Swift who held off his more experienced rivals to take third with only a tenth of a second to spare.

Race two saw a fantastic scrap between four cars with Mini drivers Patrick Donoghue (Meath) leading from Sam Kinirons (Naas) and Mark Francis. Behind them Aaron Clarke was on a mission and as Kinirons took over in the lead Clarke moved his way up into third and then quickly into second. Going into the final corner Clarke was on the tail of the Mini and dived for the inside, hit Kinirons and pushed him wide, before winning the drag race to the flag. Clarke was excluded from the results but the incident slowed the field enough to mean that race winner Kinirons was only fifth fastest in run three behind O’Brien, Quinn, Byrne and Leeson.

Seven drivers qualified straight into the ‘A’ Final with the remaining seven racing in the ‘B’ Race for the final place on the grid. In a relatively uneventful encounter Patrick Donoghue quickly passed pole sitter Paul McArdle and eased away to an almost eight second win.

The grid for the final saw O’Brien line up ahead of Quinn and Francis. Quinn got the better start and tried to turn across his UK rival on the entrance to the loose surface section at turn one but misjudged his manoeuvre, and following a slight touch with O’Brien, spun his way back to last place. In the confusion Francis took over in the lead but by the start of lap two normal service was resumed. As O’Brien eased away to his easiest win of the day, Francis was a lonely second while behind him the battle for the last podium place raged. On the last lap Padraig Leeson and Aaron Clarke’s race long fight came to a head as they tangled at Dunlop corner and then raced to the line side by side. Neither the timing system or the finish line judges could separate them, as they recorded the junior championships first ever dead heat.

The order at the end was O’Brien ten seconds clear of Francis. Leeson and Clarke were awarded joint third just ahead of fifth placed Donoghue while Quinn recovered to sixth, helped in part by the demise of Sam Kinirons on the penultimate lap, with Jake Byrne the final finisher in seventh.

The Jondol Junior Rallycross championship takes a winter break now before reconvening at Mondello Park in early February.