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February 16, 2009

O'Brien Dominates Junior Rallycross at Mondello Park

UK visitor Daniel O'Brien continued his domination of the 'Jondol' Junior Rallycross Championship at Mondello Park on Sunday taking his fifth 'A' Final win in succession. The English teenager's supremacy was for once threatened in the heats however, where he suffered a rare defeat at the hands of fourteen year old débutante Simon Quinn from Naas.

With O'Brien's closest rival John Quinn no longer eligible to compete in the championship due to his age, family honour was taken up by Simon Quinn in the first running of heat one. Making his first race start the younger Quinn brother stunned O'Brien by fending him off to take an incredible debut win. O'Brien had started fourth and it took him a little time to work his way up to second but once there he was unable to get the better of Quinn who defended like a veteran to take a win in his first ever car race.

The championship leader's battle through the field meant he recorded a slower than normal time, allowing heat two winner Padraig Leeson from Prosperous to take the top spot with a much faster run. Leeson had the close attention of County Down's Mark Francis throughout, but was still able to record a time four seconds quicker than O'Brien to take the maximum score from the first run. O'Brien meanwhile found himself in an uncharacteristically lowly fifth spot.

Run two saw normal service restored as O'Brien eased to a heat one win from Quinn with Meath's Patrick Donoghue next up. The pace of heat one was quick enough this time around to give O'Brien the top spot with heat two winner, Nass resident, Sam Kinirons time only good enough for fourth place overall. A fantastic four way scrap in heat two had slowed the pace of the race which Kinirons won from Leeson, Francis and Dundalk driver Paul McArdle.

Going into the final runs O'Brien needed to take top spot once more to ensure pole position for the 'A' final and this he did, leading from start to finish. Donoghue in second could not match the pace of O'Brien but was comfortable ahead of Newry newcomer Andrew Patterson and Quinn. The closeness of the second heat continued in the third runs as yet another fantastic scrap slowed the pace but provided great entertainment. Francis took the win away from Kinirons on the final lap and so close was the battle that Kinirons running slightly wide dropped him from first to fourth in the blink of an eye. Star of this race was Prosperous driver Jake Byrne, with his underpowered Suzuki Swift, who pulled off some of the best overtaking manoeuvres of the day. Once again Heat One was the fastest and its top four drivers filled the top positions for run three with heat two winner Francis down in fifth.

A six car field lined up for the 'B' final which was won by Andrew Patterson. Patterson led comfortably all the way but behind him there was plenty of action. Paul McArdle worked his way from fourth up to second courtesy of some mistakes by his rivals and he finished with a sizeable cushion to third placed Eamonn Blake. Jake Byrne again impressed as he battled his sick sounding car up to fourth after a first lap off dropped him to the back of the field.

O'Brien's heat one defeat never looked like being repeated in the 'A' final as the reigning British champion led from pole. Patrick Donoghue chased him hard in second and initially kept the English driver in his sights but as the race wore on he dropped back to finish five seconds down at the flag. Behind this Mini one-two, Padraig Leeson got the better of a Nissan Micra battle with Mark Francis, to take third. Simon Quinn's lack of experience finally got the better of him in the rough and tumble of the 'A' final as he dropped down to sixth place on the final lap to finish behind 'B' race winner Patterson.

While O'Brien sails on towards his first Irish title, his biggest rival up till this weekend made his debut in senior Rallycross competing in the Rallycar class. John Quinn jnr.. Took in his first event with a Citroen C2 rallycar and finished fourth in class, up against more powerful opposition, and then followed up by dominating the Rallycar 'B' final.

The Junior drivers now have a hectic schedule ahead of them as they will be back in Mondello next Sunday for the penultimate round of the 08/09 series. The championship then climaxes two weeks later on March 8th with the combined British and Irish championship round. Following Sunday's win O'Brien has all but sown up the 'Jondol' Junior title. The only driver who can steal it from him is Francis who would need to win both races with O'Brien failing to pick up a single point. More likely is that Francis will have a battle to fend of Kinirons, Leeson and O'Donoghue in the closely matched battle for runner up spot.