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February 27, 2009

Quinn Stars as O’Brien Takes Rallycross Title

Jondol  Junior Rallycross

Fourteen year old Simon Quinn from Naas was the star of the show at the penultimate round of the Jondol Junior Rallycross championship at Mondello Park on Sunday, as he led Daniel O’Brien’s all the way to the final corner of the ‘A’ final. A small mistake at Dunlop Corner on the last lap was enough however to rob Quinn of his first ever win, in only his second race weekend, and allow English visitor O’Brien to tie up the championship with his sixth win in row.

While the highly experienced O’Brien has dominated the Irish championship with his Mini, his less experienced challengers have closed in on him as the season progressed. Newry’s Andrew Patterson, driving a Micra, took victory in heat one while fellow Ulsterman and Micra driver, Mark Francis took heat two. Patterson’s time was quickest overall with O’Brien only seventh having finished third in his heat behind Francis. A non-finish for Quinn with the ‘Jondol’ Mini meant he would now need two very strong finishes in the remaining two runs to get himself into the ‘A’ Final.

The second round of heats saw Patterson again take top spot in heat one ahead of the Mini of Drumree’s Patrick Donoghue while pole man Padraig Leeson from Prosperous was third. In the second heat O’Brien returned to winning ways, despite huge pressure from Quinn, who finished less than a second behind with Naas youngster Sam Kinirons making it a Mini top three. O’Brien and Quinn’s times secured the top two spots in run two, with Patterson third, ahead of Kinirons and Donoghue.

The fast improving Patterson made it a hat trick of victories in the first heat of the third run. He again beat Donoghue and Leeson in to second and third but as in the second run his time was to prove only good enough for third. O’Brien again was the victor in heat two beating Quinn into second place to secure a front row starting slot in the ‘A’ Final for both drivers. Patterson’s fastest overall from the first run was good enough to put him in the centre of the front row for the final with Donoghue and Leeson making up row two.

Due to some of the qualifiers not making it to the grid the ‘B’ final was a quiet affair with just four cars on track. In the absence of pole sitter Eamonn Blake, Dundalk’s Paul McArdle took a lights-to-flag win with his Micra, to join the back of the ‘A’ Final grid. On the front row, Quinn lined up on the outside of the track determined to beat O’Brien to the first corner and this he almost achieved. As the lights changed the Naas driver got alongside his English based rival but at turn one could not get around the outside and had to slot back in to second place. As he did, Patterson tagged him, spinning the Mini around and causing a chain reaction which ended up with a red flag and Kinirons Mini out of the race with a badly damaged front end.

On the re-start Quinn got what he wanted, as he beat O’Brien into the first corner and took the lead. The ensuing battle was described by the commentators as the race of the day as the novice proceeded to hold of his more experienced rival for almost the complete five laps. Just as it looked like Quinn had done enough to upset O’Brien’s 100% record the fourteen year old got sideways under braking for Dunlop, the final corner of the lap. Although Quinn corrected his mistake like a veteran, O’Brien was now alongside, and in the resultant drag race to the line their positions swapped giving O’Brien the win by less than half a car length. Patterson followed the lead battle home at a safe distance for third, with Leeson and Francis close behind.

O’Brien’s victory gave him his first Irish championship crown and ensured that he finished the season with maximum points. With the title secured the English teenager will not contest the final round of the series in two weeks time leaving the way open for a new name to be added to the winners list. Kinirons non-finish lost him a little ground in the battle for second place, which now looks likely to be decided between Leeson and Francis.

The final round of the ‘Jondol’ Junior Rallycross championship takes place as part of the combined British and Irish Rallycross Championship event at Mondello Park on Sunday March 8th.