MONDELLO PARK: FI­ESTA SIX-HOUR RACE BY LEO NULTY

Motor Sport News - - Racing Reports -

A dra­matic race fea­tur­ing a red flag and trou­ble­some fog meant the an­nual Fi­esta Six Hours con­test was re­duced to less than half its sched­uled dis­tance with the Blackchurch Ford team even­tu­ally be­ing de­clared the win­ner.

The de­lays be­gan with qual­i­fy­ing as sub-zero tem­per­a­tures and thick fog pushed it back by an hour. When it even­tu­ally got un­der­way, it seemed ev­ery one of the 32 en­tries had a stint at the top of the timesheet. When the che­quered flag fell, it was Eoin Mur­ray in the Mur­ray Mo­tor­sport #32 car who was on pole po­si­tion. Ulick Burke’s Smart Movers team shared the front row, with Kevin O’hara’s LOH Mo­tor­sport en­try and Alan Daw­son’s Mr Gear­box Mr Clutch car on row two ahead of a bulging grid for this pop­u­lar event.

Mur­ray led away cleanly from the de­layed start but im­me­di­ately came un­der pres­sure from Burke with the Keith Dempsey South­side ma­chine right with them in third. Burke dis­placed Mur­ray for the lead at the fi­nal cor­ner on lap 10 with a su­perb move. Mur­ray sub­se­quently re­took the lead but Burke repli­cated his ear­lier switch­back at South­side cor­ner to snatch the lead again, the pair bat­tling as if it were a 10-lap sprint. On lap 40, Mur­ray again got by Burke – this time around the out­side of Mo­bil cor­ner.

In­side the sec­ond hour, FF1600 star Niall Mur­ray, hav­ing taken over from brother Eoin, chased down the Burke car, now with Gar­ret Burke at the wheel, get­ting close be­fore the safety car was dis­patched when a car parked in the gravel at Turn 1.

When rac­ing re­sumed, Mur­ray had a strong lead as Burke’s team re­mained in the pit­lane, hav­ing pit­ted too late un­der the safety car. Emer Camp­bell ran in sec­ond for Camp­bell Rac­ing with Mur­phy Pro­to­types boss Greg Mur­phy in third. Mur­phy sliced by Camp­bell, sub­se­quently as­sum­ing the lead when Mur­ray pit­ted and handed over to Michael De­vaney just be­fore the two hour mark.

Around the same time, Team Barrable re­tired with a blown en­gine. John Mor­ris’ Team Weight Watch­ers had climbed to sec­ond but re­ceived a three-lap penalty (sub­se­quently re­duced to a sin­gle lap) for break­ing the red light at the end of the pit­lane, ini­tially drop­ping them to 17th.

At the two-and-a-half hour point, the Micks­garage.com car suf­fered a mas­sive en­gine fail­ure, with the re­sul­tant oil slick at Bridge­stone Cor­ner send­ing a num­ber of run­ners into the gravel. The safety car was de­ployed again, which bunched the pack up.

When the fron­trun­ning LOH Mo­tor­sport ma­chine dumped flu­ids at turn two, John Den­ning, hav­ing taken over in the Mur­ray Mo­tor­sport #32 lost it, trig­ger­ing a mas­sive shunt as he was col­lected by team-mates Mur­ray Mo­tor­sport #30, among oth­ers, with a safety car pe­riod be­ing quickly su­per­seded by a red flag.

Af­ter a long de­lay and two dif­fer­ent re­grids, the de­ci­sion was taken not to restart the race as the lin­ger­ing fog had fi­nally de­scended over the en­tire cir­cuit.

Ini­tially, the Mur­ray Mo­tor­sport #30 car of Hugh Gren­nan, Dave Maguire, Rod Mc­gov­ern and John Far­relly was de­clared the win­ner but later in the evening, af­ter a num­ber of protests and ap­peals, the Blackchurch Mo­tors en­try of Kevin Do­ran/shane Mcfad­den/ Sean Lil­lis showed at the top of the fi­nal re­sult sheet.

The Mur­phy Pro­to­type/mur­ray Mo­tor­sport en­try of Mur­phy, Colin Lewis, Paul Dagg and Sean Doyle was sec­ond and the #30 Mur­ray car back to third.

Blackchurch squad tri­umphed in the fog

The bat­tered re­mains of the fron­trun­ning #32 car

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