MONDELLO PARK: FIESTA SIX-HOUR RACE BY LEO NULTY
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.