After a long winter of rebuilding our cars we arrived at Kirkistown for the first round. Plans hatched and aspirations formed it was time to see where the chips fell on a wet and windy weekend in the Ards. Kevin Grogan set the early testing pace in the rain while fellow championship contender Dan Polley and his LOH team faced a long day and night returning to Kildare to fetch a spare gearbox after a failure in the first practice session. There was about 4 hours of dry weather the whole weekend. Just enough for qualifying then.
Colm Blackburn has teamed up with Kershaw Motorsport for this season and with them and along with a fresh engine he grabbed his first ever Pole Position in his Leastone JH002. Colm laying down a marker that he will be a championship contender this year. Alongside Colm on the front row was Gavin Buckley in his Sheane. Also a best ever starting position for Gavin, and like Colm, laying down a marker to his Crowne Plaza B championship rivals. On row two we had pre-season championship favourites Dan Polley in the LOH Sheane and Kevin Grogan in the Avanti Sport Leastone. Next up was Paula Moore in the Bernard Dolan run Leastone and top qualifying rookie Joe Power in his newly liveried team GRRR Leastone.
B and C Race.
Any hopes of a dry B and C race were dashed when the ominous looking cumulus started spitting about 15 minutes before scheduled lights out. Polesitter Gavin Buckley led through colonial for the first time followed by fast starting James Jones. That was as good as it got for the pair with Gavin spinning on the entry to Fishermans and James following him off in sympathy. Paula Moore dropped down the order after a collision with Brendan O Brien at the hairpin.
After a hectic opening in the tricky conditions the race settled down into a three car battle for the lead between Anthony Cross, Joe Power, and Shane McBride. Cross led initially before Power took over mid-way through and held on to take an impressive maiden win. Cross was second closely followed by McBride with James Jones and Gavin Buckley a distant fourth and fifth after opening lap spins. The Crowne Plaza B championship points going to Cross and the Finol Star of Tomorrow championship points to Joe Power.
E.Fox Engineers National Championship Race.
It was proper Irish weather and a soaked track for the main event. The initial start was red flagged after Kevin Grogan stalled on the line and was collected by the unfortunate Ken Browne and Kevin Cahill. Grogan and Cahill were out instantly, but Browne’s car was OK to take the restart. Second time round Blackburn got the jump and tore off into a 2.3 second lead by the end of the first lap followed by Polley who had demoted Buckley to third and the fast starting Jones was fourth.
Polley got into a good rhythm and began to take half a second out of Blackburn’s lead each time they crossed the line. Buckley and Jones looked set to duke it out for the bottom step of the podium until a spin at colonial dropped Buckley well down the order and out of contention. Polley passed Blackburn into Debtors mid-way through the race only for Blackburn to re-seize the initiative almost immediately with a bold move on entry to Colonial.
Polley wasn’t to be denied however and was back in front a couple of laps later repeating his earlier move at Debtors. Polley had the corner exit speed at the chicane and the hairpin and was just about able to keep Blackburn at arm’s length for the remainder of the race. James Jones had a lonely race to third, a fantastic drive from James and his best ever finish in Formula Vee. Joe Power crossed the line fourth an excellent and impressive drive for a man in his first full season of Vee. Shane McBride was next up in a strong 5th place capping off a very good weekend for the Dundalk man. Anthony Cross took sixth after a race long battle with Paula Moore. Gavin Buckley, Mark Miller, and PJ Percival rounded out the top ten. Next up for Formula Vee is the super quick Bishopscourt Circuit in May for Rounds two and three on the 7th and 8th May.
Pole Position : Colm Blackburn 1.07.323
Kirkistown Fastest Lap: Dan Polley 1.13.789
VW Spares Highest Grid Mover: James Jones/Shane McBride
Kirkistown Fastest Lap: Dan Polley
Driver of the Day: James Jones.
Colm Blackburn, Dan Polley and Joe Power are worthy of mentions for excellent performances over various sessions but the award goes to James Jones for an excellent drive in the rain. This is the first time James has shown genuine front running pace and he has make a big step forward from last season.