Rounds 1 & 2 of the 2016 Avon Tyres Formula Sheane Championship

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Hearty dominates season opener

 

The eagerly awaited opening Rounds of the Avon Tyres Formula Sheane Championship commenced last weekend the 16th and 17th of April at Co. Kildare’s Mondello Park. With an entry list of 6 different race winners and a handful of drivers who should be challenging for the top step of the podium all thrown into the mix, it was certainly a well anticipated race.

 

Over the winter months a lot of work had been put into the series by both the drivers and organisers. A brand new sponsor was the biggest news with Avon Tyres coming on board for the 2016 as the main title sponsor. This fantastic partnership meant that the drivers were now racing for tyres at each race weekend which is a fantastic incentive to bring new drivers into the series. The drivers will also be racing for prize money at the 12th and final race of the year at the Leinster Trophy races. In all, a pretty impressive prize package for the drivers of the series over the course of the year. Driver wise the series welcomed Mark Dunleavey, in last year’s Championship winning car, to the grid. Leslie Shaw, an absolute raw novice to any sort of racing cut his teeth with the series also in the opening rounds. Ger O’Keefe was a very late entry on the Friday before the opening weekend, the former Formula Vee man driving for the Sheane Cars team. A great sight to see was Chris McCabe’s brand new chassis Formula Sheane, one of three, made its way to grid after a few pretty late nights for the Dundalk man.

 

Saturdays qualifying was anyone’s guess as to how the weather would be. Sun, wind, rain and hailstones were frequenting Mondello all morning but luckily the clouds parted and the sun graced the drivers with its presence as they readied themselves for qualifying. A few front runners in David Parks and Robbie Allen wouldn’t make it to qualifying as both had prior engagements but that didn’t stop the rest of the field taking the opportunity to bang in some quick laps. Ireland’s most successful clubman racer Brian Hearty was on form to show everyone he certainly wasn’t slowing down and let his intentions been be known by planting his car firmly on the pole for both races. Mark Dunleavey joined Hearty on the front row in the former Championship winning car. Next up, with an absolutely stunning lap that surprised everyone on the pit wall, Niall O’Flynn, the cork rookie who is challenging for the honours in the Sheane Cars Scholarship Championship blitzed it and put his car on the second row of the grid joined by Paul McLoughlin. Chris McCabe and Richard Kearney took row 3 from Andrew Murphy and Kevin Sheane on Row 4.

 

Race 1 was to be held early on Sunday morning and thankfully again the weather held to produce a nice sunny start to the season for Formula Sheane. Unfortunately qualifying had taken its toll already and a broken valve retainer meant Kevin Sheane wouldn’t make it to the grid as he was busy solving the problem and making sure he made the grid for Race 2. The cars, all looking stunning after the winter break in their new Avon Tyres livery, rolled out onto the grid after their quick warm up lap, the five second board was raised, the lights lit up and the revs raised in anticipation of making the perfect start. The lights went out and it was Hearty off the line like a bat out of hell towards the first corner, McLoughlin split between O’Flynn and Dunleavey to take second and was joined by Kearney who made a beast of a start to slot into third as they all round turn 1. Robbie Allen and David Parks were scything through the field from the back of the grid and were already up to 8th and 9th by turn 2. Back up out of the country they came through the esses and on the exit, Chris McCabe’s machine washed out over the curbs and nearly collected the hundred metre board on the run up to the last corner in the process as he struggled to regain control of the wayward car. Murphy and Carr pouncing on him to snatch his position as he re-joined the track.  Lap 2 took another prisoner in David Parks; his differential deciding it had had enough and didn’t want to partake any further. Robbie Allen was the man on a charge and was catching the battle for 2nd between McLoughlin, Kearney, Dunleavey and O’Flynn. Dispensing of O’Flynn and Dunleavey earlier in the lap, Allen set his sights on Kearney next but a late lunge from O’Flynn into the last corner collected Allen in a web of wheels and wishbones that saw the two entwined and narrowly missed by Dunleavey. That collision removed O’Flynn from the lead of the Scholarship Championship race and promoted Murphy to the lead as he tried to latch onto the gearbox of Dunleavey who had put the head down to catch the battle between McLoughlin and Kearney. Allen and O’Flynn untangled themselves and put the hammer down again to try retaking the places they had lost. Dunleavey set the fastest lap in his pursuit of the 2nd place battle and dropped Murphy in the process. McLoughlin made his car 10 feet wide on both sides as he defended the relinquishing pressure from Kearney and Dunleavey that seen the three drivers enter turn 1 side by side in the breaking zone several times. On the penultimate lap Dunleavey made a last ditch effort to outbreak both men into the final corner but unfortunately lost the back end of his car resulting in him narrowly avoiding McLoughlin and Kearney and arriving backwards to the corner. Once again Murphy inherited the place, who, was being hunted down by Robbie Allen who was now in 5th position. Dunleavey found a gear and dropped the clutch to regain 6th place and set about catching Allen just ahead of him. It’s safe to say Brian Hearty was out for a Sunday drive at this point, well into his final lap, taking no risks in making sure he brought the car home. Hearty crossed the line a scarcely believable seventeen seconds ahead of the 2nd place battle which was won by McLoughlin in a drag race to the line from Kearney. Murphy had done enough to take his highest ever finish and the race win in the Sheane Cars Scholarship Championship from the recovering Robbie Allen in 5th just ahead of fastest lap man Dunleavey. Niall O’Flynn brought it home for a second in the Scholarship Championship ahead of third place man David Dempsey. Round 1 of the Avon Tyres Championship went to the benchmark of Irish Circuit racing Brian Hearty. A few casualties along the way would have their work cut out for them to make it for Round 2 but with plenty of help from the Formula Sheane guys, everyone got to work.

 

Round 2 was later in the afternoon and every car made it to the grid this time. The cars were halted in the pit lane as the Mondello Park Track Team dealt with oil that was put down on the track from the previous race. The oil was dropped in possibly the worst place possible on the way into and all the through the double right hander of turn 3. Once the all clear was given the drivers took to the track to test out to see how slippy it was into turn 3. Safe to say the Track Team had down a sterling job and the only lasting effects was the dust kicked up from the cement dust. The cars lined up in nearly an identical grid as Round 1 with Kevin Sheane making it to the grid this time. In nearly an identical start, it was Hearty into turn 1 first followed by Mcloughlin and Kearney. It was to be all short lived as a collision in turn 2 seen the charging David Parks launched into the air over team mate Andrew Murphy and straight into the tyre wall with quite a big impact. As the cars rounded the last corner they were greeted with the red flag to allow the ambulance be dispatched to Parks. The Munster man was made of hard stuff and was out of the car assessing the damage, unfortunately the damage to the suspension was terminal and Parks would not make it back to the grid for the restart. After a quick green flag lap, the cars all took up their original positions for a second attempt at the start. The lights went out and again Hearty got it all hooked up off the line and lead into turn one, Kevin Sheane ducked out around the outside and made up some spots from starting 8th on the grid but once again the man on the move was Robbie Allen from the back of the grid. Having made his way up to 8th position, he now set his sights on the lead group of McLoughlin, Kearney, O’Flynn, Dunleavey, McCabe and Sheane. Like a hot knife through butter he carved his way through the pack, position after position on nearly every corner of the track. Sheane tucked in behind Allen and followed suit gaining places. Before long Allen had slithered his way into second and set about hunting Hearty, albeit maybe in vein as Hearty was well up the road at this stage. McLoughlin was demoted to third spot having lost the spot to Allen but had managed to stop Sheanes and Dunleaveys charges as they slotted in behind him. McCabe and O’Flynn and been pushed back down the pecking order as the others progressed which, whilst the squabbled over position, allowed Murphy to creep up behind them coming into the final lap. As they entered the first corner for the last time both McCabe and O’Flynn played a game of last of the late breakers with O’Flynn locking up, running wide and dragging his nose off as he collected himself in the gravel trap. Again this promoted Murphy into 1st place of the Sheane Cars Scholarship Championship who was there to collect to pieces from the O’Flynns excursion. Hearty rounded the last corner for the final time followed by Allen who was hot on his heals but it wasn’t enough, Hearty took his second win of the day from the incredible Allen in second from McLoughlin in 3rd after winning the three abreast drag race between himself, Sheane and Dunleavey. Kearney picked up 6th spot and McCabe brought it home in 7th. Murphy finished up in 8th spot taking his second win of the day in the Sheane Cars Scholarship Championship from the recovering Niall O’Flynn in second and David Dempsey in 3rd.

 

And that was that, months of planning and prepping all came to a close after the opening Rounds of the Avon Tyres Formula Sheane Championship. Brian Hearty takes the spoils as does Andrew Murphy in each of the respective championships. Allen appears to be the man on the move with two very impressive drives. McLoughlin proves himself to be the ultimate defensive driver. Kearney tried everything in the book with a great drive. Hard to gauge both Kevin Sheane and David Parks as both had trouble this weekend and both are never to be counted out, they will be back, more determined than ever when the series travels across the Irish Sea to the picturesque Anglesey Race Circuit in the UK at the end of May. Impressive drives from both Niall O’Flynn and Andrew Murphy show that the Scholarship Championship is really hotting up and that they are willing and able to mix it with the big guys of the class when needs be, both placing their cars in qualifying and the race where they shouldn’t be, and not be afraid to do so. The series now travels to Anglesey Race Circuit for Rounds 3 & 4 of the Avon Tyres Formula Sheane Championship, it’s also the first Rounds of the Northern Irish Formula Sheane Championship and the drivers will be racing for a very special trophy at the North Wales circuit which will be announced in the coming weeks. The Championship is only in its infancy and its already looking set to be battle royal. Roll on Rounds 3 & 4.

 

#Formula Sheane #AvonTyres

 

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