Shane Rabbitt took the first pole position of the 2017 Tool Dynamics Irish Touring Car Championship at Mondello Park, setting an impressive lap time of 59.8 on the National circuit in his Mazda RX-7. The Dunshaughlin based driver, backed by LF Fitness, MicksGarage.com and Palletstorage.ie looks to be the early championship favourite following a very impressive weekend.
With grid numbers hampered by mechancial issues in the previous day’s testing session, it would essentially be a 4 way fight for pole position, with the Autoremap.ie BMW M3 of Martin Duffy, the Tyre Brigade backed Honda Integra of Ulick Burke and the Campbell Auto’s VW Corrado of Keith Campbell all in the frame early on. The 4 driver’s swapped times until Rabbitt pulled a great lap out of the bag to secure pole position.
Production Class saw three newcomers for 2017, with Richie Kearney and Adrian Dunne graduating from the Future Classics series, while Daniel Faherty made his ITCC debut in a Honda Civic EP3. Pa Hudson had spent a long winter testing and developing his Honda Integra, with the sole aim of winning the championship this year and it looked to have paid off as he took pole position for race one.
Rabbitt would convert his pole position into a Race 1 win but he didn’t have it easy, having to repair his car very quicky following a fire during qualifying. A good start off the line and some quick early laps allowed him to open up a lead, and with the pack battling behind him it was a case of managing the lead to the chequered flag.
Burke, Duffy and Campbell had a 3 way battle for the remaining 2 podium places, and put on a great show of door to door action for the viewers in the grandstand. Campbell got his nose in front and secured the second step of the podium while Duffy rounded out the top three with a superb drive.
Pa Hudson would dominate race one in Production class, with a lights to flag victory in his Honda Integra. Adrian Dunne was still getting used to the changes he had made to his Citroen Saxo over the winter, and was unable to find the extra pace to hunt down the leader but came under little pressure for his second position.
Richie Kearney has probably completeted more mileage of the Mondello National circuit over the years than most taxi cars cover in a life time, so he will be kicking himself having not made his experience count chasing Dunne down behind the wheel of a Peugeot 306. Daniel Faherty was still settling into his Civic and decided it was wiser to stay out of the dog fight for a podium place, but he will surely be happy with the improvement in his pace after race 1.
Rain threatened to spice things up in race two, with a drizzle starting to land as the cars left the assembly area to the grid and it was Ulick Burke who sat on pole position for the second round of the championship. However even with a slow start off the line, Shane Rabbitt led into turn one, and started to open up a gap front second place. Again, Campbell, Burke and Duffy battled it out for second and third place, with another great show of close racing.
Rabbitt looked very comfortable out front but with just 2 laps remaining ran into fuel problems and had to retire, allowing Keith Campbell to make the most of the Mazda’s demise and take his first win of the season, with Ulick Burke taking second and Martin Duffy rounding out the top three.
Hudson would again dominate race 2 in Production Class, while Dunne secured more points with a solid second place finish, his second of the day. Kearney rounded out the top three again in his Peugeot 306.
With more cars confirmed to re-join the grid in the coming weeks, rounds 3 and 4 at Pembrey Race Circuit in Wales on May 20th & 21st will surely bring more entertainment?!