Newtownards, Northern Ireland – Monday 28th August 2017: Having literally just landed into Dublin airport in the hours leading up to qualifying for the penultimate weekend of the 2017 Dawson WAM Northern Ireland Formula Ford 1600 Championship, Niall Murray was hoping this would be the weekend where he would seal the deal on the 2017 crown with rounds to spare.
Having spent the days leading up to the event in Watkins Glen, testing a 175 BHP Tatuus USF-17 in preparation for his Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda debut, Murray had to re-acclimatise himself back into his Van Diemen LA10. Moving up the order with every lap, Niall’s bid for the top spot was dealt a blow when the session was ended prematurely. However Murray’s best effort up to that point was still good enough to put him on the outside of the front row for the opening race of the day.
Capitalising on a poor start from the pole sitter in race one, Murray charged into the lead coming into the first corner. However, forced wide onto the grass coming into Colonial one, he would now find himself re-joining the field at the back and with it all to do to work his way back up the order. Proving exactly why he was last year’s Formula Ford 1600 dominator, Murray carved his way up the order and inside just a couple of laps was already chasing down teammate James Roe to move into the top three. A superb exit out of the Chicane allowed Niall to get a strong run on Alan Davison to move into third. Last of the late brakers into the Hairpin, the Murray Motorsport driver was now also past Roe and up to second.
Next and last on his shopping list was race leader Jordan Dempsey. Rapidly hunting down the pole sitter, Murray lined up a similar move utilising his strong exit from the Chicane to benefit from a good tow down the back straight to sling shot into the lead up the inside at the Hairpin. From there, the Dubliner would maintain his lead to secure a hugely impressive victory given his opening lap woes.
Saturday afternoon’s second and final race of the day would see the Champion-elect start from pole position and keen to finish his impressive weekend in style. Murray made the most of his front row start to lead into the first corner, a position he wouldn’t relinquish for the duration of the race despite the attentions of Roe early on and David McCullough towards the end.
Murray’s pair of wins puts him out of reach of his nearest rivals to secure his second Northern Ireland Formula Ford 1600 title and crucially with it, a ticket to the Road to Indy Shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later this year.
Niall Murray – #5 Bernard Dolan Motorsport Van Diemen LA10:
“Tricky days racing but couldn’t have ended any better! Having been in USA testing a USF2000 for the last week and just getting off a flight that morning in Dublin, qualifying was very tough to try and get back into the rhythm of driving an FF1600. To make matters worse the flag came out early with four minutes still to go to hurt my efforts to do a mistake free lap! After making a silly error at the start of race one it was brilliant to come back to take the win with fastest lap which was enough to secure me the 2017 Dawson WAM Northern Irish Formula Ford Championship with two rounds to spare! Can’t thank Bernard [Dolan], Sam [Dolan] and Dave [Healy] enough for all the help throughout the year to win my fifth FF1600 title with Bernard’s team!”