Paul O’Brien extended his championship lead with victory in the Mondello 500 as the Irish Legends put on a spectacular show on and off the track. A Legends village was well received within the paddock whilst the action on track was often hotter than the red hot temperatures all teams and drivers experienced over the weekend.
Race 1 on Saturday turned into a sprint race after the safety car was deployed to recover the stricken car of James Holman. Ian Conroy dominated from the front and went on to claim victory, whilst behind him Gordon Brown was having his best run would claim a career best 2nd place finish. Niki Meredith had a busy last lap holding off the charging O’Brien who was left with a touch too much to do in the shortened race having come from the back of the grid.
Race 2 was dominated by O’Brien, who took a comfortable victory by over 5 seconds. Behind there was a fantastic scrap between Johnny Taylor, Meredith and Brown. Despite Meredith’s best efforts, he could not find a way past Taylor, whilst Brown kept a close watching brief in 4th. There was a great 4 car scrap for 5th, with Geoff Richardson coming out on top from Brother Greg.
The final race on Saturday saw Holman at the front embroiled in a battle with Geoff and Taylor. Geoff grabbed the initial advantage from Taylor, but Holman picked his way back through by half way and by the time the charging O’Brien had got through, Holman had ultimately stretched enough of a gap to claim victory, a reward after a tough day for the British driver. Geoff ended up a solid 3rd, whilst Conroy, Taylor and Brown rounded up the top 6.
Sunday’s round 5 began with a little bit of drama, as polesitter Holman was late out of Parc Fermè due to a technical problem sustained in practice and instead of starting from pole – had to start last of the 11 car grid. What proceeded was an epic race, with Geoff holding off Conroy during the early exchanges. O’Brien and Holman both picked their way through and soon Geoff had to contend with a 3 car train behind him. In the end Conroy made the pressure tell and broke through the strong defiance put up and claimed a great victory, whilst Holman capped a fine recovery by first dispatching O’Brien then Richardson on the final tour.
Race 2 was a reasonably straight forward win for O’Brien, taking a lights to flag victory, whilst behind Johnny Taylor dispatched Geoff on lap 2, and whilst in close attendance to O’Brien, just couldn’t quite get in reach to challenge for victory. It was a case of deja vu for Geoff fending off Conroy and Holman. However this time neither could find a way through and this would be the result by the flag.
The final was a ferocious affair, which turned into two three car battles, Taylor, Holman and O’Brien dicing it out for victory, whilst a couple of seconds behind Geoff, Conroy and early race leader Meredith fought over 4th. Taylor hit the front on lap 2, then quickly had Holman and O’Brien on his tail snapping on his heels looking for a way past. What followed was a defensive master class right on the edge of the rules as Taylor made his car wider than humanly possible. First it was Holman giving it a go; then it was O’Brien. Neither could find a way past and Johnny would go on to take a maiden Irish Legends victory. Holman fought his way back in to 2nd with and audacious move on the last lap, with O’Brien rounding off the podium and taking with it the overall victory of the weekend and the €500 prize supplied by Taylor’s Antiques and Stillorgan Motor Company. The battle for 4th was equally fraught, with Geoff coming out on top of arch-nemesis Conroy who was sick of staring at the back of the green and Black machine. Meredith rounded out the top 6.
Mondello 500 Overall Results :
Paul O’Brien – 1075 points
Johnny Taylor – 1000 points
Ian Conroy – 990 points
Geoff Richardson – 970 points
Gordon Brown – 855 points
James Holman – 825 points
Niki Meredith – 725 points
Robert Woodside – 680 points
Colm O’Sullivan – 510 points
Greg Richardson – 505 points
Data Kajaia – 145 points
With 4 different winners and 7 different podium finishers, Irish Legends is proving to be one of the most competitive classes of racing in Ireland and we look forward to our next round at Kirkistown in Northern Ireland on August 25.
Images by Carl Cleary – www.topgear.ie