Monday, May 27, 2024

Graham wins chaotic Irish Rallycross GP while Ovenden wins BRX

Tommy Graham took victory in the inaugural Irish Rallycross Grand Prix that saw multiple leaders and action throughout the race. Tristan Ovenden recovered from a setback in the semi-finals to beat Jake Harris on track for his second British Rallycross victory.

At lights out, fast-starting Derek Tohill and Michael Leonard Jnr came together at the first corner. Both spun wide and down to last. It meant the other front-row starter, Harris vaulted into an early lead in his electric Mini Countryman. Graham slotted into second ahead of Ovenden and Gary Donoghue.

Semi-final two winner, Harris, took a conservative approach throughout the race, not wanting to repeat a mistake earlier in the event. He was able to hold cars behind but allowed the rest of the field to use joker strategy to pass him. 

Once out of the way, Graham emerged as the new leader, having jokered on lap two. John McCluskey was second place ahead of a charging Tohill. Come the final lap Tohill was all over the back of McCluskey but suffered suspension failure. He was able to drag the car to the line though dropped to last place. 

It meant that Graham took his first victory in a left-hand drive car, having recently purchased Kevin Proctor’s Fiesta. McCluskey took second ahead of Ovenden who slowed while leading his semi-final which dropped him to third. Completing the running order were Donoghue, Leonard Jnr, Harris, and Tohill. Darragh Morris was a non-starter having retired in his semi-final. Post-race, Tohill was disqualified for his maneuver at the start.

Credit: Callum House Photography

Patrick Ryan, Michael Morris and Andrew Morris all failed to qualify for the final, the latter not even making the grid for the semi-finals. Worse was for Julian Godfrey. The six-time champion suffered a roll in Q2. Leading into turn one he was half spun by Tohill and McCluskey. As Godfrey recovered he hit a mound on the inside at an angle and launched the car into the air. After a couple of rolls he landed on his wheels. The scrutineers deemed the car unsafe to drive and the team called it a day. It still gave him a third-place finish in the reduced field of British entries. 

Both Shane Murphy and Michael Boak failed to start the round. A suspected gearbox failure in round three put Murphy out while Boak had engine issues while warming up and didn’t make it out for practice. 

In the Irish Superfinal, McCluskey took his first victory of the year. Tohill crossed the line in second but after being disqualified in the Supercar final was removed from the classification. Instead, Leonard Jnr and Donoghue completed the podium. 

Ovenden now leads the British championship with 59 points. Godfrey sits on 49 with both Harris and Patrick O’Donovan on 40, without accounting for drop scores. The next round will take place alongside the World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill in July. A large contingent of British Supercars is expected.