Dunloy driver Ronan takes prestigious Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy at Kirkistown
The Damien Doherty Racing car never missed a beat all weekend. The sign of what was to come was shown in qualifying by Doherty as he claimed pole position by 0.477 of a second which is a lot in Formula Vee. The weather forecast looked mixed for the day with heavy rain expected. For the final Selco.ie national championship round it was dry underfoot as the 23 cars lined up on the grid.
As the lights went out it was Gavin Buckley who took the lead as Doherty messed up the start and dropped to third by turn one. He was back up to second by turn two and right on Buckley’s tail on the run down the back straight. A better exit from the hairpin brought him alongside and then into the lead by turn one.
Behind them though, Stephen Roche and Colm O’Loughlin had a coming together resulting in a big off for both men. Thankfully both were unhurt, and it is a testament to the strength of these Formula Vee cars as that is the third big incident this season and all drivers came away unharmed.
On the restart Doherty lead the field away with Buckley and Dan Polley behind in third who was out after a tremendous effort during the week by the LOH Motorsport team to build his car from scratch on Wednesday!
Doherty was heading a four-car train as Buckley, Polley and Cross hounded him using the slipstream to good effect down the straights. Buckley made good use of it to take the lead going through turn one but undid all his good work by locking up the brakes at turn two and spinning off. Doherty got through cleanly but crossed Polley who had to take avoiding action which let Doherty off the hook giving him a gap to build on.
Colm Blackburn was now in third, but Cross was on the move setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Polley tried to close the gap to Doherty but just couldn’t manage it as the Antrim driver managed his lap times well and never got out of shape. Cross closed up to Polley in the final laps and moved past on the run to the hairpin to get into second. Polley didn’t give up but a big lock up going into the hairpin put an end to his chance to retake second.
Doherty cruised home to take the chequered flag and his fourth championship win of the year. A very mature drive and it would put him as one of the favourites for the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy race later in the day.
The weather forecast was correct and as predicted the heavens opened. As always, the wet is a great leveller and creates a sense of unpredictability when it comes to the final results.
Again, it was Doherty who lined up on pole from Polley who initially got the better start but Doherty held his line round the outside of turn 1 and took the lead. The clear road ahead would give him an advantage as he would not have to deal with the spray and let him create a lead. Polley was sticking with him for now though and Jack Byrne, back out in his new car, was in third and looked very strong.
The more Polley and Byrne battled the more the lead for Doherty grew and by mid race distance, it was his to lose. Byrne finally got by with an excellent move through Debtors Dip. His pace was strong and he began to close on Doherty. Time was running out but backmarkers began to come into play and slowed Doherty down.
Anthony Cross also began a charge and passed Colm Blackburn and closed in on Polley. The rain really was coming down hard now and it was borderline
on being cut short. Cross got by at the hairpin to get third the best he was going to get as the front to were too far ahead.
Up front Byrne had closed the gap significantly to Doherty and it was shaping up to be a close last couple of laps. After all his hard work Cross lost it on the entry to the chicane and spun dropping back to fifth. Then the red flags came out due to a car being off at the hairpin and lying in a dangerous position bringing an end to a very wet race early and denying a last lap shootout. That is not to take anything away from Doherty who drove superbly and took the win and with it the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy.
Speaking afterwards he said: “Well today was a fantastic close to a great rookie season, of course there are a few what ifs, but to take the most wins out of anyone this year is fantastic. To add the ‘Emmo’ as one of those wins is amazing and nice to put my name beside the other great drivers who have gone before me.
“Yesterday the car was on fire, wet or dry it didn’t matter, in qualifying we got a great lap, maximising the tow and from there drove smart in race 1 managing the gap after Gavin went round.
“The Emmo was tricky in such a downpour but once I got my gap I knew I could drive at 80% and manage it by making use of the pit board. The car’s great pace in all conditions is a testimony to the lads and all the work they put in. They are the real winners in my eyes.”