Reigning British Formula Ford 1600 Champion Niall Murray returned to the Newtownards circuit last weekend hoping for a better outing, following a day of mixed fortunes last time out. Having secured victory in race one, Niall lost out on repeating that feat in the second race following a final corner altercation going for the lead that sent him down to fifth position.
With the Bernard Dolan Motorsport Van Diemen LA10 looking good as new for the latest instalment of the championship, Murray went into qualifying knowing it would be just as close as ever against main rivals Kevin O’Hara and James Roe. Right from the off it was nip and tuck at the top, with positions changing on every lap. At the end of the session it was O’Hara who claimed the top spot with Niall set to start alongside him on the front row.
The lights went out on race one shortly after 2pm and going into Colonial one for the first time Niall tucked in behind pole man O’Hara exiting the corner. Now all over his gearbox, Murray was setting himself up for a switch back move coming out of the Hairpin. However as he was making the move across, Niall noticed Alan Davison locked up on the inside and had to concede the position to avoid contact, allowing the Mondiale driver briefly into the lead. O’Hara reclaimed the lead into Debtors while Murray tucked himself under Davison’s gearbox in third and ready to pounce. Keen not to let race leader O’Hara get out of his grasp, just two laps later Murray pulled off a similar move to dive up the inside of Davison into the Hairpin promoting him back into second.
Following a mid-race Safety Car period, O’Hara’s advantage at the head of the field had now been slashed, gifting Niall the chance to have another crack at taking the lead. It wasn’t an opportunity he was going to waste and several laps of close competition followed before Murray forced O’Hara to defend going into the Hairpin. This allowed Niall to get the cut back and take the lead coming onto the main straight. The battle for the top spot remained close during the final laps, but Niall maintained the advantage to take his first win of the weekend.
Starting race two again from the outside of the front row, this time it was Murray who got the better launch to lead at the end of the opening tour. He maintained that lead for the first two laps before O’Hara powered past on the main straight starting lap three. Trying to stay with the race leader, Niall made a crucial error on some oil that was dropped which let O’Hara have just enough of a gap to break the tow. With the pair lapping at the same pace in the closing stages of the race, O’Hara pulled over inside the penultimate lap and into retirement, handing Niall his second win of the weekend and with it, a significant lead in the championship.
Niall Murray – #5 Bernard Dolan Motorsport Van Diemen LA10:
“What a fantastic weekend up in Kirkistown! Another two tough races with Kevin but thankfully I came out on top both times to extend my championship lead coming into the final races. Massive thanks again to all my sponsors and Bernard [Dolan], Sam [Dolan], Dave [Healy] and Neville [Smyth] for all the hard work!”