SEAT Supercup Ireland Champion Niall Murray was one of the biggest announcements during the off season on the Formula Ford scene, making his return to single seaters with the hope of securing the highly sought after ticket to the Road to Indy shootout at the end of 2016.
Well known for his speed and car control, Murray made his intentions to the field clear during Friday’s pre-event test, topping the unofficial times throughout the day and looking very strong for Saturday’s opening two rounds of the season.
Opting to skip Saturday morning’s free practice session, it was straight into qualifying just after 11am for the Dubliner. Proving that his testing pace wasn’t a flash in the pan, Murray immediately topped the timesheets and remained there throughout, despite having two of his quicker lap times removed during the session as a result of breaching the controversial track limit regulations.
Starting the first race of the season from pole position, Murray’s weekend was set to take a turn, literally, as he was forced into a spin exiting the first corner and now found himself at the back of the 27-car field. Never one to give up, Niall begun a master class in the art of Formula Ford driving as he charged back up the order. By the mid-part of the race, Murray was now up to sixth, setting two fastest lap times on route. Now locked in battle with the RAY of Cavan Corcoran, Murray suffered a further set back, slipping off the track at Knickerbook. Despite showing signs of a heavy impact with the tyres, Niall’s speed looked to be unaffected as he now re-started his charge back up the order from ninth. Crossing the line for the final time, Murray had made his way through to sixth position and with it, his first haul of important championship points after a dramatic opening race of the season.
With starting positions for the second and final race of the day being drawn from the finishing order of race one, Niall started from row three, but crucially had to leave the assembly area on a fully dry setup as an unexpected downpour came upon the circuit. Knowing he would struggle for traction as the race went on compared to those around him, Murray quickly promoted himself to fourth during the opening laps. Now mounting a bid to close in on third placed man Jonny McMullan, Niall was forced to keep one eye on his mirrors as Corcoran was closing in rapidly. Just as he started to ease out a small margin over the RAY driver, Murray was now facing a new challenge for position from Chris Middlehurst. With the gap closing to just one tenth of a second, Niall had to use every ounce of his defensive skill to maintain fourth place. A failed move for position from the Mygale driver afforded Murray the breathing space he needed to secure his fourth position to the chequered flag.
Niall Murray – #5 Bernard Dolan Motorsport Van Diemen RF99:
“I think it’s fair to say it has been a very mixed weekend for us. Obviously to secure pole position in qualifying and the fastest lap in race one is great, but I really should have been able to win the opening race, which would have allowed us to try and do the same in race two. But it’s the first weekend of the year, and the important thing is we’ve got the pace to win, so I’m obviously very happy with that. Everyone at Bernard Dolan Motorsport did a great job on the car, and I’m really looking forward to Silverstone in two weeks time. A big thanks to all my sponsors for coming back on board with me for 2016 including, Murray Motorsport, OMP, CL Brakes, Fish Graphics, SuperB, Motorsport Ireland and P1 : Digital.”