Formula Europa at the Phoenix Park

Lynx Phoenix Europa Challenge Phoenix Park, Dublin Sunday 20 August 2000 Morgan Dempsey's first Formula Europa win of the year came at the famous Phoenix Park races held in Dublin yesterday. He capitalised on his pole position to lead the way...

Lynx Phoenix Europa Challenge
Phoenix Park, Dublin
Sunday 20 August 2000

Morgan Dempsey's first Formula Europa win of the year came at the famous Phoenix Park races held in Dublin yesterday. He capitalised on his pole position to lead the way into the first corner, and was thereafter never headed as he led every one of the race's fifteen laps.

Ireland's premier single-seater motor racing series returned to "The Park" for the first time since 1996 and the high speed action thrilled the large crowd which lined the Oldtown Circuit to witness the only parkland street race still held in Europe. The bumpy circuit is lined with trees and lamp-posts, and although measures are taken to protect drivers in the event of an accident this is still a unique event and unlike anything else the drivers have ever raced on. This year a chicane had been added between Dunlop and Furry Glen in an attempt to slow cars down. This it certainly did, but most of the drivers felt that it was too narrow and left no margin for error.

The Formula Europa competitors had their first view of the circuit, and it's new chicane, in a short untimed session early on Sunday morning. Morgan Dempsey (Seam Renson Racing) was immediately on the pace, closely followed by Noel Roddy (Leslie Wright Racing). In fact, Noel tried too hard, running wide at Mountjoy and scattering the cones on the outside of the corner like skittles. He also damaged the underside of the car which would need some attention before the important timed qualifying session.

The new chicane on the back straight had certainly slowed the cars into Furry Glen. The fastest section of the track was now the run up to Mountjoy, with Morgan Dempsey touching 137mph on his quick lap. On a bumpy circuit bordered by three inch high wooden curbs and with trees and gas-lamps within feet of the track edge, that was very quick indeed.

While Morgan Dempsey was quickest in timed qualifying as well, the story of the session was the pace of Peter Le Bas (Top Marx). Joining the series for the first time, the Formula Vee championship leader was right on the pace, perhaps assisted by the fact that he had already had a couple of sessions on the circuit in the other class. Henry O'Friel (Leslie Wright Racing) showed his intentions by posting third fastest time, but Noel Roddy had to pull off after only four laps to replace the nose-cone on his car as the front wings were pointing in all directions. Because of this, he would end up the session sixth, behind Leslie Wright (Leslie Wright Racing) and Tim Buckley (Status Motorsport with EPC). The session stopped a few minutes early, as Henry O'Friel became the new chicane's first casualty. He broke the front suspension and blocked the track, but the damage was not severe and would be repaired in time for the race.

As the cars lined up on the grid for their race, precisely on time as a tribute to the event organisers' efficiency, there was a hint of rain in the air. All day the sun had shone on the Phoenix Park crowds, but it had been raining only a few miles away and there was a chance it would arrive during the race. Still, the sun was still shining as start time approached, and all the teams hoped for the best.

Morgan Dempsey made the most of his pole position, leading down into Dunlop corner for the first time. Peter Le Bas tucked in right behind him, with Henry O'Friel pushing hard. Tim Buckley arrived with all four wheels locked and wreathed in smoke. He managed to avoid hitting anyone and took to the escape road, rejoining at the back of the field.

By the end of the fourth lap the leading three runners had opened up a small gap from the chasing group led by Leslie Wright closely followed by Noel Roddy. Tim Buckley had found a way past Dermot Healy (Top Marx) and was closing on Roddy. Then on lap five disaster struck as Leslie Wright hit the chicane exit, throwing the tyre barrier up into the air. They came down on the back of Noel Roddy's car, breaking the suspension, and Tim Buckley's nosecone. Leslie's car was fortunately undamaged although he was slightly delayed. Noel Roddy retired immediately, and Tim Buckley continued but with his damaged front wings dragging on the ground.

One lap later and Peter Le Bas, who had been impressing everyone with the way he was hounding race leader Morgan Dempsey, drove straight on at Dunlop corner. His gearbox was stuck in neutral and his race was over.

Tim Buckley's damaged nose became even more dislodged on lap ten, so Tim pulled off on the start/finish line. Officials removed the nose-cone, and Tim rejoined one lap behind. He would complete the race, but the lack of downforce on the front of the car made his lines through the corners both varied and interesting, and he threw up dust on several occasions as he ran wide.

By the finish Morgan Dempsey had an impressive seven second lead over Henry O'Friel, with Leslie Wright third.

Because of its unique nature, the Phoenix Park race was a non-Championship event. The next round of the championship proper is at Kirkistown on Saturday 26 August.

<pre> Lynx Phoenix Europa Challenge Result - 15 Laps

1    No.27     Morgan Dempsey jr           Seam Renson Racing       18:14.50
2    No.10     Henry O'Friel               Leslie Wright Racing     18:21.78
3    No.12     Leslie Wright               Leslie Wright Racing     18:54.29

Fastest Lap: Morgan Dempsey 1:11.91 (87.61 mph)

</pre> Notes from the Phoenix Park:

Noel Roddy drove for Leslie Wright Racing for this first time this year. Previously he had been with Joe Greenan's Irish Racing Cars team.

Noel Roddy's car was last used by Richard Davies in British Monoposto racing.

Peter Le Bas was encouraged by his pace and will be competing in the remaining rounds of the Europa Cup, Ireland's premier single-seater championship.

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Series General
Drivers Peter Le Bas , Morgan Dempsey