The 2019 Dennings Cars Fiesta ST Championship visited Bishopscourt last weekend for rounds four and five of its title chase and once again it was the two series newcomers who dominated proceedings.
19 year old Alex Denning starred at the opening Mondello Park rounds of the series, scoring one win and challenging Erik Holstein hard all weekend and it was he who took first blood this time, by annexing pole position on his first visit to the high speed circuit. Holstein’s Naas Court Hotel car was just two tenths slower and the duo were a second clear of the rest. In third was class returnee Kevin Doran, his Doran Motors machine being joined on row two by the immaculate DMC.ie car of Barry-John McHenry. Row three comprised of triple class champion Dave Maguire and Graham McDonnell, with multiple saloon car champion Michael Cullen an unaccustomed seventh.
When the lights went out, it was Holstein who got the best start, the former champion showjumper easing into the lead as the pack entered turn one. Almost immediately, the first two broke clear and it made for impressive viewing as both were clearly on the limit, with plenty of sideways moments and two wheel action at the high speed chicanes.
Whilst Denning was clearly quicker through the second chicane, series leader Holstein eased away away again through the final section of the lap, with the result that the gap remained at around half a second for most of the race. Until, that was, Denning got massively out of shape at the first chicane in the closing stages. He held it beautifully, but the damage was done and Holstein was away.
Holstein crossed the line with his usual celebration, described by circuit commentator Alan Drysdale as the “Holstein Swerve”, with Denning following him across the line, just under two seconds behind. Doran was happy with third on his series return, having had a few mechanical niggles after qualifying, whilst the wily Cullen took the flag in fourth having displaced Maguire, McDonnell and McHenry. Niall McFadden was sixth in his Market Bar machine, meaning he would start race two from pole position, as the championship regulations dictate that the top six finishers are reversed for the race two grid.
This of course, meant that Holstein and Denning shared row three and the start would be crucial. Holstein matched revs and grip to perfection and launched away, choosing the outside line as he drew alongside the leaders. Somehow he managed to grab the lead as the pack streamed through the high speed left hander for the first time, with Cullen right with him in second.
Predictably, Denning had made a good fist of the start too, emerging onto the back straight in third, immediately lunging past Cullen into the second chicane. Cullen appeared not to defend and was then treated to a close up view of some incredible car control as Denning got way out of shape as he turned in. The resultant tank slapper somehow didn’t cost him too much time and he immediately set off in pursuit of the leader once again. This time round though, Denning appeared quicker and was almost within striking distance by the third lap. Once again, the duo were clearly on the limit as they eased away from the pack.
Holstein used all his experience and made no mistakes to take his second win of the weekend and his fourth win of the year. Denning had been held up by a backmarker in the closing stages dropping him back slightly, but he had the consolation of fastest lap, and a new class lap record at the venue. McHenry was third, just pipping Graham McDonnell to the line, with team mates Dave Maguire and Gordon Kellett rounding out the top six, Doran having retired with a rare engine failure.
Rounds six and seven of the Dennings Cars Fiesta ST Championship take place at Mondello Park on June 8-9.