O'Brien in the mix for Driver of Year award after Ards triumph
Published 01/09/2011 | 05:00
Teenage sportscar racer Andy O'Brien is back in contention for end-of-season honours in the Ginetta Junior Ireland Series in Kirkistown following a morale-boosting victory in round 10 last Saturday.
The 17-year-old from Templeogue, Dublin, celebrated his recent selection as Dunlop Driver of the Month for July with a controlled win ahead of championship leader Sean Doyle in the first race of the day on the Ards Peninsula.
Doyle took race two to redress the balance but O'Brien, the pre-season favourite following a stunning debut campaign last year, finished second and retains a fighting chance of the title heading to the final event in Mondello Park on September 18.
Unlike most of his rivals, O'Brien arrived in the series without any previous motorsport experience and has set his sights on emulating last year's champion Niall Murray by winning the use of a Ginetta for next year's UK Ginetta series.
Having endured a difficult start to the season, O'Brien was third in the points standings heading to Kirkistown last weekend, but then he got the ideal lift with the news that he will be one of six nominees for the Dunlop Driver of the Year award.
O'Brien has four wins from the 10 rounds held to date and it was the win in July with a new class record in Anglesea, Wales that secured his Driver of the Month nomination.
He will now be assessed along with the other five monthly winners for the end-of-season €50,000 scholarship from Dunlop and the Irish Sports Council.
Before that he has the final two races in the Ginetta series at Mondello in a fortnight.
When drop scores are taken into account, O'Brien would be leading by a point, so he has a decent chance of taking the title from Doyle, also 17, who cut his teeth in Junior rallycross along with several years as a radio-controlled model racer.
Meanwhile, another rookie racer making waves is Sean Hynes, winner of last year's 'Become A Racing Driver' competition for complete newcomers, who scored a podium success in the Formula Sheane series at Kirkistown.
Effectively X-Factor for would-be racing drivers, Mondello and Sheane Cars' unique scholarship competition has clearly unearthed a driver worthy of the prize of a fully sponsored season in the series after Hynes fended off multi-champion Brian Hearty for second place last Saturday.
The Formula Sheane Championship moves on to the Mondello Park's international track for its final two rounds on September 17 and 18.
The 2011 'Become A Racing Driver' competition is now under way. Full details are on
On the international scene, the Turkish Grand Prix has been axed from next year's 20-race Formula One calendar, the longest in the sport's history. A failure to agree a new deal between F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the race organisers means Turkey's seven-year stint is over.
The new calendar, confirmed unanimously, sees Bahrain given a slot of April 22.
Details IN FACTFILE