Wednesday 25 April 2018

Motorsport: Dempsey earns opportunity to get name up in Indy Lights

Declan Quigley

Peter Dempsey looks set for a surprise comeback to big-time single-seater racing this weekend after finding some stunning test form for Firestone Indy Lights with 02 Racing Technology.

After spending most of 2010 on the sidelines following a stellar '09 season in the Star Mazda series, 25-year-old Dempsey looks to have finally scaled the ladder to the Indy Lights, which kicks off at St Petersburg, Florida this Sunday.

It's been a long road for the perennially underfunded Ashbourne driver, who is one of the most successful Star Mazda drivers in the history of the series with nine race victories in '08/'09.

Having initially contemplated a switch to sportscars last autumn, the former multi-Formula Ford championship winner made contact with 02 RT, leading to last week's test at Barber Motorsports Park, Alabama.

Despite a long layoff from the cockpit, Dempsey's talent shone through and the team gave him another outing at Homestead in Miami on Monday.

Indications were yesterday that the team were ready to give him the career break that his form has demanded since his US move.

While St Petersburg will present a daunting Indy Lights debut for him, Dempsey will be hoping that his affinity with street tracks and the lack of availability of the street track for testing will help offset the shortfall in pre-season testing mileage.

Dempsey will be joined on the entry list by Dunlop Driver of the Year Patrick McKenna, who will be out to convert strong testing form into results at this weekend's Star Mazda series opener.

Dubliner McKenna travelled to the Florida street track via a three-day test in Barber last week, during which he was consistently among the top four cars.

A minor off-track excursion with his Team GDT machine on day two curtailed his running but he was back up to speed by the final day to boost himself ahead of his series debut on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Craig Breen gets his bid for glory in the FIA WRC Academy off to a start in the WRC Rally Portugal in the Algarve this weekend.

Breen and co-driver Gareth Roberts tested their Ford Fiesta over 130kms last Thursday and Breen says he is ready for action in Lisbon tomorrow evening.

"I felt it important to get in a test session out here (in Portugal) as the stages are very specialised. Blind crests on the stages makes the event very tricky and we will be hoping to use our knowledge from 2009," Breen said.

The FIA WRC Academy is a new initiative from the governing body aimed at developing young talent and Breen's inclusion in the list of competitors for the inaugural championship is sure to garner plenty of attention.

Rally Portugal will be Breen's ninth WRC event and his second of the season, though he used a four-wheel drive Fiesta S2000 to finish 15th overall and second in class on Rally Sweden last month.

Since then he has reverted to his two-wheel drive Fiesta as he focuses all his attention on the best possible start to the Academy.

At home, the racing season gets under way in Kirkistown on Saturday, where the 500 MRCI promote the March Hare meeting for Formula Ford, Formula Vee, Fiat Punto and Unos, GT and Kirkistown Saloons.

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