BRIAN Hamilton and Josh O’Brien penned their names in the history books as winners of the very first FIM MiniGP Ireland races this weekend.
The new FIM and Dorna-backed world series, dedicated to scouting out young talent across the globe, joined the Masters Superbikes at Mondello to kick off its very first meeting.
Incorporating sections of the main Mondello National track, a purpose-built circuit was compiled for the 10-14-year-old riders of the MiniGP series, all on identical motorcycles, as crowds were finally welcomed back for the first time since 2019.
In the first of the weekend’s three races on Saturday, it was Armagh rider Hamilton who took pole position followed by Wicklow’s Fionn Stephens and Mark Carey from Meath. Hamilton took the lead when the lights went out and was followed closely by Carey and Kildare rider O’Brien, who was up from fifth on the grid.
Hamilton proceeded to lead from lights to flag to take the honour of winning the first ever FIM MiniGP Ireland race, but behind him the positions were constantly changing. At the flag it was O’Brien who took second, along with fastest race lap, with Stephens right on his tail.
On pole for Sunday’s opener, O’Brien led the front row from Hamilton and O’Connell as a titanic battle ensued at the front, this time with four riders involved. O’Brien and Hamilton swapped the lead almost every lap and were joined by Dubliner Finnan Wherity and O’Connell.
But O’Brien eventually took the win following a last corner move on Hamilton to reverse Saturday’s top two. The top three crossed the line separated by a quarter of a second with Wherity taking the final podium spot and a new lap record, as O’Connell dropped away in the final couple of laps.
While Wherity took pole for the final race of the weekend from O’Connell and Hamilton, it was Hamilton and O’Brien battling for the lead in the early laps. An error by O’Connell put him out of the running leaving O’Brien, Hamilton and Wherity as the top three.
And although the top two fought hard right through to lap 12, Hamilton was forced to retire due to an issue with his brakes, leaving O’Brien to take his second victory as the lap record was lowered further. Wherity finished second, four seconds down on the winner, with Carey promoted to the podium by the demise of Hamilton.
For the series very first winner, however, it was anything but an easy run up through the weekend as Hamilton won aboard a bike that had only arrived on the island the day before.
“We travelled straight from Pembrey circuit in Wales to Mondello,” he said. “I hadn’t even seen the bike let alone ride it before I arrived.
“It was challenging – I also had a brand new circuit to learn! The last time I had been to Mondello was when I was a toddler in the paddock in a baby-walker when my big brother was racing there back in 2008.
“I’d never raced there before and I was happy with my first place and my second.”
Following the opening three rounds it’s O’Brien who leads the championship, from Wherity and Hamilton. The next event on the calendar takes the Series to Whiteriver Park kart track in County Louth, on Sunday August 8.