Despite Andrew Watson and championship contender Sean Doyle taking the wins in Rounds Twelve and Thirteen of the 2011 Ginetta Junior Ireland Championship, it was Andy O'Brien who walked away with the title glory after picking up two second place finishes.
Heading into the final meeting of the year at Mondello Park, the championship table saw O'Brien hold a one point lead over Doyle, with Jake Byrne also in contention if those ahead of him hit trouble, setting the scene for a thrilling final two races.
All the contenders therefore knew a strong qualifying would be vital to success, but they were to be outshone by Watson, who put in a superb late lap to take pole. Doyle secured second, with O'Brien third. James Fleming took fourth, with Byrne having to settle for fifth.
As the opening race began, it was Watson who led into the opening corner, followed by Doyle and O'Brien. Knowing he needed to get distance between himself and O'Brien, Doyle made a move at turn seven for the lead, but contact between the pair at the next corner sent Doyle off track, with Watson reclaiming the lead from O'Brien and Fleming, who was coming under pressure from Jake Byrne.
With it all to do, Doyle got his head down and began to work his way back through the field, soon catching onto the back of the battle for third, passing Byrne before closing on Fleming as the race moved onto the final lap.
Ahead, Watson raced clear to take his second win of the season, with O'Brien a solid second, claiming the races fastest lap and a new class lap record on the way. In the fight for third, Doyle made a last ditch move at the final corner, with the two running side by side along the start finish line, Fleming just nosing ahead to take his first podium of the season, with Doyle having to settle for fourth ahead of Byrne. Andrew Clarke, Megan Kessie and Sophie Byrne completed the runners.
O'Brien's fastest lap meant he had pole position for race two, with Doyle alongside him to set up a titanic ending to their season-long duel. A good start by O'Brien put him into the lead at turn one, closely pursued by Doyle, Watson and Fleming.
A determined Doyle kept on his tail over the opening few laps before making a move at turn two, getting alongside the leader on the run to turn three. Knowing it was now or never, Doyle made a superb, brave move around the outside of turn three to steal the lead.
Doyle cruised home to take the win, but with O'Brien behind him it wasn't enough, with O'Brien becoming the second ever Ginetta Junior Ireland champion. Another nail-biting battle for third, this time between Fleming and Jake Byrne, saw the latter take the final podium place, with Fleming dropping to fifth late on behind Watson, who also took the race's fastest lap. Clarke completed his season with sixth, while in the battle of the girls, it was Kessie who once again came out in front against Sophie Byrne.
Keep an eye out on The Checkered Flag in the near future for exclusive interviews with the new Ginetta Junior Ireland champion Andy O'Brien and runner up Sean Doyle.