A few weeks back Jonathan from Blackchurch Motors tells me we are doing the All Ireland Fiesta Challenge at Bishopscourt, I wasn’t disappointed- to say the least. I’d only raced there once back in 2013 in a Formula Sheane and I loved the place. It’s a great circuit of fast and flowing corners that really awards committed driving. So, on Friday evening the Blackchurch convoy of two motorhomes, a support van and our – so far in 2015 unbeaten – Fiesta hit the M1.
Saturday morning was bright and dry which was a welcome sight and we set about the job at hand…an Ulster fry! Testing was just one 40 minute session and straight away I knew we were in trouble as the normally bulletproof Blackchurch car wasn’t feeling too healthy, a couple of trips to the pits failed to diagnose the problem and before long the session was over and I’d failed to complete a lap at more than 40mph. Jonathan and Gavin set to work on the car trying to find the issue but nothing was making sense so by the time qualifying came around we weren’t too hopeful. Still with a major lack of power I figure the best thing to do was try and get in a minimum of 3 laps so that we would at least make the grid for Sunday’s races.
Once back in the pits after struggling around to the final grid spot the Blackchurch guys set to work and diagnosed the problem. I’m not the most technical person but it looked bad as bits of the engine were unbolted and examined with grimaced faces. ‘We can fix it’ says Jonathan ‘but we need parts’, an unsuccesful hunt around the paddock meant plan B was put into place and Blackchurch mechanic Tony, no doubt about to settle into a nice relaxing Saturday night at home in Dublin, was phoned. An impressively short time later Tony arrived with Barney’s Engine – Barney being the purple car road car the lads used the engine from to power us to our runner up finish in the 2014 Mondello Fiesta 6 hour race! In what resembled WRC levels of high speed spannering Jonathan and Gavin stripped the two engines and rebuilt it into one. At about 9pm it started but the lads weren’t happy with a tappet so they pulled it apart again and by 10pm we were all sitting in Bishopscourt Bomb Shelter Bar having a well deserved Heineken.
On Sunday’s race one I started from the back row of the grid and was up to 4th place by the end of the first lap but crushingly the engine went off song, I returned to the pits and the guys swapped a few things and sent me back out, I was two laps down so this was merely a test session. The car was flying and I got in my first representitive laps of the circuit to actualy figure out trivial things like where to brake, what gear, what lines etc! We were less than 1 second off fastest lap which in itself was an achievement consider the total lack of laps to that point.
Race two was the final race of the day and just as we were waiting to go the clouds opened and soaked the circuit. Again starting from the back row of the grid I made a good initial get away and moved up a few places off the line and by the end of the lap I was up to 3rd place and a few seconds behind the leading CRL duo of Richard Livingstone and Peter Barrable. Head down and a lap later I had pulled them in and after a couple of attempts I got by Livingstone at Turn 2 and set after the leader. My dicing with Livingstone had let Barrable pull a gap which took a further lap to reduce to the point I could start attacking. Coming through the first of Bishopscourts chicanes I got a good run and moved alongside on the exit, predictably Barrable moved over and pushed me onto the grass but I had carried enough speed out of the previous corner that I was still able to the make the move stick and despite some lets say ambitous or maybe desperate attempts from Barrable to regain the lead on the final lap I hung on to take the win and reward the Blackchurch guys in the only way I could for their trojan efforts over the weekend. It’s back to Mondello in June to continue our main 2015 challenge in the Blackchurch supported Irish Fiesta series which we are currently leading after two wins from two.
Until the next time,
Main Image from Fran Hollywood/Autosportpics.com