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Making Progress! Fiesta Junior Blog with Jack Byrne.

The Laura Lynn Children’s Hospice was the theme surrounding the July 11/12th County Kildare Motor Club race meeting. It would see the return of the Ginetta and Fiesta Junior Championship to Mondello Park since the opening meeting of the year back in March. However, with the Ginetta drivers fresh from racing at Kirkistown, it would be a challenge for us Fiesta Junior drivers to get back into the swing of things, and a challenge it was! I went into testing with a clear head and knew I would have to up my game in order to remain in contention with Adam Geraghty and welcome addition to the grid, Callum Livingston. Initially, testing seemed to be going alright but towards the end I realised I was beginning to over drive the car to such an extent that the pace dropped off considerably. Having studied the on-board video footage I now knew what I needed to do for qualifying come Sunday morning. The days break between testing and racing also gave me a chance to watch the action all in aid of Laura Lynn and St. James Hospital Burns unit. Saturday evening saw a fund raising auction take place for the respective charities which raised almost €2,000! I was up bright and early on Sunday morning. It was then that I found out Callum wasn’t able to race due to an unfortunate issue with his race licence so it was just going to be myself and Adam once again. Having passed scrutiny, it appeared as though we were going to be in for a wet qualifying session. Luckily, however, the drizzle stopped shortly before qualifying and as we left the assembly area I knew the previously bad weather would have less of an influence on lap times. It took a few laps to get the tyres up to temperature and my lap times started to improve slightly. I could see the timer on the starters’ gantry indicating that qualifying was coming to an end. There was time for just one more lap. As I flew past the pit wall I also noticed my dad giving me the “hurry up” signal and I knew I had to do it right then and there. Up until then, myself and Adam were trading fastest lap for fastest lap and it wasn’t until my final lap that I went just about quick enough to secure pole position by just three tenths of a second!

Eleven o’clock arrived rapidly and we were called to the assembly area for race one. I knew that the start would be a major factor in the race as myself and Adam were basically inseparable in terms of lap times so it was going to be very close. The lights came on and the revs rose. When the lights went out a sinking feeling came upon me as Adam got a cracking start while I bogged down. Hope wasn’t lost though as I regained the lost time under braking for the first corner. Two Ginettas collided with one another out of my view and as everyone fought for position I was heading straight to the scene of the accident! I felt lucky to have just scraped the stricken Ginetta and eventually regained momentum heading towards turn three. It was at this point I saw a gap opening up at the second part of Duckhams and knew I had to go for it if I were to have any chance of being victorious. After some slight contact I got by Adam heading up the hill. The pressure was on throughout the race and Adam was right behind me at all times. There were a few moments where I lost momentum especially after twice missing a gear at turn two which subsequently put me under pressure to defend adequately enough to stay in front. It was nail biting stuff, especially for a two car race! As the clock struck zero and the chequered flag was waved we crossed the line almost neck and neck. Thankfully I crossed the line just ahead by 0.887 seconds. Adam drove a great race and kept the pressure on me all the way!

fjc2After a long wait, it was time for race two. As I strapped in to the ( fiesta once again, I could sense that this was going to be a battle from the start if race one was anything to go by! I couldn’t figure out why I kept getting bogged down at the start and race two was no different with Adam getting in front again. This time everyone got around Ford corner (turn one) safely. Adam remained out in front as, this time, there was no gap at the second part of Duckhams. It was a move down the inside at SEAT corner that allowed me to get in front and once again the pressure was on, this time in a much greater volume!

On the fifth lap of the race, on the exit of Dunlop, I could see that the Ginetta of Loris Nikolov was stuck in the barriers. The safety car was then deployed and picked up the leader of the Ginetta race. Shortly after this, the red flags were being waved and I was under the impression that the Ginettas would be stopped on the grid to await the restart of the race. As myself and Adam were on a different part of the circuit, I didn’t know that they were directed to the pit lane instead of either the start/finish straight or parc ferme. At this point, I thought the race was over so I drove slowly into the parc ferme area. After a brief conversation with a race organiser I learned that the Ginetta’s were in fact in the pit lane. Thankfully, the race organisers allowed us to proceed to pitlane for the restart of race two.

The restart was just as bad as the initial start in my case. Adam got out in front straight away and stayed there. I was doing my level best to overtake although no opportunities came about until the second lap of the restarted race. With Adam in the lead and myself close behind, it was approaching Dunlop corner that I left my braking as late as possible and tried to go around the outside. Unfortunately, I ended up in the gravel trap but managed to drag my way out of it, also thankful that the car didn’t dig into the gravel and roll over! As I recovered onto the circuit I had no idea where Adam was until I looked in my mirror and he was right behind me! I held the lead for the remainder of the race and took the win by just 0.3 of a second!

All in all, it was a great weekends racing and for a great cause too. It was good to be back on the track after being away from it for so long. A big thanks must go out to my parents, without their help (and money!!) I wouldn’t be here writing this now! I’m looking forward to the next meeting in just a few weeks time and I hope to see you there too! Until then…

Jack Byrne

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Images from Con Connolly.

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