Mondello Park, as usual, was the venue for this year’s Leinster Trophy race meeting. It would be a championship deciding meeting for many drivers, myself included. Having taken a double victory in the August meeting a few weeks prior I was looking forward to this weekend. It would be my first time driving the longer international loop so I was quite apprehensive at first.
On the week leading up to the Leinster Trophy weekend I had lost count of the number of videos I had watched on YouTube trying to familiarise myself with the layout of the circuit. It soon became apparent that the videos meant nothing once I was strapped in hurtling towards Lola corner. Initially, it took quite a while to even remember the layout of the international section however as the day progressed the stopwatch revealed that some of it had gone in. After a few sideways moments through Birranes Bends and trying to build myself up to full commitment through Irish Ferries corner, the day came to an end. It was encouraging to see that the lap times had gotten progressively quicker as the day went on and I was looking forward to qualifying the following morning.
Fast forward twenty four hours and it was time for qualifying. As we were on the International loop I knew I had to make every lap count, we only had a limited amount of time so it was important to get some heat into the tyres on the out lap and start the flying laps straight away. On the second of these flyers heading up the hill towards Southside Motor Factors corner the marshals were frantically waving yellow flags. I saw a Ginetta parked in the gravel and the red flag was deployed immediately. With the clock constantly ticking we were sent out after the Ginetta had been recovered. With no time to spare I did my quickest time of the session. Unfortunately I was still two tenths off the pole sitter Adam Geraghty so I would start second on the grid for race one and pole position for race two.
After listening attentively to the drivers briefing it was time for the first race. This is where things started to go wrong. Driving towards the assembly area, I noticed that the brakes seemed to be sticking. I had no idea what was wrong but something didn’t feel right. Trying to reverse into the assembly area grid slot felt a bit different as the car wouldn’t roll as it normally did and something felt amiss. I thought nothing of it as we exited the assembly area and headed towards the pit lane. We exited the pit lane onto the circuit for the warm up lap. On the exit of Burke Lubricants corner the revs suddenly went sky high towards the red line and I completely lost all drive. I had reasonable suspicion that I had blown a clutch until the marshals tried to push the car, it wouldn’t move. I had no idea what it was, the brake pedal went soft and all drive was lost. A simultaneous failure, surely not?!
Unfortunately, the car was then lifted onto the teleporter and brought back to the paddock. My hopes of winning
the championship came crashing down and the frustration was immense! The team got straight to work to try and diagnose what had happened. Upon further investigation, we found that it was an issue with the CV joint which caused the loss of drive and sticking brakes. The ever helpful Phil Lawless came over and kindly offered the spare parts needed for the fix. He really saved the day and thanks to him the car was fixed in time for race two later in the day. Phil if you are reading this, you’re a life saver, thanks!
Knowing that there was no chance of clinching the title today, I prepared for race two. I took it easy on the warm up lap just to make sure everything was OK after the earlier incident. The car felt great and we lined up for the start. For the first time I got the jump on Adam at the start and took the inside line for turn one. Adam tried to go around the outside, luckily I had just enough to stay in front. It was a bit frantic on the run up to turn three with a bit of contact. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place as the Ginetta of Megan Campbell was on my inside with Adam right behind her, I was on the outside of the Ginetta heading into turn three which left me with no option but to go all the way around the outside at the second part of turn three in order to stay in front. With the pressure behind mounting I glanced in my mirrors at Lola corner and saw the Fiesta of Adam Geraghty absolutely sideways on the grass heading towards the gravel. The following lap I let the more powerful Ginetta ahead so I could focus on maintaining my pace and staying out in front. With no sign of Adam in my mirrors I put the head down and tried not to make any mistakes.
The race felt like it went on forever. At about three quarters of the way in it became hard to maintain concentration and I kept running wide at Birranes Bends. Luckily a few laps later the chequered flag was prepared and waved as I crossed the line and took victory in race two! It felt great to take the win after the events of earlier on. It was a much needed victory and gave me valuable points in the championship standings.
A few weeks later, my dad received a phone call from Motorsport Ireland informing him that I had been selected as the Dunlop Motorsport Ireland Young Racing Driver of the Month for August. I was absolutely amazed to hear the news. It is a fantastic opportunity to further my career. However competition is fierce for top honours, fingers crossed! Between now and then I have the final meeting of the year to look forward to on October 11th and I hope to see you there.
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Header Image from Fran Hollywood/Autosportpics.com