Listen Up, The Champ is Speaking! – With Jack Byrne.
The final car race meeting of the year took place last Sunday at Mondello Park. For many, the prospect of taking their cars out for, what could arguably be called a public test session, sounded very intriguing. I, on the other hand, had a championship to win. We opted to sit out the available test sessions on Saturday as I knew the car I had beneath me was well capable of being competitive enough to take a second place in either of the two races on Sunday. It sounded quite simple, however, in reality; it was a whole different story.
It was qualifying when I first got the chance to get the eye in and I attempted to set a time once the tyres were at their optimum operating temperature. At this particular end of year meeting there were only three Ginetta’s that came out to play. This allowed me a bit more time before they came up behind to overtake. As the countdown timer struck zero, we proceeded back to the paddock where I was to find out that I was on pole position for both races by two seconds! The car felt perfect and as it was a relatively quiet meeting, I felt more relaxed as well. As race one grew closer, I began to feel less and less nervous, knowing that a second place was all I needed to finish what I started and win the championship. I began to go through all the potential scenarios that could occur in the race and it seemed as though I was covered from every angle.
In the back of my mind however, I knew that there was always the chance that something could go wrong. We lined up on the grid and the five second board was displayed. The red lights dually followed. I was very conscious not to cause myself a mechanical failure so I chose to pull off the line as you would in a road car so as not to shatter the clutch into a million pieces. As the lights went out, Adam (Geraghty) took the lead into Mobil 1 corner. He stayed in the lead with me following closely behind until turn three where a very sideways moment allowed me to get in front. It wasn’t long before Adam caught back up and began to apply pressure from behind. Approaching Southside Motor Factors corner on the third lap, I remembered that I only needed a second place to clinch the title and that getting involved in a dice would be too risky. As I approached the normal turn in point for turn one, Mobil 1 corner, I suddenly felt a substantial shove from behind. It certainly justified the use of a HANS device. As I raised my head back up, I noticed that Adam had taken the lead of the race. I was not aware of the extent of the damage to my car at this time, all I could see was the front bumper hanging off Adams car. After this occurrence, I began to ease off the pace until the end in order to finish the race with the car in one piece. Thankfully, I did, and in doing so clinched the title!
Knowing that I had the championship in the bag was a great feeling heading into the last race of the inaugural Blackchurch Motors Fiesta Junior Championship. It felt good to be able to go out and enjoy the last race of the year without needing vital championship points. I got the jump off the line and lead into Mobil 1 corner. This time, it was a case of maintaining concentration and getting the lines perfect as I pulled out a gap. About halfway through the race, with no opposition visible in my mirrors, I began to really enjoy my last couple of laps of the year. I crossed the line, almost reduced to tears of delight (almost!), happy that I could repay all those that supported me throughout the year with a championship winning campaign.
This year was by far the best I can recall in my life to date. It wouldn’t have been possible without the support and financial sacrifice that my family have made for which I simply cannot thank them enough. I would also like to thank this year’s sponsors such as E Fox Engineers and Rev.ie who have also contributed to my success. A big thanks has to go to the marshals, the heroes of the sport that have gotten me out of a few sticky situations throughout the year. The scrutineers who made all the safety checks pleasant and gave me constant reminders about that extinguisher pin, thanks! Last but by no means least, the secretary of Mondello, Jenny Senior. I know you’re reading this so thanks for making this year such an enjoyable experience!
There you have it! You may be wondering, “What’s the next step?”. Well, I’ve been lucky enough to have been selected as the Dunlop Motorsport Ireland Young Racing Driver of the Month for August 2015. This means that I am now in contention of winning the major prize of a fully funded season of formula ford worth €50,000. Personally, it would be a huge step forward towards a career in the sport which is what I have aspirations of achieving. Past and present professional drivers such as Ayrton Senna, Jenson Button and Nick Tandy all began their careers in a formula ford.
Who knows, maybe I could be added to the list with continued hard work and dedication!
2015 Blackchurch Motors Fiesta Junior Champion
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Images from Con Connolly.