Having spent the guts of a year piecing my Fiesta together bit by bit, driving it as my daily car and doing a few track days, to be brutally honest, before it was even completed I was fed up with motorsport and I hadn’t even competed yet. Obviously it’s not a cheap sport but the introduction of the 11:1 rule ( a change to the compression ratio in the tech regs) and other bits and pieces just put me off altogether.
But, in the meantime it was announced that there would be a Fiesta class for the British Rallycross Round in Mondello in June. A decision was made, stickers, mud flaps, brake lights, tax for the car and four brand new R888s were bought and an entry was sent in at the last minute. That day I was delighted to be out racing like I always hoped, car number 15 with a T.I. Auto livery reminiscent of the old T.I. ‘Suds and Sprints that my dad and John Burns used to race the all of 30 years ago. (My grandfather, father, brother and sister have all competed under the number 15!) The racing went well and I finished 4th overall, but I was always bitter about that result because of a bad move I made in the final. I suppose I felt there was unfinished business there.
Having done the one round I still felt the same about the racing, with big money being spent and a lot of cheating by some in the Fiestas I felt the class wasn’t for me, so the car went up on Donedeal! A month or so later I got a call from Mick O’Dwyer wanting to buy the car. His memories of T.I. winning races in the 80’s was his reasoning that my Fiesta must have been a good car! It was in the middle of that call that I decided to keep the car myself and learn as much as I could from it, be that hill climbs, rallycross, rally sprints, endurance rallies or whatever came up!
Even still it always seems like there’s a lot of things in the way of competing in Motorsport, mainly down to a lack of a budget on my part really. A few weeks ago when I saw that there was a change in the regulations for a new tyre in 2016, I was left feeling that my pretty much new R888s were now useless so I was back to the same point as before and felt a bit fed up with it all.
Then the launching of the Fiesta rallycross class by Leo Nulty Promotions, with the support of Patch Tyre Equipment and The Naas Court Hotel was a bit of a lifeline for me I suppose, my R888s could now be used and the elusive win that I missed out on in June could be chased too. An entry was sent in, a drop of oil put in the car and we were on our way to my second rallycross event.
Practice on the day was messy at best but it was good to be back and soon it was time for heat one! Having made a great start I was off into the lead and was flying, I took the last lap board on my way to the perfect start to the day…that was until I forgot about the joker lap, no worries though since I remembered midway through the rallycross section! On the brakes, up onto the grass, into first gear, through the joker and over the line in second….not too bad. But the COC had other ideas and despite my best efforts a 30 second penalty was added on to my time, I was the slowest in that heat just behind Nicole Drought. Not a bother though since your slowest heat doesn’t count, three more to go!
Heat two, three and four went very well, I was managing to get great starts every time and making good choices with my joker laps got me good times and finishing positions. To be honest I’m still not quite sure how the timing works, one race in particular I was told that even though I won by a few car lengths the car behind had gotten a quicker overall time, that was sorted eventually, how I don’t know, but none the less I was deemed to be starting second on the grid for the A final next to Phil Lawless and Paddy Bateman so I was happy enough with that. Nerves kicked in as the final got closer, been on the outside of turn one is never a good place to be so I knew I needed to get a good start again. I took off and managed to get across in front of Phil before turn one. From there I just kept as tidy and quick as I could, taking the joker on the last lap I came out a few seconds ahead of Paddy to take my first ever race win in Mondello, that was a relief to be honest.
It’s only one event but this round of Rallycross has changed my outlook on motorsport, Rallycross is a brilliant sport and it seems to be full with people who are out purely to enjoy themselves, the crowd in Mondello are hugely welcoming to newcomers like myself. I was genuinely surprised by the amount of people coming to congratulate me after the final. It was brilliant to be able to put a T.I. car back on the podium in Mondello, then to top it all off there was a cash prize thanks to Brian from Patch Tyre Equipment & The Naas Court Hotel.
I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who helped me along the way because there’s not a hope I could do this without them! Thanks to all the people who’ve helped with building the car, towed trailers, painted the car at 3am for some reason, all who came along to support, lent me racing gear, transponders and go pros, listened to rants about rules changes, checked tyre pressures, let me use garage space, sponsored the class etc etc etc.
And finally, this was meant to be the main point of this article so sorry for getting sidetracked. I have to recommend rallycross to anyone who has a Fiesta ready to go, there’s great cheap, fun and clean racing to be had, there’s not a mark on the car after the weekend and as some of you already know, I drove the car to and from the last round and will again in the future. For anyone who is worried about starting out in rallycross all you have to do is look at how well the likes of Brian McCormack and Danielle Murphy adapted to it from other forms of motorsport, both of them were right on the pace straight away! On Sunday we got practice, four heats and a final for €195 (and I got €150 prize money), great value, so I’ll definitely be back out for the final round on the 22nd for more of the same!
Thanks for reading (if you made it this far),