“My Fiesta ST Debut”- Those are words I didn’t think I’d be saying for a long time! I’d never have imagined being lucky enough to be in the position I’m in right now. Thanks to a good season last year including a Young Racing Driver of the Year Nomination plans were soon arranged so I could move into the 150bhp Fiesta ST class. I honestly didn’t know what to expect last weekend. We’d had very limited running in the car before the weekend and the grid was made up of a who’s who of Irish Motorsport. It’s always hard to tell in testing where you actually stand relative to the rest of the field but we’d decided before the weekend that two decent finishes would be a successful start to the season and would give me something to build on.
Qualifying on Sunday morning was soaking wet which suited me more as I’d done all my previous testing in the wet and the tyres don’t go off as much in the wet which gave me more of a window to set a lap time in. After the first few laps I began to get into a rhythm and the pitboard told me I was somewhere between P8 and P13. Times were changing every lap and I knew i still had time to find. One flyer of a last lap placed me 8th on the 24 car grid which, considering the names in the field, I was delighted with.
Race 1 had pretty similar conditions to qualifying and it was into the unknown as I’d soon see what one of these races was like from the drivers seat. I actually managed to get a great start and while everyone queued up on the inside I launched it down the outside and made a good few places up until a car was sent wide into my path which meant I was pushed back into the pack. There was more mayhem at turn two as when I arrived cars were sideways across the track. I didn’t even know where I was at this point but concentrated on driving my own race and keeping the car on the road as the track was covered in both standing water and oil which made for some wild moments in certain places. I didn’t quite have the pace of the front runners but soon worked out I was running in 6th place which would had given me pole position for race two on the reverse grid. However I could see the fast approaching pair of headlights of Kevin Doran and he eventually got the place off me at turn one. The safety car was soon called out after Mark Turley parked it in the gravel at turn three and he made such a good job of parking it the Mazda recovery truck actually got stuck! This prompted the early chequered flag and I finished 7th in my first ever Fiesta ST race which I was delighted with.
However as the time counted down to race two the sun made an appearance and the track began to dry rapidly. This was not what I’d wanted at all as I’d never driven the car in the dry at all and didn’t want to be doing a first test session in the dry during a race! I made an absolutely brilliant start and managed to jump the row in front but had no where to go and was stuck on the inside behind a slow starting Rod McGovern. I then came out the worst of 5 STs trying to fit in a space for 2 and was pushed back even further by some argy bargy at turn three. At this point I hadn’t really the pace to keep with the leaders due to my total lack of experience in the car and decided to try defend as much as possible and hold onto a top 10 position. After a few laps I saw my team mate Barry-John Mchenry in the mirrors and proceeded to have a fantastic dice for the next few laps until we both outbraked ourselves into turn one ran wide and on the exit of the corner Brendan Fitzgerald caught a puddle of mud on the edge of the corner and fired it clean at my windscreen. This presented a whole new issue as the wipers didn’t clear very much of it and I now had about an inch of clear screen to see through. I continued to defend till the end but the vision issues had an impact on my pace and I had dropped back to 14th by the flag.
Overall my first weekend in the Patch Tyre Equipment Fiesta ST championship went much better than I ever could have expected. With the quality and experience of drivers I was up against and the limited running in the car before the weekend to finish P7 in race one was definitely a highlight. Race two was just one of them races where I didn’t have the luck, not helped by having no dry running at all in the car and the lack of vision for the last few laps.
None of this would have been possible without the help and support to get me on the grid. Barry Hallion of JH Autobody and Leo Nulty of Leo Nulty Promotions for getting me a car to get on the grid. Alastair Kellett and the rest of my family who built the car and supported me all the way from the start. Barry John McHenry of Dunshauglin Motor Company for his support and backing to get me to where I’m now and Michael Chester for the pictures.
I’m back in the car for the next two rounds of the championship on April 8th/9th where hopefully I can get some good testing in between and hopefully move further up towards the front.
Till Next Time,
Images from Michael Chester.