I was asked at 11pm on Thursday night would I be interested in racing a front running Formula Sheane on Saturday in Kirkistown. Of course I jumped at the chance before actually putting any thought into it! (Sure who would turn down a free drive??)
It was only on Friday morning when the initial excitement was over that it dawned on me that my race licence expired 4 years ago, my medical was out of date, I was due to work on Saturday, and I would have no testing time.The excitement quickly passed and sheer panic set in! So, I ended up spending the whole of Friday in work, making calls and sending emails, to get the race licence and Kirkistown entry sorted! A big thanks to Motorsport Ireland and Richard Young from Kirkistown for their help.
After work, I headed North and some hours later, after a miserable drive in the rain, I arrived in Kirkistown. Testing was long finished- it was 11pm on Friday evening, so had a few beers and slept across the back seat of my road car!
Unfortunately no track time to set the car up, or more importantly to get used to it, so jumped into the car for Qualifying Saturday morning, and went out and took it very handy. A combination of fear of damaging someone else’s car, and being extremely rusty behind the wheel, and rear tyres that had seen better days kept me at a moderate but safe pace. Other than struggling to get the right brake bias the car was faultless, handle like a dream.
So afterwards, when the timesheets arrived in the paddock, I was very surprised to see that I had qualified in 7th, a second off the pole time by Richard Kearney- who was flying.
Lining up for race one I was feeling the nerves set in, its been along time since I’ve driven in a crowded pack of cars flying towards the first corner. I thought it best to stick with the same routine as qualifying, take it nice and easy, and avoid the trouble. Just managed to keep my nose clean through the first corner as there was a few cars pointing in different directions at one point! For the remainder it was head down, look after the car, and try keep as many cars in my mirror as possible. Took it home in fourth, which was brilliant, and a big surprise!
So I come back to the race truck with a big smile, but unfortunately the owner of the car wasn’t particularly happy that I was taking it handy and making his car look bad, so had a stern talk with me, and told me to drive it on, and to stop short shifting. Well- if you say so!!
Race 2, I got a good start and took it easy through turn one again, and came out the other side in 4th place, happy days. Down the back straight I got a good run (despite being squeezed off the track towards the barrier) but kept the shoe in, out of pure fear rather than bravery, and I was up to 3rd place now.
I managed to close the gap to the cars ahead who were fighting for the lead. Now running behind Richard Kearney in his brightly coloured car! Coming out of the hairpin, I managed to squeeze around the outside at the same time as he lost his nose cone, knocking my mirror out of focus, and damaging my front wing. Up to 2nd now…..
Had a good run and caught up with the leader, who was trying his best to keep me under pressure from behind, a tactic which was working, my crooked mirror was showing a lot of Kearneys oranage car charging around behind me! A few laps go by of me nipping at the leader, and I was convinced I was faster, right up until I lost the rear end under braking at the end of the main straight, and that was essentially the race over as I was down to last and felt I had done enough for one day (remember I don’t own this car, nor have the money to repair it), so I just pootled around after that until the chequered flag came out.
Delighted with how I went considering I had been out for 4 years, and had no testing!
The owner was delighted to see his car getting the abuse it deserved, to see how well it looked out on track, and for it to be running with the front pack (where it spends most of its time in his hands!), regardless of the end result.
Big thank you to Sheane Cars for the help all weekend!
Here’s race 2, enjoy.
Image from Sabrina Larkin