I am not one for using clichés, but the term “Emotional Rollercoaster” couldn’t be a more fitting description of our recent Rallycross weekend.
Even loading the car up on Saturday evening didn’t go to plan. Driving the car down the lane for one final check, it started running like a pig. Franticly changing coils, plugs and anything else we could think of that could be faulty between more runs, it eventually came back to full life but without us really knowing what had caused the problem.
With an engine running at full health the next morning, a soft pedal during practice revealed a leak on a rear drum. While it wasn’t a big issue, it meant we couldn’t squeeze a few more practice laps in.
Heat 1 and this was were we would find out what pace our two new competitors, Jamie Ferris and Daniel McDonnell had. Daniel is no stranger to Rallycross having competed in the same Fiesta a few years back. But there was no sign of any cobwebs on his car as he came straight off the line and was up with Denis McCrudden giving him a duel. Jamie Ferris kept me defending for the entire race, even finishing the heat right on my back bumper.
Heat 2 was full of action. Denis had a moment coming off the loose onto the main straight on lap 2, finding the tyres under the bridge. Patch thought he was going to have a lucky break when the view in his mirror was Daniel and myself having a moment of our own at the merge of the joker lap. Having just about managed to keep it facing in the right direction, I was now chasing down Patch and hoping I hadn’t lost too much time. I had just done enough when he emerged from his joker on the last lap directly behind me. A heat win but only by sheer luck.
Heat 3 is where our rollercoaster got to it’s big drop. Launching off the line, I grab second gear and then nothing. Because it happened during a gear change, I feared I had shattered the clutch or broke the gearbox. After the car rolled to safety on the grass, I tried frantically to restart it. Everytime the engine restarted, it would die almost straight away with throttle inputs having no effect whatsoever. At this point I knew my gearbox was safe but instead I had a electrical issue which are always very fun to find.
After my first DNF and my first trip on the rope behind the Mondello pick-up, the bonnet was thrown up hoping for to see an obvious quick fix problem but no. No sooner was the bonnet up and it seemed all the rest of the Fiesta drivers were over to see what had happened. Denis McCrudden was quick to get his hands dirty, checking possible causes, even returning to his garage to try some of his spare parts. Mondello staff member, Philip Lawless even stopped by to assist and was also very willing to donate parts from one of his cars to help out.
In the meantime our Facebook competition winner Valerie came over to visit us in the paddock. (We had run a competition for two tickets to come and watch us!) While she is a big rallycross fan, she hadn’t been to an IRX event in years and was very complimentary of the racing within all the classes.
Lunch was now over, everyone had gone back to their own cars and I was questioning what I would need to do to get some points. At this point Junior driver Jack Byrne had returned from his lunch and suggested it sounded like an air flow sensor problem he had before. The sensor was quickly whipped out and inspected. Looking into the sensor, the problem may have been spotted. Wrapped around the sensor wire appeared to be a piece of a leaf. Leaf carefully removed and a shot of contact cleaner later, everything was bolted back in for hopefully the last time. I jumped into car and it burst into life. A quick few runs up and down the paddock confirmed that incredibly,a tiny piece of a leaf had nearly wrecked our day. Problem solved and just in time, the Fiestas were already in the pre-grid for the final.
I had made the start line for the final, I couldn’t believe it.
A good start off the line never seemed to be a thing for me but I didn’t mind. Looking at the lap times from the day, I knew I had pace. So the plan was to take the Joker Lap on the first, find some clean air and chase. Before I knew it i was up to second after others had taken their Jokers and Daniel McDonnell had an issue after going through Hole in the Hedge. It was now just Denis in front of me and he didn’t seem to be that far ahead. Continuing our adopted motto of Maximum Effort, poor Skanky was driven harder than ever, trying to find just that extra little bit of time. Last lap and Denis still had to take his joker lap. At the top of the hill, Denis turned left down the joker and I headed down Rallycross 3 hoping I had done enough. At the merge in Rallycross 2, I could see him to my left and I just nipped in front of him. I took an ultra defensive line through Hole in the Hedge and floored it towards the last corner. As I rounded the last corner under the bridge it hit me and I started banging the window with joy. We had done it. We had gone from a non running car 5 minutes before the race to race winner! The team got the best anniversary gift for the work they put into the car in the weeks previous and on the day in the paddock. This had also given us a lot more confidence going into the second half of the year and also made us realise the championship is still be within reach.
Round 4 Fiesta Final Results
1. David Maher 4:55.012
2. Denis McCrudden +0.887
3. Jamie Ferris +3.633
4. Brian Matthews +9.428
5. Daniel McDonnell DNF
Unoffical 2018 IRX Fiesta Championship Points after Round 4
1. Denis McCrudden – 77
2. David Maher – 69
3. Brian Matthews – 43
4. Eric Fleming – 32
5. Jamie Ferris – 15
The Team- Niall, Brian and Cecily.
Everyone who came by to us in the paddock to help, especially Denis McCrudden.
The Marshalls who without, we cannot race.
And the staff of Mondello Park and the Irish Rallycross Championship.
Header Image from Brian Lafford.