The format called for three heat races, with every car racing in two heats. Then a ‘Last Chance’ race before the fastest car gridded up for the Grand Final, which would decide if the UK or Irish cars were fastest from almost 50 total entries.
Festival Heat Race 1
There is a bit of a fear amongst the UK Vee racers that some of the Irish are more willing to ‘make contact’ on track. Having taken careful note of their steel wheels my plan before dropping the visor was to play it safe – as soon as my world turns blue irridium, it’s a different story, though!
Starting from a random tenth place, I made up four places before the first corner, and then to my dismay couldn’t get second gear again! I’d tested it on the short slow run to the holding area, but I guess race speeds changed things…
The UK cars definitely had the legs on the 1600cc Irish, but their cars pulled much better out of the corners. This made things very interesting, but without being able to get off the corners at all I was just a sitting duck as they all dived up the inside as I swung wide to keep the speed up.
I dropped steadily back down the order (picking up a few places as Stephen Morrin had a spin with another car getting caught up) until Bill Garner put in his inevitable appearance as we got a three car scrap on the go with Nicholas Mulhall.
With Bill getting bulked behind Mulhall on the start straight, I passed them both into the first turn, but then my tighter line meant the car wouldn’t pick up off cam. They both came past me as I hung onto the back of them.
Bill was in front going into the Esses but Mulhall went for the inside of the right hander, over the curbs in a move that was never going to be on, and tangled wheels with Bill.
Bill’s car was catapulted up into the air, going almost totally engine over nose and actually having all four wheels off the track in that position momentarily. Somehow he slammed back down the right way up and I was left avoiding them both as Mulhall carried on.
I chased on, both of us putting a wheel off the track and almost heading into the pit wall, and then we weirdly took the chequered flag on the next lap as if we’d won!
With neither of us sure what had happened, we had a very awkward lap where I was sneakily trying to edge closer to Mulhall to take the place, and him realising exactly what I was doing and flooring it away until we got back around to take a definite flag!
That left me in 17th place of 22 runners, but I was really reaching the point of exhaustion by now. I guess not breathing properly was taking its toll…
Festival Heat Race 3
Starting from 16th in this one would make it all much tougher.
The first lap was all a bit rowdy, so I made sure I had space and found I had gears again but the positioning of the lever is very tricky to set up, and wasn’t quite at the sweet spot.
I got caught out behind a car that seemed to be blowing his engine, and hung out a little around Bridgestone, but was still in the mix.
Coming around the first turn I could see dust being kicked up, and then cars were sliding everywhere coming off the left flick onto the straight. The car to my left locked up and got dangerously close (I couldn’t see the huge oil slick at that point), but I had a much bigger concern.
Ahead were cars at all angles, sticking out of a Beano comic-style dust cloud that was across the track and grass from barrier to barrier.
I couldn’t slam my brakes on as I’d have been clattered from behind by everyone, and so stuck my right wheels off the track with left ones on it, guessing what might be a clear line through.
The dust was so thick I couldn’t even see my steering wheel, and then sudden;y there were stationary cars sat both sides of me but I’d made it through!
Fully expecting a red flag, or at least for the survivors around me to be a little more careful after making it through, I two corners away from the carnage, turning into the Esses, when a car slammed into the side of me.
Spun onto the grass, I wasn’t happy, keeping the car going and then weaving to make sure I had all my wheels on and nothing was going to fall off. I was dead last.
I came around to the scene of the carnage to see the dust cloud gone and red flags out, but what looked like a bunch of new cars involved. I couldn’t really work out what was going on, but one driver was out of his car and aiding another who was still in his broken wreck in the middle of the track.
I believe that no red flags were out as the field came around again, and not even an oil flag. The cars that had missed the accident hit the oil full speed and went off, hitting a few of the already stricken cars… Luckily no people were seriously hurt, but a good few cars were….
I’d been hit by Jack Byrne – who at least did come and apologise after. As he said he just lost the front and it wasn’t some mad dive I put it down to a ‘racing incident’ and let it go. But look at where he hit me!
Could he have aimed for my ribs any better if he’d tried?!? Luckily the impact hadn’t rattled my rib cage and the trailing arm and my air duct had taken the full brunt rather than me.
And though I could have made the restart, the Last Chance, and the Grand Final, I chose to call it a day there. I’d survived without any more damage to my ribs and had pushed my body as far as I could.
It was a shame to have to cut the day early the discomfort was now overriding the fun for me, and I felt I’d more likely be a liability out there than taking the fight to the Irish.
Overall, it was a brilliant weekend at a a great little track that’s far more challenging than it looks. It was awesome meeting some of the Irish legends and the racers I’ve been reading about since before I started racing myself.
I’ll give the race winners and full accolades in my shorter race report on www.racingteamvee.com soon.
I hope I get to race there again some day, and it would be even better if I wasn’t chewing painkillers every few hours to try and get through it!
Massive thanks to all the Irish for having us, and to 750 Motor Club for giving us the opportunity.
Now I just have to get fit ready for Silverstone in August.
Thanks for reading!