Barry Rabbitt: Another week, another track!
September 4, 2012 by Barry Rabbitt
Another week, another track, abnother race-series but the same car. After an unforgettable ‘Park victory just 6 days ago myself and Dave Clarke headed up to Kirkistown Race Circuit for a round of the Northern Ireland saloons in the Deliver-It.ie and Race2Race supported Supercharged Golf GTi which Dave once again asked me to race. So with little more than an oil change and a quick spanner check I collected Dave and the car from Dundalk at 7am Saturday morning and headed for the County Down circuit. The mood in the van was one of excitement as we trekked north and the debate was raging between car owner and driver with regard to our plans once we arrived. In the end we hit on a compromise and decided that we would go for the medium spec breakfast!
Qualifying was at 11am and I settled myself back into the familar seat from last weekend Park antics. If the car was familiar the track wasn’t quite so, it had been 2 years since I had raced or indeed even drove at ‘Irelands Fastest Circuit’, the last time being in my Honda CRX as a shakedown to my inaugural trip to Barbados. On that occasion I won the saloon race and also managed to chase down and beat the GT cars which start from the front of the saloons with a 10second headstart. With rain starting to spit as we went on circuit to qualify I went hard straight out of the blocks in case of a downpour, which in the end never materialised. The high speed nature of Kirkistown, which can normally be quite daunting, felt like a modern day F1 GP circuit compared to my previous weekends antics. The car felt good in general but the Park ‘square’ set up was not helping on the twistier parts of Kirkistown, in particular the long right hander that is Fishermans. I also felt that the car was not performing great in the top 1000RPM in 3rd and 4th and after qualifying I was slightly dissappointed to be only 5th on the grid. I relayed my input on the lack of grunt to car owner, Dave, who was immediately concerned as in his words the car should ‘pull like a train top end’. Our engine mapper, Joe Power from TDR.ie (incidentally isn’t that the most apt name ever for a car tuner?) was called and together we all suspected a fueling issue and requested a quick one lap run during lunch from the C of C Dermot Quigley who generously obliged. Studying the cars air fuel ratio gauge showed we were running dangerously lean so Dave set to work in diagnosing the problem. It transpired that the fuel rail was loose and drawing in air so with that fixed and a new fuel pump and regulator installed just in case we were reasdy for action and hoping for a strong race!
Lining up on fifth behind the beautiful SEAT Super Copa of Philip Shields I made a great start and immediately tried to go between Shields’ SEAT and the Vectra of Greer, it got a little tight as both cars moved towards each other but with minimal paint exchanged we hurtled towards Debtors and on down to Colonial one, which I arrived to in 3rd position. At this stage two things we apparent, the fueling issue was fixed and the 2300cc Honda Integras were bloody rapid in a straight line! On the 2nd or 3rd lap I got a good run down the start finsih straight in the the tow of one of the DC5s and dove for the inside at Colonial picking up 2nd position. For the next few laps I chased down the leading Integra and decided that as I was quicker through the chicane and stronger on the brakes the best spot for a move was the hairpin – or ‘Herpin’ if you are a local! Leaving it all to the last minute I threw the Deliver-It.ie VW up the inside and secured the lead at about half distance. I was starting to establish a very small advantage when I then ran into trouble shifting from 2nd to 3rd out of the Hairpin. The Hondas, which were quicker in a straight line were particular strong here and having to use 3rd gear for the final corner really hurt me. Over the next few laps I did all I could to hold them back, resorting to side by side battles through Debtors which was massively fun but ultimately futile as both cars were able to outdrag me out of the Hairpin and demote me to 3rd place. The Evo on McVeigh was now all over me and I knew I was going to have my work cut out. Again, my competitor was significantly faster than me on the straights but I could brake harder and later. On the run out of the Hairpin to start the final lap the Evo outdragged me just as the Hondas had and we arrived at Colonial nose to tail, McVeigh left his braking too late and went off the circuit at Colonial 2, I took my opportunity and regained 3rd place into Fishermans. Down the back straight towards the Hairpin the superior power of the Mitsubishi allowed it to get fully alongside and slightly ahead as we approached the braking zone, knowing I was stronger on the brakes I left it to the last minute hoping that McVeigh would probably not brake til I did, he duly fell into my trap and completely outbraked himself and missed the corner allowing me to take the checkered flag for a very hard fought and rewarding podium position which I believe is the best result for a visiting driver this year. Who knows maybe next time without a compromised set-up we can go a couple of steps higher!
Until next time!