In the driving SEAT- with Brian Fitzpatrick
June 22, 2014 by Brian Fitzpatrick
On the back of a mixed bag of results in Bishopscourt where the sun shined, the rain poured and I unfortunately witnessed a beautiful Lancia roll at an arms distance from me in the pit lane which put my head in a bad place for race 2, I was rather tentative as the Abrakebabra Formula Ford Festival rolled into town for the weekend.
We had done some testing in the week before the festival, played with some setup to try and make the Copa a little more forgiving. A few people were on hand to give advice and even take a brave pill and strap into the pax seat. Some were helpful and other’s just took it all in! We had fun anyway and that was why I bought the car. Fun. Lap after lap fun. We even strapped Jomo in and did a sub 1.54 with him, the lunatic! Race positions will come in time, once I lose the stigma of a car that wants to kill me on every corner I wasn’t either fully committed to, or not got the entry perfect, much like a puppy that you allow to nip you – well someday soon that pup will be a full size bitch that will take a lump out of you! Cesar Milan in the form of Pat McBennett stepped up, we played with the car over a few sessions and finally by the end of the day, I felt I had something I could build on. Yes, Barry, you were right!!
Race day comes fast and first up is the weather. Its wet – but 2km away it’s dry. Great. Another day of this. I’d be on edge as I always am when it’s like this. Slicks? No Wets! No slicks and wets! No Slicks! No Wets! I’m a nightmare to be near when I’m in that frame of mind as I’m just indecisive. Lucky the heavens opened up for qualifying so forced choice made. Wets for qualifying!
A slow qualifying getting heat into the wets, and a push for the last couple of laps. Second row on the grid behind Dave and Bieber and beside the super quick half of the Roscrea duo, Foggy. Not bad. I’ll take that!
Sitting in the paddock assembly, ready to go. Nerves are jumping, stomach turning. Pat gives the nod – lets do this!
Out of pit lane and second turn of the wheel to try and get some heat into the back of the car, she bites me and straight away and I’m facing the wrong way on the main straight, right in front of the grandstand! What a start. I was very hard on myself for the rest of the warm up lap and I needed to be. Now was not the time for rookie slip ups.
Sitting on the grid, with the 5 second board flashed, I’m concentrating on the start. It unfortunately is the Copa’s Achilles heel. I just can’t get it off the line. I know that, so I’m happy to concede a few places and stay out of trouble at turn 1 and 2. Lights out and Im sitting there with Foggy gone past almost before I moved. Gar Hayden slips on through too, leaving me with the other half of the Roscrea pair on my outside of turn 1. He has the inside for turn 2, it gets a little messy so I give plenty of space. Another place to make up. Great!
Into turn 3 and Drought fires it down the inside of Foggy and takes the place. Great move. I try to go round the outside in the esses – not working but immediately try to cutback. Foggy see’s it coming and goes defensive for parabolica. I have some grip and go round his outside and its a drag race to Tarzan. I got what felt like a foot in front and closed the door. Next. I was close enough to Drought through Birranes bends, he has a little lock up and I thought about cutback. Dirty, door closed! No point in trying to drag it out to Irish Ferries as
Pushing hard late on in race two. Image from Con Connolly.
that teg is monster quick in a straight line and Owain is not short of commitment in it either. His line is a little off centre through Irish Ferries, maybe I can get by there next lap? I keep my line and get better drive up to Dunlop, following his line but at 100m dive in under brakes and take the place, spotting Gar Hayden at the last second! Caught Gar into turn 1 but coming out of turn 2 on power, the ‘Teg seems to come to a stop on the last bit of the exit kerb and I thought: surely I was going to tag him? Luckily I didn’t and was able to get across the track and safely into turn 3. Next! With no cars in front of me, I thought it was business as usual up the front and there was no way I was going to catch Dave and Bieber. Time to put the head down and with 3 good qualifying laps in, I started to see the Civic. Then lap after lap I could see I was chipping time off. Not enough but some all the same. I’m right with Rob now and I’m saying to myself “jeez that civic is quick out!”
I’m getting close out the back straight to try and see if there is a weak spot. There isn’t. I’m bumper close to him but he’s putting the car everywhere I don’t want him to. He’s a clever racer our Rob, drives with the head first and the car second. To get past it’s going to have to be something special.
I’m very close out of turn 2 on the last lap and into turn 3 I’m faster. I get a chance to go round the outside and I don’t take it. I hope there will be another one. Into the esses I’m right with him but again the civic is right where I don’t want it to be, a clean pass is going to be tricky there. Hold it together and into Parabolica. He’s defensive on entry and I try to go round the outside. The civic hooks up and it’s a drag race into Tarzan for the second time this race. This time it’s not working as I try dive for the inside and back to the outside. A little lockup from me meant although I got to the corner first, I didn’t exit it first and that was that. I didn’t get close enough again until Dunlop and I don’t think round the outside there ever works, so I settled for my P3. Stellar driving from the ITCC lads that race, I hope next one goes as well as that did!
Race 2 was, as usual a reverse grid which had me on the second row again. I really feel it’s pointless gridding me anywhere other than last, the Copa is so bad off the line. But I was there and that was that! I was lined up behind the Roscrea duo of Foggy & Drought and beside the quick Gar Hayden, with Dave and Rob behind me, no doubt with their cars pointing just in front of me. 5 second board flashed, here we go again. There is oil down from the FF’s though, so it may be trickier this time.
Red lights go out. I get a better start but it’s still pretty grim from my seat as both Rob and Dave fly by into turn 1. I’m closer to them this time though so things are looking up! Dave gets by on the outside of turn 2 and with me too busy looking at which way they were going, I lose a place to Gar Hayden to nips through on the inside. Everybody is slow into turn 3 and we are all bunched up again. This is good! Gar leaves the door open for a fraction too long into the esses and I’m alongside, Foggy nearly stops on the apex and it’s looking like a 6 car pile up on the first lap. Gar goes round the outside of both of us, Foggy runs wide and opens a gap. Its mayhem! Get close enough to Foggy to try to make dive down the inside for Birrane’s Bends. Again the ‘Tegs are surprising me with straight line speed! Can’t make anything stick. Foggy runs a little wide on exit of Devaney’s and I look for the cutback. Get it and it’s a drag to Irish Ferries I have the inside line so should be able to make it stick. It does, thankfully! Drought is next up and wow, what a couple of races do to a fella! This guy is driving like he’s done 20 seasons in the car, not 2! I had to work incredibly hard for the place. Into the kink before turn 3 I think about firing it down the inside but he closes the door at the last possible second. Glad I didn’t have my car there then! Try for cutback on turn 3 exit. Nope, too much straight line in the ‘Teg. Dive down the inside into the esses. Nope, not happening there either, door closed. Drag into Tarzan. Still not a look in. Fook! Round the outside of 7b, Nope. Down the inside of Devaney’s but again I’m glad I didn’t go for it, would have taken both of us out if I did.
Cutback into bikeworld but that ‘Teg is just too quick for me and he arrives first. Bits of bodywork and debris all over the track. What happened? Into Dunlop and I follow his line, but Foggy has a different idea and dives down my inside to take my position. I immediately cutback onto the main straight and pass Foggy. Spot Dave’s M3 pulled in. What happened? Drag race to Turn 1 with Foggy and I got a squeeze to the pit wall. Not lifting buddy!! Catch Drought again on exit of Turn 2 and decide a change of plan is order. Going to make a run at it! Set myself up coming out of Devaneys. Enough closing speed and grip meant it was Irish Ferries. Owain turned in a little too early and I cut it fast and hard. I passed him on 2 wheels already seeing what was happening him before it happened in my head. It was one of those passes that really made me feel like I was after winning a dogfight. The sweat was pumping out of me! Onto the main straight and a quick check of the mirror. Right time to put the head down and catch P1!
The next few laps were lonely right until i caught a glimpse of Rob. I was taking time out of him every lap but i was looking at the clock and I didn’t think i’d even get close to him. That didn’t mean I wasn’t going to try!
He’s managing the gap it seems now, keeping some tyre for a last lap challenge from me. Lap after lap i’m getting closer. trying to push it too far. I’m sliding into Irish Ferries, missing kerbs and overdriving the car. I need to settle down a little bit and bring it home. At Devaneys, I get a couple of car lengths away, have to concentrate now, more than ever before. I get close again into turn 3 but not close enough to slow him. Pass a backmarker into Tarzan, great no hold up for him there!! Into the first of Birrane’s bends, I’m right with him. Miss my turn in point and lose time by completely missing the first apex, Quicker through the second part and I’m with him again through Devaneys. Drag out to Irish Ferries and he’s defensive into Dunlop. No cutback here, I’m not close enough. Out of Turn 1 and into turn 2, right with him again. He’s quick through the esses. Into Tarzan, right on his bumper now! Into Irish Ferries, I am able to keep my speed up the hill, closer now but big defence into Dunlop. I try to go round the outside but it’s a futile attempt, Rob has it well covered. Drag down the straight for the chequered flag. P2. The best result I’ve ever gotten since I got the car!
Getting out of that car in pairc ferme was one of the best feelings i’ve gotten since i’ve got involved in motorsport in 2010. I didn’t win so what’s up with that? A good clean hard race with a decent finish to boot. Not
Bit of fun on the podium. Image from JayTee Photographic.
a mark on my car. I’ve had some lows in motorsport (not 8 weeks ago I was peeling the car from the barrier at turn 2 with the help of JR) and I‘ve had some highs. But as several wise men tell me, if you can take the lows before the highs, that way you get the best out of it!! 5 minutes later somebody told me i got fastest laps in both races and I was less than a tenth off the lap record. Mind Blown. I know how good the guys I race against are!
There are a few people that I need to thank because without then I wouldn’t have been anywhere near that grid. Pat in McBennett Motorsport. He’s ultra professional and a pleasure to have anything to do with. He has maintained the car at the same level (if not better) that the car has always been maintained at. That’s saying something seeing as it was Zengo Motorsport that maintained it prior to me getting my hands on it. Anthony Kelleghan for keeping it looking fresh, all the time. Emily for putting up with me. Paulzee & Beccy for pushing me when I need to be pushed. Brian, Linda and the ITCC crew who slog it out round after round and lastly and not least, all the marshals, staff and officials of Mondello who constantly give up their free time so we can enjoy ours. Kudos to you guys!