Keith Hogg: The Championship Finale

November 13, 2012 by Keith Hogg  

Although I was dying to get back in the car after my great run at the Laois Rally Sprint, I didn’t want to be the cause of any incident in the Formula Sheane season finale on October 6th in Kirkistown but after many phone calls to David Sheane, Kevin Sheane and the Godfather of Irish racing, Brian Hearty, I was convinced to go out.
Money was a little tight, so I decided not to test and just go out in the race. I purposely left on Friday morning so I couldn’t do any testing or setup but had said to Brian Hearty I would be there to give him a hand. When I arrived at the track and pulled up beside it appeared he was having a few problems. There was grease or oil on his back wing, the CV boot and the rocker cover gasket were leaking. I helped change the CV boot while Kevin (also not testing) changed the rocker cover gasket. Hearty went out for a few laps, came in to check the car, and there was still an oil leak. In spite of the best efforts of wee Joe, David Sheane and Kevin we realized the problem was terminal. As the day was nearly over, Hearty jumped into a spare car and got one lap. We all went to scrutiny and, as is the norm in Kirkistown, it was all very relaxed. We all passed scrutiny and headed for dinner.

That night I gave Kevin the floor of my camper and had a beer with Hearty before heading to bed myself, only to be woken by the stench of gear oil. The next morning, Kevin told me gear oil had spilt onto his sleeping bag in the back of the Sheane truck!

Qualifying was at 11.00 so after helping Hearty get the spare car ready and topping my own up with petrol we headed down to the paddock.

I qualified -amazingly- in 4th, exactly where I wanted to be – Not getting Involved!! Robbie Allen was on pole, David Parks 2nd, Hearty 3rd and Kevin, who was having a few problems, was in 8th. I had a chat to all the lads, told them again I wouldn’t get in the way and wished them all the best of luck. Last thing I remember saying to Formula Vee driver Ivan Casey, when he wished me luck before the race, was ‘ Sure the best I can do is finish 4th’.

We did our warm up lap, got in our grid positions and with a good start I leaped ahead of Hearty while Kevin got an amazing start coming up from 8th to 5th. David Parks had a spin entering the first corner, in his words ‘the car bounded me off like a pogo stick’. Robbie got a little bit of a break so that left me in 2nd, Hearty in 3rd and Kevin in 4th with a 5 second lead on Dan Mulligan in 5th.

So what do you do, pull out of the way and the let the championship contenders pass? Or do you race?! I looked in my mirror, saw Hearty’s eyes and when I realised he was going for it, as a big thank you to him and Kevin for all their help, I did what any other driver would do… I locked my visor closed and thought ‘Let’s be havin’ ya!’ We battled lap after lap Hearty trying to pass me while Kevin was trying to pass him.

Now, just so you know, we had all worked out where everyone had to finish for the championship. Kevin needed to finish 4th ahead of Hearty, Robbie needed them both to NOT finish and all Hearty basically had to do was cross the finish line.

Then, in lap 9 of a 12 lap race, Hearty ducked up the inside of me at ‘Debters‘, I was trying to go wide when the inevitable happened, my car got a wobble on it and stepped out, and all I know is at a very high rate of speed me and Hearty had our first inncident!!! I glanced to my left and saw him spin off into the distance. I was nearly sick in my own helmet. I decided to continue on back around, hoping and praying that he wasn’t standing there waiting to kill me. Turns out he wasn’t! All I could hope was he was still in the race somewhere. Meanwhile Kevin is all over my gearbox like a man possessed, he did move after move and I thought ‘In for a penny in for a pound!.’ After nearly crushing him into the barrier on the main straight we crossed the line three hundred thousandths of a second apart.

Now comes the slow down lap, usually a happy time.. Not for f*cking me!! I was trying to act all normal when Kevin drove up beside me with the thumbs up and I was thinking ‘if I drive down the back straight, ask the marshals to open the gate, maybe I can just drive back to Dublin and not have to face the music!

Back in the scrutiny bay lots of people were congratulating me over not being out in two years and what a great race I had, Kevin was thinking he may have won the championship and there was still no sign of Brian Hearty. Seconds felt like hours when he eventually arrived in and when I ran over he pulled off his gloves and helmet saying ‘That’s it Keith, it’s over, it’s lost,’ greeted by my ‘I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’

Just in front of Brian Hearty. Photo: Con Connolly

Scrutineer Gerry Kehoe wanted to do some checks which gave me time to leave to get tools. Where I actually ran was straight to David Sheane asking him ‘ Did you work out the championship points?.’ All he wanted to do was congratulate me on a great race so rudely I shouted ‘Who F*cking Won!!.’

Turns out Brain Hearty had by two points to Kevin who had come second by two points to Robbie Allen. Lads I tell you, I couldn’t have run any faster back to tell Hearty he was Champ!

Leaving Hearty to enjoy his moment, I headed back to load up the cars, and after a few nervous calls home to the missus and such I went back over to Hearty to see a big smile as he stuck out his hand to me saying ‘What the f*ck were we at?.’

Luckily it finished how it was meant to be. We loaded up and headed home with me following David Sheane’s big green truck. Of course the drama didn’t end there, but I can’t tell you what happened on our detour through Banbridge and I can’t tell you what happened later on to Hearty either!

Since then Hearty and I have, over many phone calls, laughed about the weekend and we agree, we were like two stupid little tennagers!

But then you think about it, after 20 years of racing and 9 championships, at the end of the day, all the man wanted to do was race, he very nearly sacrificed the whole championship just to have one more good race!

If I’m lucky enough to still be racing with stats like his under my belt I hope I’ll be the same.

I’m planning on a full season in 2013 and looking forward to what will happen!

Thanks to everyone who helped, David Sheane, Kevin Sheane Jr., Hearty, Des and of course Therese!

See you all in 2013!

Keith Hogg

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