Leinster Trophy with Formula Sheane
September 21, 2012 by Leo
Well, as well as a race report, I thought I would do a blog of my own weekend, just for a change. I have not raced all year, and the commentary and Motorsport.ie have kept me busy. In the week coming up to the Leinster Trophy it began to sink in how big this was, both for myself and for the class.. A few weeks earlier, I had the brainwave of buying a Formula Sheane, through the site, and running someone in the car. I looked around but the cars have (rightly) climbed significantly in value since the start of the year so I thought I had abandoned the idea. The phone rang on Tuesday night and it was Michael Rice. His car had been lying in the shed for over three years and he wanted to see it back out so a deal was struck, sight unseen. BTCC driver Aron Smith tested a Sheane earlier in the year and has made no secret of his desire to have another go but he was unable to test so that was that. I didn’t have to rack the grey mattter too hard before my old Scally Rally buddy Barry Rabbitt came to mind. Barry had also tested a Sheane and enjoyed it earlier in the season but more importantly, he had been right on the pace, on old tyres. Unsurprisingly, he did not take much persuasion and the next morning he was despatched in a Dundalk direction, trailer in tow, to collect the car. His initial report was that the chassis and important bits were perfect but the bodywork was pretty rough. Considering the, how shall I put this,” gentle persuasion”, I have used to coax the drivers to clean up their cars this year, I knew that just had to be sorted. Rathcoole Motor Factors came up trumps with a service kit so Barry got to work. All fluids and filters were changed and new Avon Tyres were ordered for the weekend. Barry was due in the Uk on the Thursday so Gilmartin Motorsport stepped in and did some of the service work as well as a basic setup. Barry tested on the Friday (bodywork still untouched & me the subject of some gentle ribbing from the paddock comedians!) Tristan Quinn, who had obviously done lots of work on the car in the weeks leading up to the event, was flying, just a few tenths off lap record pace. Kevin Sheane was next up with Brian Hearty right there too. Barry was in and out of the pits making changes and then banged in a few quick laps, his best being a 1:48.2, which seemed to have him second or third quickest- on Michael Rice’s three year old tyres! anyway, long story short, the car was cleaned up, the bodywork vinyl wrapped and signwritten and Barry drove superbly to come second in the big race! This despite the fact that his newly ordered Avons were sold to someone else on the Friday night by the suppliers.
From my point of view, the whole Formula Sheane thing kept me rushed off my feet all weekend. To all those who I rushed past without saying hello, I am sorry! Frame It Productions were hired to cover the Leinster Trophy race and as part of the deal, in order to keep costs down, I had to direct, interview, present etc so that kept me busy for quite a while. Luckily Aron Smith’s girlfriend Lauren Taylor was on hand to help. Not only is Lauren “not unattractive”, as BTCC commentator Alan Hyde said, but she is also great fun and she did some fantastic pieces with the drivers. She also referred to Séan Doyle as being “as cute as a button”- do not miss this race when it is aired!
(Probably midctoberon Setanta and Motors TV) Cregor supplied the onboards but most drivers had cameras so there should be plenty of good footage from them too. We also decided, for the first time, to review the race afterwards with a panel of experts on hand. I recruited Aron Smith, Cregor Elliot and Clerk of the Course for the weekend Mark Kelly. It might end up on the cutting room floor, I haven’t seen it yet but suffice it to say we had good fun! Kevin Sheane Junior was pretty much untouchable all weekend. Tristan Quinn seemed to match him for pace but had reliabity issues, whilst debutant upstarts Sean Doyle and Barry Rabitt were slowed by a misfire and lack of balance respectively. Despite this, they performed superbly. Kevin drives the Sheane in a manner which has been described as beng similar to how one would drive a forestry Mk2 Escort. Usually, that is great to watch but not so good iterms of laptimes. not in young Sheane’s case though- he is rarely off the front row of the grid and was a hugely popular Leinster Trophy winner. As an aside, The first ever Irish Formula Vee race was also won by a Sheane driving a Sheane so it was a case of history repeating itself, over 35 years later!!
Championship frontrunners Brian Hearty and Robbie allen also hit trouble in the big race, s Sheane now finds himself back in with a shout for the 2012 Formula Sheane title despite his early season woes. The final round is on the 6th of October and Hearty holds a slender lead but it is anyones title. Don’t miss it!