On Yer Bike: The Formula Vee Festival
August 10, 2012 by Cregor Elliott
A welcome return to Mondello Park calendar this year was the Vee Festival or the Dunlop / Total Oils Formula Vee Festival supporting Barretstown to give it it’s correct title having last been run in 2005. I had a hand in organising that one, and was up to my neck in it this time too. The weekend kicked off at Saturday lunchtime following open testing during the morning so I arrived with Bob shortly after high noon and the paddock was already looking good. Finol had their area set up just over the bridge including the F1 simulator and youths were already having a go of it.
First on the agenda for me was to get a look at the program. I’d put a lot of hours into it during the week and even after I’d dropped it into the printers was struck by several moments of panic that I’d omitted something or made an error only for a check of the whiteboard or files to set my mind at ease. I wasn’t disappointed when I saw the real thing and was sure the paddock people would like it too.
I had a few short meetings with people on festival matters so that they were clear on their assigned roles for the weekend, Tadhg wanted me to whisper in his ear which of the Leastones had the Park engine but I stuck my tongue in it and told him nothing. I was working my way around the paddock chatting to people and taking a few snaps when I heard the Vees being called for first race of the day so legged it down to Ford corner and watched Lee Newsome get himself back to winning at the head of a good sized grid. Back in the paddock there’s a bit of a panic about the grids for the Festival heats so I sit in with Paul Grogan as he sorts it out before handing them around to the drivers as his helper sorts out the officials. Three heats later with wins for Newosme, Allen and O’Riordan and the racing is done for the day. The winners get their prizes from Micks Garage on the podium. I’ve never seen James O’Riordan out of the car and am thinking to myself who’s this as he heads up to collect his award.
Paul and Ivan sort out the semi-final grids and I deliver them around to the drivers in the paddock stopping to chat especially to some of the drivers that haven’t been out all season. The bar opens and we head in for the dinner that the Mondello cantine are doing; seeing that I’m starving it goes down well. A couple of beers later and we’re ready for the auction. Master of ceremonies Leo does a great job, keeps the crowd both entertained and amused while having them reaching deep into their pockets and therefore adding 2.5k to the pot for Barretstown.
Several beers later and after what seems to be a lot of requests from the barstaff to go; we leave the bar, fair play to them for putting up with us for so long. I remember a quick pitstop for a can with someone on the way to an actual bed and I’m out for the count.
The Globals are being called for qualifying when I awake on Sunday and the head isn’t the best. I get a coffee in the tower and check the track team menu; chicken tortillias, steak burger or spicy couscous with corn on the cob and go to install a couple of onboard cameras stopping for a jam tart and some solphodine on the way. The tablets work their magic and by the time the cameras are I’m feeling slightly better. I chance a breakfast and feel a new man after it. The paddock is starting to fill up by midmorning, which is great to see. The bouncy castle and face painters arrive for the kids and the simulator is doing a steady trade. Everything looks peachy.
I catch the few races that are before lunch before heading back to the paddock. The lads from Eircooled.com take to the track for a few demo laps. Most impressive is one of the cars that is towing a caravan. My mate arrives with the family so I get the kids into a few cars ensuring they have balloons and stickers to get them through the afternoon.
The Festival semi-finals are first up after lunch and unlike the Olympics there are only two. I watch Newsome take the first one and am under the impression O’Hara the second. I take a few photos of the drivers from the bank overlooking the scruting bay and when I’m finished Max hands me out a burger from the Globals BBQ. I visit the tower after the race Leo tells me Campbell had won after O’Hara slowed on the last lap and dispatches me to the LOH Motorsport truck to find out why. I’m amazed when Kevin actually tells me he slowed up for a better chance in the final with the reverse grid. Perhaps he’s tired of the ‘Johnny tight lips’ moniker; smart thinking all the same. ‘and he told you this’ was Leo’s response on the phone ‘out of his own mouth’ I replied.
When the draw is made and 8 comes out to reverse the grid leaving Robert Casey on pole from Dan Polley. Paul and Ivan work out the grid positions and I bring it to the tower for inputting into the timing system. I take the opportunity to go out onto the roof of the tower and have a look around. It’s mid-afternoon the paddock is swarming with people, the grandstand is full, and the place is generally buzzing. I think to myself what a good job the committee has done.
I deliver the grids around the paddock and wish the drivers the best for the final before heading to Ford corner for the race. O’Hara takes the win in impressive style from Newsome. I move corners for the ITCC race before heading back the podiums. Bob hands out the trophies for the semi finals while Emma Conroy of Barretstown does the final. The winners from the ITCC collect their awards and that brings down the curtain on a brilliant festival weekend.