Testing Times- with Barry Rabbitt.

February 24, 2013 by Barry Rabbitt  

It’s  been a busy few weeks for me in my Race2Race.com role of tutor and mentor. For  those of you unaware I am involved in the Race2Race.com competition which each  year gives one lucky and talented winner the oppurtunity to race a saloon car  with all expenses paid. 2012 was the first year of the competition and South  Dublin novice John Greaney, 21, not only took the competition prize but went on  to win the ITCC Touring Title his first ever year of racing!

Following this success John has received quite a bit of publicity and was  even named alongside BTCC race winner Aaron Smith as a finalist in The Echo  sports-person of the year awards recently. This publicity has allowed John to  raise a budget to continue his career in motorsport.

Originally the plan was to contest the 2013 Elf Renualt Clio Cup  Championship which supports the BTCC. A test was arranged with 2012 champions  Pyro Motorsport at Donington Park and myself and John jumped on a flight to the  UK. My role for the testday was to set a baseline time and provide tuition to  John over the day. After many years of watching the Clios I was delighted to  finally get the opportunity to get behind the wheel. Despite tricky wet weather  conditions John got to grips with the factory built race machines quickly and  was inside top 10 pace by the end of the day. The attraction to race in the  prestigious championship was great but we felt that having to learn the UK  circuits in such a high end championship may not be wise so we began looking for  a suitable training ground.

I have  a few friends in the UK who race in the BRSCC Mazda MX5 series and everyone of  them had nothing but high praise for the series and cars so we set up a test  with championship front runners TrackToys Racing in one of their cars at  Donington just before Christmas. While there was no rain that day the cold  conditions meant that the track was completely iced over and the test day could  not begin until the midday sun began to thaw out the black ice. I drove the car  quite a bit that day myself and was blown away by what fun these relatively  modest machines delivered. With ‘only’ 130bhp on tap and threaded tyres they  really should not be so good but the chassis delivers up an incredibly addictive  recipe that mixes just the right amount of power and grip. By the end of the day  myself and John were sold and a deal was done to purchase the car we had tested.  Modest running costs and entries that sometimes exceed 100 cars means that the  MX5 series is the ideal place for a novice driver to learn his craft. In many  ways it reminded me of my own ‘training’ in Fiat Unos at Mondello were 40-50  cars would regularly enter, which incidently I hope the new Mondello Fiesta  Zetec series can emulate.

The MX5 which 2012 Race2Race winner & ITCC Champion Greaney will race in 2013. Image from

The MX5 which 2012 Race2Race winner & ITCC Champion Greaney will race in 2013. Image from Tony Harrison

Last  Saturday we did a test day at Rockingham in the MX5 and once again John got to  grips relatively quickly with a new circuit and made continuous improvement  throughout the day to set times that should put him on the fringes of the top 10  in this incredibly competitive series. As I write this I am just home from  testing the car at an opentrack.co.uk track day at Oulton Park on Friday,  unfortunately John was unable to make the test due to work commitments so I was  dispatched to drive the car as Track Toys had a number of their regular drivers  in attendance and it would be the ideal opportunity to compare the new car to  known quantities and tweak the set up slightly. Having only driven the shorter  Fosters layout of Oulton a good number of years ago while racing the Punto  Abarths I was really looking forward to giving the full International loop a  try. After countless laps I can honestly say that the Cheshire circuit is firmly  at the top of my favourite circuit list – though tied with the original  Nurburgring!

With a  few weeks until the first race of the season for John I must now turn my  attention back to this years Race2Race competition which is looking for its 2013  driver who can hopefully follow our 2012 winner into an exciting life as a fully  funded racing driver!

Barry

The  2013 Race2Race takes place at Kylemore Karting on March 21st. Tickets are priced  at €170 and are available from www.therace2race.com


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