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Added: 07 Dec 2015 Category: Brian Racing
Swapping The Camera For the Steering Wheel - pt 2
Earlier in the year I posted a blog on how I’d wound up in autograss and how it was panning out up to that stage, which at that point it had been a bumpy start with car issues but we were starting to make some headway, although being competitive still looked a long way off.

My next outing since my last blog would have been at Causeway the weekend of Ipswich, but it was cancelled due to a fixture clash with something else and so my next outing bacame Down at the start of July. With new back shocks in and a few adjustments to the tyre pressures the car was now felt more competitive and after the heats Gary Grattan told me I was getting closer to Jonny and I’d soon be up challenging, I then went on to take my first final win in which other cars finished, but regardless of the result we’d had some good racing that day. Tullyroan was on the same evening, I spent the night explaining to people that I’d won and yes, Jonny had finished too.
The second day of the weekend was the first round of the NI Points series, this was something new to me, but basically it’s a four round series run across Down and Causeway tracks, at this point I just wanted to go racing and didn’t care too much whether it had been the National Championship or just a practice run round the field. Jonny won the opening heat after a decent scrap, I got into the lead in the second race, Jonny went around me on a faster outside line (the outside sometimes works on grass better than tar), I was in the process of going back around the outside when his car quit and I nearly went off into a field on the outside of him as he pulled out of the race. I won that race and then the final with no other finishers.

On the 15th of August I was the only car in my class and was put out with the class 1’s and I think class 2’s, that gave me something to race against, although as with most of the Saturday meetings I was just as happy keeping the wheels on the car to do Sunday without a lot of work on it overnight.

Sunday the 16th seen the best racing for our class we’d had up to that point and also the second round of the NI series. With a third car out (Andy Sizer), Jonny took heat one, I won heat two and the final was to be the best race I’ve been in so far, Andy got the best start and I got into second and spent a fair bit of the race going for a run around the outside, I got a better drive off the last bend and was alongside at the flag only losing by half a car length. The results gave me the top points score in the class on the day and extended my lead in the NI series. The race itself had left me buzzing and eager to race again, the points position had changed my perception on the NI series. The next round would be at Causeway a week later and the final round would be at Causeway the same week as the Superstox World, but I was in a position that if I went to Causeway and won all three races I could win the points without doing the final round….. it meant missing a meeting at Tullyroan but NIOvalTV had been having the sort of season that made it questionable whether it was worth continuing with anyway, so missing a meeting would be no biggy.

Although it may not be the Sprint Cup, the FIA F1 World Championship or indeed the NIOvalTV Series for Superstox, I’d still become quite consumed with winning the NI points series for that week between rounds 2 and 3. If I’d have been second or chasing the points I’d probably not have cared, but when it’s yours to lose that seems to change the mindset a bit and after the previous week’s final I just wanted to race again.
As is the format in local Autograss Causeway was running Saturday and Sunday that weekend. It was my plan to get the car ready on the Saturday and race on the Sunday. Saturday night/ Sunday morning brought with it heavy rain and the racing was cancelled. I’d got up early loaded the car up in the rain, had it sitting out in the street on the trailer and come in to get a cup of coffee and keep an eye on a facebook post on whether it was on or off, it was cancelled at around 8.45 I think, which had been the time I’d intended to leave and that was that, it stopped raining in Carrick shortly after and I unloaded the car in the dry and started charging batteries up to go to Tullyroan. The NI Series would have to wait.

Fast forward three weeks and the third round of the NI Series would now be held at Down on the 13th of September. The weekend was sandwiched into quite a busy period for me, it was the NHR weekend at DMC the weekend before, I was going to the F1 world weekend the week after and it was the Superstox world the week after that, between doing DVDs and programmes I didn’t know one day from the next at one stage. It had been a decent week weather wise in the run up to the meeting and I’d talked a few people into going. I wasn’t as buzzing about chasing the NI Points but I was quite enthusiastic about the weekend ahead and the points scenario remained that if I could win all three races I could still secure the NI points.
The Thursday night before the racing came and on the basis of a forecast for heavy rain the racing cancelled and put back a week.. Not only was I deflated from a point of view of being ready to go and it called off at the last minute, but now it was even moved to a weekend I couldn’t make, which was further disappointment,only made worse by the fact it turned out to be a nice weekend, I went to a tractor run and working day instead.

Although the Adult Specials at Down was (at the time of writing) the third biggest class in terms of drivers having raced, I’d still finished enough races more than anyone else to be able to win the Club points for the class just by Jonny not being able to attend the new fixture as he was with me at the F1 world. It’s not really how I want to win or lose anything and still doesn’t seem like much of a triumph being 1st in a class of 5, but it’s better than being 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th.

Word came through to us at Northampton that Andy hadn’t raced the 3rd round of the NI series, so that left me 21 points ahead of Andy with 20 to race for at the Causeway weekend that clashed with the Superstox World final, I knew Jonny couldn’t race at that either so that was the NI points series in the bag too……. I’d have thought….. but no, autograss fixtures in Northern Ireland apparently are a bit ad-hoc, the NI Series round was switched from the 27th September to the 4th of October at Causeway and then switched from Causeway to Down, a fixtures a couldn’t make and although I didn’t know it at the time it was a fixture that could have cost me the Club points as well as the NI Points, if it had of I would without a shadow of a doubt have sold up and have been looking at a Superstox in my garden by now.

My final Autograss meeting of the season was on the 3rd of October, going into the meeting it was billed as “3rd of October was club points, 4th of October was NI Points”. Going by the website I was enough points clear going into the 3rd of October to win the Club points and I was off to Lanzarote on the 4th so I was only there to make up the numbers and have a drive round….. I thought. I think I was third of three in heat one, second of three in heat two and a tie bar broke on the back of the car in the final and ended up sitting watching it before being towed off. Job done, club points won, it made no difference……
With the last round of the NI Series on the 4th of October I led the points going into it, but since I wasn’t there my only way to win it would be if Jonny had a DNF, he knew that too, so cruised around to 3 second places and he won the NI Points by a point. While sitting awaiting an airport transfer from Arreciffe Airport to Puerto Del Carmen I got a message from Jonny saying they were awarding club points, this prompted some on the spot sums to take place and having added it up 3 or 4 times I figured I was still club points champion by half a dozen points or so. A title each seemed acceptable and I got on with my holidays.

A few weeks on from the end of the season though it turned out that a weekend had been missed from our points chart, I’d only won the club points by a single point. If I’d have known it was that close I’d have crossed the line on the last Saturday’s final with a wheel off just to get the points, and if Jonny had have known it was that close he’d no doubt have pushed harder at the final meeting to get a win.

Despite the ups and downs of the season I’ve enjoyed my racing, I enjoy making progress, learning a bit about setup even if it was only messing around with tyre pressures, doing a bit of car prep and the racing itself and all that comes with it. I’m still very much a novice at all of it, but it’s a constant learning curve and still a new challenge.

For most of the season I couldn’t get a picture of me racing, Chris Sharp took and sent me some photos from a meeting and I got my wife to take a few photos at another, but it made me realise the importance of what I do at Stock Car racing.

The Autograss season ended with a prizegiving, a decent feed and a nice night out with the Grattans and Teggarts.

That was followed up with an outing in the Retro Rallycross on a horrible horrible day, I was almost glad when the car quit on my first run and I could get it onto the trailer and head home.

For a while I’d been quite undecided on what to do in 2016. I’d found the fixture cancellations frustrating, I’m normally flat out busy for most of stockcar season so it’s frustrating to work your commitments around something that then doesn’t happen, then again there’ll be days like the Rallycross day when you’d rather it was cancelled than be stood in a field getting drowned and just wishing it was over. I’d like to race at more tracks while I have the car and see more parts of the country so it makes a bit of sense to do the All Ireland Series, but it’s three rounds, you must race all three and the dates for 2016 clash with the Stock Rod world, a DMC weekend and the Superstox world, all meetings I’d wanted to go to. I’ve spent a lot of time pondering a Superstox or even racing Grass and a Superstox, but I couldn’t race a super and spend the hours I do on NIOvalTV or sorting photos and promotional stuff and I’ve still much to learn about running a race car, but I think a cross roads looms in the next few years, time will tell…..

A quick photoshoot for the car in July. I still haven't done much with the pics

One of Chris Sharp's Photos

All set for Causeway the day it was rained off

Down Points Champion trophies for my class

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