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Added: 12 Nov 2017 Category: Brian Racing
Swapping the Camera for the Steering Wheel - Season 3 (pt 1)
It's hard to believe that I’ve been racing for 3 seasons already and yet still hard to understand why I hadn’t been on the track sooner, although I think it was a case of the right class, at the right money at the right time and lots of cogs aligning to get me started and things have just fallen into place beyond that. In 2017 I made my tarmac debut and went on to buy a Superstox, it wasn’t really planned, but it’s how things worked out. I also decided at the start of the year I’d write this piece as the season went along, so you’ll notice the tone changes as the grass season progressed.

The F1200 class I race in had been growing and raising interests throughout 2016 when the club points went to the last day of racing between myself and Jerome Lynch. There was a possibility of selling my car and getting a new one which served to both add another car to the class but also got me my own new car, it’ll probably be the one and only time I have a completely new car so I may as well have taken the opportunity. It got Darren Pearson out on track with us too, we’ve been going on stockcar trips together for over 10 years now, so it was good to have him onboard.

For 2017 there was a requirement that all Autograss cars needed tagged, a sort of intense scrutineering checking the thickness of the metal used in the car and the construction. Tagging fell at a bad time for my new car being ready and meant it was sitting in sheds here and there and not getting finished and painted quite in time for a planned trip to Carlow I’d hoped to start the season with, it seemed a minor irritation at the time, but looking back it was perhaps the beginning of what was to become a very frustrating year in Autograss.

The car got it’s debut at the first weekend at Down Autograss over the Easter Weekend, flying out of the traps and leading the first race when the fuel pump played up and the car quit, it was an encouraging start but put no points on the board. Patched up and going again it was back on the grid for heat 2, I got a good start but arrived at the first corner with a flag marshall moving a red flag which I took to being waved and I slowed down the straight being passed and only got back on the gas at the end of the straight, the race hadn’t been stopped, I’d lost too much time though and had to settle for second. Another second place in heat three followed before the first win for the new buggy in the final.

Easter Sunday seen two more cars out in the class and took place in damper slipperier conditions, something I hadn’t excelled in previously. When it’s muddy and your behind it’s hard to see in Autograss, a second in the opening heat was followed up with me taking the lead and getting the clear track in the third heat only for a tie bar on the back end to bend and put me out from the lead, the second DNF from a winning position. With the tie bar patched up two third places followed in the remaining heat and final as I tried to nurse the car home and just get the points on the board. At the end of the opening weekend I was trailing Jonny Teggart by 11 points in the class points and the new car had already clocked up as many DNF’s in one weekend as the previous one had in two seasons.

Fast forward to the May weekend and heavy rain during the week and heavy rain forecast on the Saturday seen the Saturday’s racing called off to preserve the track for Sunday’s national qualifier. As it was a National qualifier there was only 2 heats and a final, myself and Jonny won a heat each with me taking the final, closing the gap to 9 points at the end of the day, but another frustrating weekend we only got half the racing we should have.

With June the 1st the recognised start of British summer time, by the June weekend over the 10th and 11th there hadn’t been a single dry day, Saturday’s racing was in doubt but went ahead despite heavy showers overnight and the track was in good condition and the sun was out all day, I even got sunburnt.
The car was on rails on Saturday, Heat 1 was dry, my sort of conditions, which I won, heat 2 the track had been watered just before us, I ran the car right out to the edge of the track and took the win, probably my first in slippery conditions and probably my most rewarding to date, heat 3 was slippery but my confidence was up and I ran the wide line again for the win. A clean sweep was on, I didn’t get the best of starts in the final but Jonny’s wheel fell off on the first lap and the race was stopped, surely from there it was just a formality? No, not quite, on the line for the restart the car quit and wouldn’t jump start, my day was done and Darren Pearson took his first final win in my old car, leading home Gerard Darragh who was doing his first weekend in the buggy. As soon as my car was towed it started, the clean sweep just wasn’t to be.

The second day of the June weekend and the weather caught up with us, I won a dry opening race then in monsoon like conditions had a moment around a cone in the second heat before the racing was called off for the day. At the end of the weekend the points lead had swung and I now had a 2 point advantage.

The July meeting that would have clashed with the Ipswich Speedweekend and Goodwood, two other places I’d have liked to have been, was called off due to heavy rain during the week. I can accept racing on grass leaves you in the hands of the weather but it frustrates the life out of me when you look at the club’s private facebook page after the decision to cancel a meeting and instead of finding posts from like minded people who want to get out racing as soon as possible again it’s instead filled with reasons why we can’t race the next week, or the week after, or the week after that, “I’m on holiday”, “There is a BAS Round and a small number of drivers who don’t race regularly at the club are going to it”, “That’s the week before Nationals, people need that weekend to get ready”. Every meeting cancelation is followed up with a few days of dilemna of whether to just sell the car and switch to tar, not because of the cancellation itself but the negativity that follows it, it’s not my way of thinking at all. As PR Officer for the club (at the time) it makes it a tough sell, “Come to Autograss, it’s a really cheap way to get into motorsport, as long as you don’t mind the interests of a few people who don’t actually race much with us being put ahead of the interests of all the club members who want to race”.

After the cancellation of the King of Down weekend in July it was to be rescheduled to the August weekend, I’d put that on the website when I was given that instruction at the time, but once I did a bit of artwork for facebook on the Wednesday ahead of the racing then it was decided that it wouldn’t be the King of Down and the bickering began on the club’s private facebook page, me being hung out to dry as PR Officer for the club, coupled with the long break since the last meeting my patience was already starting to wear very thin with Autograss. The August weekend for me also consisted of a balancing act of going to Rosemount for the the Vintage show on the Friday and taking in Tullyroan on the Saturday night. It turned out to be a weekend that if everything went right it was all do-able and when everything started going wrong then things changed. Our opening heat on the Saturday was on a dry track, I took the win, a race ahead of our second heat the track was watered, in slippery conditions I took my second win of the day, although a few of us felt the race was a lap short. Ahead of the third heat the track was heavily watered, I got a bad start off gate 8 when the car bogged down a bit, I got from fourth to second and thought I’d taken the win on the last lap only to find I’d missed the chequered flag and I’d taken the lead on the lap after it, which I also thought was a lap short, but second it was. Doing a full day of racing is something my buggy seems to have taken exception to, in the 5 previous days of racing it had done four races once and the final was to join the list of incomplete days when the stub axle sheared on the outside front wheel, although I did manage to do half a lap before realising I’d lost a wheel!! I thought I just had a bit of a nose push, then I wondered why the brakes when to the floor before eventually peering over the steering wheel to realise there was no outside front wheel, at which point my train of thought changed to “when did that come off” and “I hope that didn’t go over a hedge, how will I find it?”

With the wheel recovered and re-untied with the car Gary Grattan took the bits away and patched them up for the Sunday and we were good to go again. As I sat getting ready in the car out went the water tanker ahead of our race, as I sat there I pondered just driving the car round and putting it on the trailer, perhaps I should have, but I didn’t so another wet race it was to be, another poor start left me third and after nearly driving into Gerard Darragh twice when I couldn’t get my goggles cleaned quick enough, fed up with the conditions I dropped off the back while I took my goggles off and finished about half a lap back, playing in the mud instead. Having had enough of the mud bath for the weekend I drove the car straight off the track and onto the trailer, weekend done, Autograss racing for me finished as far as I was concerned. What had started as just wanting to go racing and get away from all the things I do at Stockcar racing, had become going racing and trying to do all the things I do at Stockcar racing for Autograss as well. As I sat in the car ready to go out I was already in a fed up state of mind, it dawned on me I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and I’ve no regrets about putting the car on the trailer. Up to this season I’d enjoyed my time in Autograss, oddly I enjoyed it even more at times this season with myself, Darren and Jonny all racing, but the tagging fiasco that made me miss Carlow, the dropped meetings, the bickering on facebook, the being hung out to dry as the PR Officer everytime a decision was made and finally the bog like conditions we were getting to race in were all eating away at me and I just lost the rag with it.

In the days that followed that meeting a combination of luck and chance through up a few curve balls. Having got home early and posted a pic on facebook I suggested it was time to sell up and look for a Superstox, more out of frustration that expectation that I was going to buy a Superstox, but that comment led to Adrian McKinstry offering me a run out in his Superstox, which after a few messages back and forth was then arranged for the following weekend at Aghadowey. Then as a further twist I was having trouble selecting first gear in the buggy, I’d traced this back to the knuckle on the top of the selector but couldn’t figure out why it would have changed, not until I’d it on the trailer to take to Gary Grattan to have a look at when I realized the car had broken an engine mount and the engine was sitting about an inch and a half forward which caused the gear selection issue. So although I left the track at Down with a sour taste in my mouth and chose to miss the rest of the days racing, it wouldn’t have mattered, I’d soon have realised I couldn’t have gone on anyway, all that had changed was my state of mind and an opportunity had arisen to race a Superstox.

The new buggy under construction

Painted and being prepped for it's first outing

Race Action from June (Jeffery Parish Photo)

Battling round the Outside (Jeffery Parish Photo)

Clean for a dry day? (Jeffery Parish Photo)

Last race on track before the day was cancelled (Jeffery Parish Photo)

On the trailer after a wet meeting in June

Home after a dry day's meeting in August

Aftermath of cleaning the buggy

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