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Added: 28 Nov 2018 Category: Brian Racing
Swapping the Camera for the Steering Wheel - Season 4 - pt1
Since my last meeting of 2017, at Gala night, the Superstox had continued to be busy, racing at the November meeting, Tullyroan Christmas meeting and the February meeting. The November meeting was a week after my son was born, and we had tickets for Queen at the Odyssey and wouldn’t have been attending that meeting anyway. I’d half a notion of doing the Christmas meeting but I was still admiring a ripped timing belt, by February I’d got the car signwritten by Gary Jackson and Mervyn McReynolds had fixed the mess I’d made from changing a timing belt myself and had rushed to have the car ready, for which I’m grateful, but I still had a bit I wanted to do with the car before getting it back out and so skipped the Feb meeting too.

So after countless hours or painting, changing tyres, patching this and fixing that, the car was ready for the first practice day at Aghadowey. On a bitterly cold day I arrived at Aghadowey and put in what I think was my first dry laps in the car. Unbeknown to me until the end of the practice I’d a buckled wheel and a bent half shaft which was causing me to have a lack of brakes, I knew I had a lack of brakes, I just didn’t know why. While I was nowhere near the pace of Sean Mark who was also out I hadn’t spun in practice so I seen that as progress.
Ahead of practice day two at Tullyroan I changed my first half shaft and swapped the rim back onto my good rims and tyres. I got my first dry laps around Tullyroan and I think went over a second faster than I’d gone on Gala night, it was still something like .6s off the pace but at least it wasn’t 1.6s off the pace, I’d no dramas and I was making progress.

Between the practice day and the first meeting of the season on Easter Saturday I serviced the Superstox for the first time, I should mention at this point I’d the batteries off to charge. As services go it can best be described as “I’ve learnt a few things not to do next time”, I placed the waste oil container under the sump bung and walked off, coming back to oil all over the place when it had run across the belly plate when the flow slowed. I stuck the filter on, changed the plugs, filled it with oil and left it be until it was going onto the trailer. Raceday came along, I loaded everything into the car and the trailer, put the batteries on the car, started it for the first time since it’s service and drove it onto the trailer leaving a trail of oil from the filter all the way from the driveway to the trailer, I’m writing this six months later and some of the trail is still there! It wasn’t a hard leak to find, but wasn’t easy to get at where the car sat on the trailer, so I left a second trail back to my driveway to try and fix it by tightening it. Happy I’d reduced the leak it was back onto the trailer and off to Tullyroan. After my first practice session I came in with a trail of oil behind me still coming from the filter. Gregg Hyndman kindly helped me out and established I’d left the seal off the first filter stuck on the block and it wasn’t sealing, fixed it and I was ready for Heat 1. Lesson learnt, it is possible to cock up changing an oil filter.

I’d been playing around with setups in practice and went out in the first heat with a very twitchy nervous car, once I’d pulled out of the way of everyone I seen the pack on front of me and tried to stay with it, which resulted in the car swapping ends going round turn 1 and ending up backwards in the wall, from where it wouldn’t start initially and I caused my first stoppage, when it decided it would start after all, always the way! Looking back there is a certain symmetry with how the year started and ended.
In heat two I went back to my practice day settings, even though I knew they were half a second too slow I felt it was better to have a car I could drive. I got an 8th of 9th place finish.
The final was a repeat of heat two when I got a 8th or 9th place finish, in the closing laps I was under pressure from Keith McAreavey who was a lap down from engine problems, initially I had decided I wasn’t giving up the track position but I was running out of arms and getting wilder and wilder around the corners, in the end I pulled out wide and let him go and then tried to stay with him and binned it on the last lap, I quickly rejoined to take the flag.
A week later and it was onto the second days racing of the season, and the second at Tullyroan. I’d made more setup changes that made the car feel better in practice. A shower between practice and the first heat gave me a bit of a dilemma as to what setup to run on, I hadn’t seen many people working at their cars in the pits and decided my best chance of getting any sort of result was to run whatever everyone else wasn’t, so I went for a wet setup. Fellow white grader James Turkington drove off and left me, which is becoming the norm, but after that I only dropped a few more spots and I thought I could be on for a half decent result, up until Lee Davison and Stephen Stewart went past me and I went out wide onto the wetter part of the track, lost the back end and binned it onto the grass where I got to watch the rest of the race from. The fourth meeting in a row I’ve failed to finish my first race.
Heat two went a bit better, back to a dry setup and more setup tweaks and a 9th place finish I think was my reward.
In the final I made more changes to my setup and the car felt better, I felt quicker in the earlier laps of the race until I went for a big slide which I don’t know if it was cause or effect of a puncture, or maybe I’d just burnt the outside back tyre up. After my slide I couldn’t get the car gripping in the bends and I slipped further and further into the clutches of the newcomer white roofs who’d started at the back, with a few laps to go Paddy Murphy hit me going into turn 3 and in trying to correct the car I went across the grass but spun round with the outside back tyre off the rim, which could have explained the handling in those latter laps. As I sat at the start line I crossed the line 2 laps down at the end but I think I was 11th or 12th, not classified anyway, a disappointing end to a race I thought I’d started well, but realistically probably no great change in the points I’d have picked up. I was encouraged by the pace I’d had early on in the race and hoped I’d broke a 15s lap, but when I looked at mylaps the next day I’d only been marginally quicker than I was on practice day, so a lot of changes for very little gain, but a gain none the less.

My next outing should have been the following week, but at that stage I was getting fed up standing in the shed changing tyres and some tubes I had on order didn’t arrive until the morning of the racing, if I really wanted to I could have made it out, but to be honest I just couldn’t be bothered putting the work in. It was also the first round of the NIOvalTV series and there was going to be some visiting drivers and looked like there could be a decent turnout of cars, great to watchbut completely useless if your s***e and you’re trying to pick up points, I’m racing on a “spend as little as you can” budget and it was really a case of choosing your battles.

A few weeks on and it was off to Aghadowey on May day. Things didn’t start well when I got my foot stuck under the brake and on the throttle in practice and ended up having a spin trying to go round the corner too hot while sorting my feet out. A back shock adjustment made the car feel better in the second practice and a front shock adjustment helped it feel even better in my third practice, I probably did more practice laps than race laps that day!
I sat on pole for heat one and led the field over the line for what I think was the first time, David Beattie pushed me wide in the first bend and I think Gareth Robinson got past too, they then squabbled a bit and I was catching them when the yellows came out four or five laps in. To this point pulling out of the way and letting everyone else go since they are faster was my tactic for not bringing the car home in a bin bag, but sitting third on a restart meant pulling wide probably meant you’d be collected by someone else who’d been fired out there, so I decided I was racing from here, I drove in as hard as I could and would have sworn I only got a touch from Cyril Hawe on the way back off the bend that spun the car round, but on watching the NIOvalTV footage there was no touch, I binned it all on my own, spun onto the infield and rejoined at the back. I was eager to keep going but the car was sliding about like I’d a puncture and I pulled off assuming that to be the case, only to find out I’d no puncture I’d just cooked the tyres up with my spin.
Heat two was a bit less dramatic, I started at the back of the whites and I think through other people spinning and crashing I got 7th, which I think was second last.
The final I started at the front and made my way backwards through the field until most of the field was through mid race when another outside back puncture seen me retire to the infield. The second meeting final in a row and only the two finishes in two meetings. Somewhat fed up with it I put the car straight onto the trailer rather than change the wheel for the Dash4Cash race. As if my days racing wasn’t bad enough I got home to find I’d bust a shock and there was oil the length of the trailer, and a day later the car was sitting with another flat tyre, another puncture. Another night that all the prep work is going to be changing tyres and tubes.

The Shamwreck meeting was the first meeting I decided I could photo and race at the same meeting, as one of the “big” meetings of the year I didn’t want to miss photoing it. The plan of taking photos and racing on the same day lasted for one banger race then I spun the Superstox in heat one and it covered itself with oil somewhere in that transition. The car then went onto the trailer after the first heat before a chat with Adam Lockhart talked some sense into me and it was back off the trailer and setting about finding out where the oil was coming from. Two last car running or there abouts finishes then followed and I watched a bit of racing inbetween. There was a bit of an epiphany that day that I was putting too much pressure on myself to do well and the whole concept of enjoying what I was doing. At the time the two finishes after I would have been loaded up seems refreshing and something to build on.

Between the Shamwreck meeting and the next Superstox meeting I had a run out in my Autograss car which was finally patched up and running. Full of confidence my extra racing experience in the Super would help me when the All Ireland Series came to Down Autograss I set off in search of Silverware, the car is quick, I know the track well, there was top 3 trophies and about half a dozen cars, it should have been all straight forward, I expected to be in the hunt for the win!. The buggy had other ideas, it flooded and spluttered round the opening heat, it cleared itself in the second heat but I spun and my recovery drive only got me a second or third. It was bad again in the third heat and despite half the pits’ best efforts it was no better in the fourth heat on Sunday. Between races I was moved from taking photos which I’d been doing between racing where I’d normally stand and with that I decided I was done with Autograss at Down. I’m grateful for everyone who helped me during my time and journey through Autograss, I’d some great times in it, but I was never sure my face fitted with some and I don’t have the time or the interest to change that, I’ve made enough friends and enemies down the years to not really care if people like me.

Breaking with tradition, when the mid June meeting came along I found myself a bit of wall to bounce off, but after a moment to straighten my glasses that had come off and pull my visor up again and restart the car I continued and actually recorded an opening heat finish, albeit a lap or two down. I went about finishing heat two and the final before spinning in the Grand National which I was going quite well in but I recovered to still finish, I think possibly the first night I’d finished every race in my own car.

How things looked at the end of 2017

The "how hard can it be to change a timing belt?" day....

.... OK, it's that hard

Car stripped ready to go and be signed

Top Signwork by Gary Jackson (Gary Jackson Pic)

(Gary Jackson Pic)

Getting ready for a bit of practice

First Practice at Tullyroan (John Wolsey Pic)

What happens when you don't take the belly plate off to drain the oil

One of the many reasons you should check the seal is off the old oil filter before putting a new one on

In action at Aghadowey on May Day (I think) (Chris Sharp Pic)

Dropping off David Beattie and Gareth Robinson at Aghadowey (Chris Sharp Pic)

Always a nice surprise to come home and find something else is bust you didn't know about, in this case a shock

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