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Added: 26 Feb 2020 Category: Brian Racing
Swapping the Camera for the Steering Wheel - Season 5 - 2019
Throughout my first full season in the Superstox my default train of thought with the car had been to return it to the setup it had when I bought it, in fact my own slant on that was to have the outside front shock one click harder than the way I bought the car, everything else I just set back to the way I had it. At this stage I should point out there was things I didn’t think to measure until the car had been “knocked”, so some of those defaults were guess work. Over the winter a number of rules changes came into effect on the Superstox, for me I needed new back pads and discs and the anti roll bar to come off the front, but others had more to change. The change in rules meant my default settings were no longer an option and I’d have to start thinking a bit more about my setup, I’d have no choice to try different things.

Armed with a season of inherited knowledge and having spent most of the winter asking questions I’d arrived at the first practice day at Aghadowey with the car on new front springs and a setup I thought I could work with. It turned into a horrible day and someone had put oil down just before I arrived, the car was very twitchy and was trying to swap ends on the brakes, all that I learnt from the day was that my new setup was terrible in the wet, really terrible.

A week later was the Tullyroan practice day and it turned out to be dry. Having made only one small change from the previous week the car felt better but tailly. I was parked beside the Grattans and Denver suggested a change on the shocks and it made it much better. The car then developed a miss and I didn’t learn much the rest of the day. Gary Grattan later set the carb and took the car for a few laps and said it was handling OK, so I felt I’d made progress, he also went a tenth faster than me in practice so I new there was more I could be getting out of the car too.

The Superstox season kicked off in March and with a low turnout of cars at Aghadowey I’d three finishes, two of which were last but in the final I was staying with Paddy Murphy and probably for the first time in a Superstox I felt I was actually racing someone, so it was a last place finish, but it was last with the car on front just out of striking distance, maybe even in striking distance if I’d been a bit braver, still it felt like progress was being made.

The first Tullyroan meeting of the year was on the 20th of April, I picked up an 11th in heat one, went out of heat two early with an oil pressure problem and got a tenth in the final.

Back to back Aghadowey meetings on the 27th of April and the 6th of May brought about 5 finishes from 5 starts and only one spin, all top tens, the one blot on the copy book being a missed heat when I overtightened the oil filter before heat two on the sixth and ended up with oil pouring out of it.

A return to Tullyroan on the 11th of May brought about a meeting to forget, a puncture took me out of the opening heat, I bounced off the wall into the side of Stephen Stewart turning him on the back straight and the car splutter to another DNF after the impact, then in the final it became obvious I’d bust a shock in the incident and the car wouldn’t handle which setup another non finish.

While getting the car ready for the Tullyroan meeting on the 2nd of June I noticed there was a bit of a leak of diff oil and decided to tighten the nuts of the diff, this led to me over tightening them and snapping a few. I ordered new nuts off ebay and a gasket off TMR, the nuts arrived, the gasket was Out of stock on my order and to follow, still no sign (8 months later at the time of writing). I left the car to the day before to accept I was going to have to use instant gasket to seal it and I made hard work out of doing it and in the end the car wasn’t ready until about 3 days after the meeting, so I missed the opening round of the NIOvalTV series and settled for taking photos.

Three weeks on and I’d one of those days from the off. I scraped my eye with my contact lenses in on the Friday night, when I got up my eye was stinging and I couldn’t keep it open for any length of time, so I decided from that point I’d not be going racing. Then the eye drops I put in helped it and I thought I’d give it as long as I could to make a decision and I’d start loading the car up in the hope my eye cleared up. With the car packed, trailer on and only the Superstox to put onto the trailer I decided I was going racing, but the Superstox had other ideas, it wouldn’t start, I set about trouble shooting everything, plugs out, wiring checked, black box checked, leads checked, jump pack tried, batteries checked, fuel level checked, carb checked to make sure it was getting fuel, plugs taken out again to make sure I hadn’t flooded it, everything I could check not to have to change the starter if I didn’t have to….. So you can guess what the problem was…. The starter. While all this happened the time ticked by, I’d already left it late to be loading up so it wasn’t long before I was looking at my watch and thinking, I’ll just miss practice, then I’ll just miss heat one, which soon became, I’m not going racing, but I’m working on the car until it starts. I think having started working on it at 3.30 it was around 9 o’clock before I finally got a tune out of it, first turn on the replacement starter. While I was quite disappointed not to have got racing I felt I’d achieved something in getting the car going. Admittedly there was a number of text messages and facebook messages sent, mostly to Gary Grattan, but I’d learnt a lot and I’d from my troubleshooting afternoon.

After missing the previous two meetings with mechanical issues at home, it was nice to get to Aghadowey at the end of June to do a bit of racing. I think I got a sixth or seventh in the opening heat and I thought I had a reasonable drive in it.
Everything took a turn for the worse in heat two when there was a really heavy thundery shower at the start of the race, during the rolling lap I couldn’t see the car in front, I normally race with my visor up a bit to stop it and my glasses steaming up, but I couldn’t see first for spray and then for them steaming up. The car was also on dry settings with (very) heavy springs in the front and it wouldn’t turn in the wet, I was onto the infield and say out a very slow Superstox race within a lap or two.
After coming in from heat two I parked the car behind the trailer, which was now surrounded by a puddle and I took stock of the situation for a bit, soaked to the skin I decided it was time to call it a night and stuck the car on the trailer, my helmet was soaking it was hard to figure out how the final would be any different in terms of visibility. In hindsight I should have given it a shot.
Following that meeting I got Muc-Off anti fog for my visor and glasses, it’s a great job and I hope it’ll save me being in that situation again.

The Superstox featured on the Saturday night of the July Speedweekend, initially I was going to sit this one out and just take photos, but when I looked at the run of Superstox fixtures there was the Speedweekend, the next meeting clashed with Rosemount Vintage show, then the following meeting clashed with a Peninsula Vintage club show I was supposed to be at, then it was the Superstox weekend in September, and after that it was the Irish Championship, this was the end of July and if I sat out all the meetings that would be awkward then I’d not race until October, that seemed a long break, so I decided I’d just have to work harder to make it all happen.
The Speedweekend was to become a weekend that the importance of stockcar racing was put in perspective by the passing of Joey McConaghie before the meeting at Aghadowey.
Joey, father of Jay Jay, the start marshall suffered a heart attack prior to the meeting and sadly passed at the track. He had been a customer of NIOvalTV when we had out stall and would always call over and see what new NASCARs or photos of JayJay we had when he raced and was a character who I’ll miss around the raceways. The Superstox were lining up for practice when we were told initially to stop the cars, someone had taken ill and the ambulance was needed to attend, the gravity of the situation soon became apparent and we returned to our trailers, wondering round the pits all hoping it was something the ambulance crew could right and we’d be racing soon, but sadly it wasn’t. After a delay, a shortened meeting was run with the Superstox reduced to one race, in normal circumstances I’d probably have been the first moaning we didn’t get more, but these weren’t normal circumstances and I was grateful we even got a race, although I’d have understood if we didn’t. Jay Jay continued to do the flags over the weekend, I don’t know how he did it.
Our one race was a final at was staged late in the meeting, it made it a lot easier for me taking photos without trying to run back and forward, but I missed the Lightning Rod British. On the back of what had been a week of record breaking heat and sunshine the weather broke shortly before our race and we’d a wet race. I couldn’t get the car to turn early on and tried running a wider line, but everyone else was able to get around on the inside, I only found some speed in the closing laps as the track dried and was running 8th, I’d have made gains on Steven Haugh in front of me for a few laps then had an understeer round a corner and lost it again, I was pushing to catch Steven and spun on the back straight on the last lap, I hadn’t realised it was the last lap and just drove onto the infield waiting for the race to end, recording a DNF. As the last car on the lead lap, those who were behind me were a lap down when they crossed the line, so I still feel I should have had 8th by merit of completing 19 laps before those behind me, this only came to light to me when I was watching the NIOvalTV footage on the Monday. I had accepted my DNF when I left the track, watched the footage and expected I should be 8th and then found out I wasn’t because the rules are wrong (in my opinion) and I’m sure have been applied the way I expect them work in Banger before and I’m sure when they are again I’ll be the first at the door of race control.

Initially the meeting on the 10th of August was going to be a problem for me, I normally attend the CDTEC show at Rosemount and drive a vintage tractor for my father-in-law and it was going to be tight getting up the road to Tullyroan and I wasn’t sure if I’d try it. As things turned out a horrible weekend was forecast and Rosemount was cancelled, so there was a mix of disappointment from missing the show and relief that it had led to things working out to get racing.
Eighteen cars took to the track for Heat 1 and in damp conditions Micheal Logan understeered around turn one and took me out to the wall on the outside of him and I thought that was going to be my heat over, but I managed to stay out of the wall but was already losing places. I went on to have a good race with Micheal and Sam Wilson who was making his Superstox debut but was quick in bursts and bouncing off the wall at other times. I finished about 12th.
Heat two was on a drying track that still had wet patches, I found one of them early on and spun backwards into the wall, the impact knocked my glasses off and I could barely see but I rejoined at the back and set about chasing down Wilson who was about a straight ahead at this stage. While I couldn’t see much I could see the gap coming down and I got into a grove, actually setting my fastest lap of the season to date, but spun again late on and didn’t finish.
The final found a similar trend to Heat 2, I soon dropped down the order but with cars crashing all over the place I had managed to get to 6th and was on to finish there before a puncture put paid to my chances with 5 laps to go and I spent the rest of the race sat on the outside of turn 4 watching my mirror incase anyone was put in behind me.
Another evening of showing some potential but not getting any results to back it up.

With nearly a month is time to get the Superstox ready for the next meeting on the 7th of September for the second round of the NIovalTV series, I as normal was changing tyres and putting the car together on the day of the meeting. In practice I’d a wheel trying to make a bid for freedom and loosening the nuts, ahead of heat one I’d a drama when there was petrol dripping down the inside of the cab from a dosed end of the fuel line. Heat one I had a trip into the wall care of Jordan Robinson, then arrived on the infield with no brakes and thought I was for coming back out the other side onto the track. In the second heat I managed to pick up a tenth. The final was another disaster when I had an excursion over the grass early on and ended up pulling off just before I was going to go a lap down.

After sitting out the British weekend to watch everyone else knock expensive bits off their cars, my next outing was the Irish Championship at Aghadowey on the 5th of October. The car had been with Gary Grattan to do a bit of work on it and he’d done some setup work as well. The Irish Championship took place in horrible conditions, not unlike those that I’d loaded up for during the late June meeting at Aghadowey, this was my third Irish Championship and I’d failed to finish the previous two, my goal for the night was just to finish. For the duration of the race the conditions were horrible, car after car ended up in the wall or out of the race and I eventually picked up a 6th and last place finish, but a finish all the same. At one point of the race I had been in a position to challenge Conor Murphy for what I think might have been fourth at the time, but the only thing I could see was the back of his car and it was what I was using to find my way round, if he’d have retired I’d likely have followed him onto the infield.
Soaked to the skin after the Irish I considered putting the car straight onto the trailer and calling it a night, but having walked around the pits I seen a lot of others had loaded up, so I thought I’d give it a go. Still soaked through when I put a wet, cold helmet on I felt the sort of weak and lethargic feeling you get with the onset of a flu, I asked to start off the back rather than take my place at the front of the reverse grid, by the end of the race I think the car was driving me round. It turned out I’d probably just about got my finish in the Irish before what was later diagnosed as hand, foot and mouth which my son had a week earlier and also Mumps, I barely made it out of bed the next day and only got as far as the sofa.

Three weeks on, still not 100% and somewhat hesitant to go racing again when I wasn’t, it was time for the final round of the NIOvalTV series. It looked like it could be a wet and greasy night and I thought those were the conditions I’d come to enjoy more recently, so I went racing. I picked up an 8th in Heat 1, A DNF in heat two after a car came off the wall and caught the back end of my car and I felt I’d a puncture (which I didn’t) and I picked up a 9th in the final. I felt it was a positive end to the season.
The out of season meeting in November 2018 hadn’t been a bit of a bum note to end the 2018 season on, I struggled in slippery conditions and I think had spun and binned it in the wall on the first lap of heat one. That was then and in 2019 I wanted to right those wrongs, plus I’d taken a liking for the wet, greasy conditions. With low car numbers I picked up a 5th, 8th and a 9th.
I’d hoped to race on boxing day, as a box to tick of having done a festive meeting, but the car had other ideas and wouldn’t start, which probably saved me from a lot of effort trying to balance racing and family boxing day dinners, plus I wanted to see the Liverpool and Leicester match.
So there you have it, 2019 recapped. The plan for 2020….. we go again!

Lovely day... for ducks at Aghadowey practice day (Darren Black photo)

Taking evasive action at Tullyroan 20th April (Chris Sharp photo)

Ready for the final at Tullyroan on the 20th April (Jack Bentley Photo)

I bounced off the wall and collection Stephen Stewart at Tullyroan in early May...... (John Wolsey Photo)

.... then wondered why the car wasn't handling

I actually ended up missing meetings it took me that long to seal a leaking diff

Another missed meeting trying to get the car to start, the last thing I wanted to change was a starter, so guess what was knackered?

Summer weather? Aghadowey at the end of June, soaked to the skin!

A tribute to ex Saloon Stock Car #60 Stephen Boyd who sadly passed away at the start of August. Stephen had been a great help to me in my Autograss days.

In action at the start of August (John Wolsey Photo)

Another disaster changing an axle when I hoped to make the September practice, spent half the afternoon changing it and then the fittings weren't right and I had to change it back.

In the pits on Gala Night

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