Most classes displayed fields that were down on regular numbers, and the Kent Homes Fine Cars category was not immune. When we pitched up for free practice on Friday ahead of race day just 10 cars were on the list.
Promising practice session
As we hadn’t done any work on the car between the race meetings it was ready to run on Friday’s official practice session. A quick refuel and suspension check, and I was good to go.
Through the course of the day I got back into the swing of driving quickly and soon settled into a rhythm. Small tyre pressure changes meant that I had a little turn-in oversteer, which I adapted to.
When the day ended I was regularly turning out lap times in the low 1 min 37s; better than that I even dipped into the 1 min 36 bracket, my quickest time to date in this car around Killarney. I was quite pleased with the progress and went into Saturday’s qualifying with confidence.
Damp and slippery
Typical for this time of year, the track was damp early on race day, which meant that qualifying did not go as well as I had hoped, but with so few cars on our grid it wasn’t really a big problem.
I was classified 7th out of 10, with the Alfa Romeo Giulia of Niel Mouton, the Datsun Stanza of Dave Kent and the Mini of Dion Valentine taking up 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. I later learned that Valentine had suffered a catastrophic engine failure when the crankshaft of his Mini snapped in two – OUCH!
Only nine cars took to the grid for the start of the first heat. From the customary rolling start, I was keen to keep up with the pack and get involved in some wheel-to-wheel action.
Since the ECU upgrade (which you can read about in the Upgrades section) my car is no longer as outgunned as it was before. I had some nice tussles through the opening sequence with Mouton and Ray Cooper (Ford Escort).
Without a roof I still can’t keep up with the closed top cars down Killarney’s long back- and main straights. So I work really hard to make ground on other cars in the braking zones and through the tight complex from T1-4.
A few laps into the race, a Ford Escort from the Classic Car field, which shares track space with our formula, spun at T3 and was parked perpendicular to the track, thankfully not moving. It took quick thinking from all the drivers to avoid it without causing a major incident.
Dave Rowley, in his extremely neat and viciously quick Volkswagen Beetle, took to the outfield close to the outer wall. The Bug was bounced around, which would cause an electrical issue and Dave’s retirement from the race.
Bombed under braking
I had Mouton in my sights for many laps and I drove diligently to close the gap, which I managed to do. I pulled up alongside him as we entered the back straight and we ran neck-and-neck all the way to the braking zone, where I got by.
My aim was to try to open up a gap, but for a second race in succession a slow car from the Classics field saw fit to race with the cars from our class. With the unwanted interference, I was slowed and Mouton managed to get by.
In the closing stages, as I made way for the fast-charging Classics leaders, I was pounced upon by the Porsche 944 of Peter Leppan. When the flag fell I was classified 7th.
The start of race two was far more exciting. Alongside me on the grid was Leppan, with Rowley the only car behind. Rowley’s Beetle is indecently quick and I knew I could only hold him off for so long.
As it turned out, I zipped past the Porsche and VW at T1 and started to chase Rob Toscano in a similar car to mine. I held onto the rear bumper of the other MX-5 in the field for the entire opening lap.
For some unknown reason, Toscano slowed out of the final corner and I got off the gas so as not to hit him. Rowley and Leppan needed no invitation and both blasted by. Rowley only lasted one more lap as he slowed on the back straight and retired into the pits.
As close as it gets
Mouton was keeping Cooper at bay, which allowed Leppan and Toscano to close the gap and I had the best seat in the house to watch these four very different but equally matched machines fight for position.
Mouton’s Alfa eventually put some breathing space between him and the Escort and it wasn’t long before Leppan’s Porsche picked off the Ford, too. Toscano tried his hand at the fast double-apex right-hander and it worked.
This left me chasing the little Escort down the back straight. I may have the measure of the Ford under braking and be quicker through the twisty stuff, but the power in the Escort was too much to match.
Lap after lap he’d run away from me on the two long straights; there was little I could do to combat the power deficit. When the flag fell I was 6th. Toscano ran into mechanical troubles late in the race but still finished the required number of laps to be considered a finisher.
Points and silverware
When the index of performance was calculated I was classified 4th overall. That position netted me some much-needed points in the title race and a piece of silverware to add to the collection.
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Images courtesy of Jason Hanslo and Cloudnr9 photography