Finol Star of Tomorrow 2016
What a year it has been plenty of highs along with plenty of lows but the highs way out bid the lows – the joys of my first year competing in Formula Vee, and I have to say I have well and truly been bitten by the racing bug. My biggest high of this year racing without doubt was winning the Finol Star of Tomorrow championship and getting the opportunity to race the Leastone 1000 in the British Monoposto Championship at Brands Hatch. And for those of you that don’t know the 1000 was built by Paul Heavey of Leastone Racing and is powered by a Suzuki GSXR 1000 bike engine and has a 6 speed Suzuki sequential gearbox with a top speed of 260km/h and 0-100 km/m in 3.0 seconds. It was my first time to experience slicks and winged race car and what an experience it was.
Journey to Brands
It all started last year when I got a few pound together to purchase my first racing car. The car I brought was a Leastone JH004 Formula Vee also built by Paul Heavey. It was previously owned and raced by Colm Blackburn and had a history of being quite a competitive car.
I got out in the JH004 for a few testing sessions and four races last year all in preparation to get myself up to speed to compete in this year’s Finol Star of Tomorrow championship. Previous to that I have had no initial racing experience but racing has always been something I wanted get myself into. The reason I decided to race the Vees is that they looked like great fun to race with a lot of close wheel to wheel battles.
I had a good opening start to the season achieving maximum points at Kirkistown in round 1, a track I favour. Round 2 proved to be a disaster at Bishopscourt, in the two races over the weekend I was hampered with mechanical issues which resulted in two non finishes, so I left there with my head hanging, knowing I had a lot of work to do to catch up on points lost over the weekend and I knew I couldn’t afford anymore DNF’s going forward. After Bishopscourt I put the head down and won the following four championship rounds.
Great driving all year from Conor Molloy who was always applying the pressure kept me on my toes and the championship decider went right to the final round at Kirkistown. The way the points were I had to just finish the race in order to get the drive in the Leastone 1000 at Brands Hatch. I qualified first in class and in the race I led from start to finish. Crossing the line, I was ecstatic, knowing I had won the prize to drive the Leastone 1000 at Brands Hatch where the likes of Ayrton Senna would have competed.
Race Weekend at Brands
I thought this weekend would never come and I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching the Leastone in full flight around Brands & Spa teasing myself of what was to come. Two weeks before the race weekend Paul wisely got me out testing in the 1000 at Mondello for a morning test. The main objective of the test was to familiarise myself with the gearing and lap by lap I picked up the pace as Paul looked nervously on. The test session was a successful one and I got to grips it’s awesome handling and acceleration of the 1000, the car felt so well balanced and like nothing I had ever driven before.
So the countdown was on and the next two weeks dragged out like a year. Finally, the weekend came around. We had a full days testing on the Indy track on the Friday. From the get go I felt really confident in the car and was setting consistent times of 50 second laps and the car was handling great, but at the end of the day testing I felt there was more time to be gained somewhere. So that night I showed Paul the on-board video of my testing and he high-lighted I wasn’t taking the best line around the very important corner called Clearways which lead onto the straight and that’s where I could gain a few tenths.
We had the Saturday off so we had plenty of time to prep the car for qualifying and two races on Sunday. I woke up Sunday morning to be greeted by clouds down on the ground I could barely make out where the track was. It was announced that qualifying would for pushed out until the fog cleared. In qualifying I was right on the pace and the live times showed I was up to third on the grid on a still damp track. Unfortunately, I only got to complete 6 laps before I got a front right puncture. I ended up qualifying 6th on the grid which I was quite happy with, considering the track was still drying out and this gave me confidence prior to race one.
In race one I got a decent start off the line and on exiting druids (3rd corner) I had made my way up to 4th and coming out of Graham Hill (4th corner) the race leader spun on cold tyres and before I knew it I had gained 3rd. On the second lap I got a good run to the last corner before the straight and had the car in front of me lined up to take 2nd, but just as I was taking him on the inside he also spun in avoiding him I swerved and knocked myself out of gear which I struggled desperately to regain. I found myself back in 6th place. At the end I crossed the line in 5th kind of frustrated with myself as I felt I could have at least have got myself on the podium only for my mishap.
Unfortunately, in the second race I had to retire with a mechanical issue on the second lap but without doubt this weekend was the best experience I have had to date and it wouldn’t have happened only for Paul Heavey and Finol Oils, so a massive thanks for a weekend I will never forget. From this year alone I have learnt so much and I’m already looking forward to getting stuck into the ‘B’ Championship next year and fighting for the title.