Bishopscourt was a new track to me and the boys had mentioned how fast it was, so to say I was worried was a bit of an understatement.
We arrived on Friday evening, after hot-tailing it from school and we got everything set up for what was promising to be a great weekend of racing ahead of us. The atmosphere in the paddock was electric!
Taking in the track on the walkabout, it looked fantastic, my nerves were then joined by anticipation!
With no testing per se, a short free practice session on Saturday morning was the first opportunity I had to give it socks on the track, getting used to the heavy braking zones and the challenging chicanes. The boss (Paul Heavey) had the no.26 purring like a kitten and this had me looking forward to qualifying.
Unusually for us, qualifying took place late Saturday afternoon and I was still trying to get to know the track. I could have pushed myself a bit harder through the chicanes and the last corner (Dunsfort) was still a big struggle for me, but I logged some solid laps and with each lap I could feel my confidence increasing.
Sunday was race day. Race 1, lining up on the startline I was buzzing to get going. I didn’t have the best start, so had to pull out all the stops to gain ground and position. Heading into Turn 2, on the tail of Mark Miller I was edging to get by, and as we went into the hairpin, we made slight contact and my nudge ended up with my nose cone lifting and blocking my view! I had to wiggle the car at every opportunity to try get it to move, initially I thought it was going to come straight back onto my helmet, but he spring clip held on for the remainder of the race, thankfully. With the competition hot on my tail, I had to keep one eye on my mirror but also try to make forward progress. I managed to secure a first place win in my class and 10th place overall, which I was happy with given my start.
Over lunchtime I had a chance to think about the race 1 performance and where I could improve. I am still getting used to the soundtrack in the Leastone awning, but the stereo was belting out ‘Hayseed Dixie’ and ‘The Bogmen’ and for some reason that had the team pumped! I am still confused by Paul Heavey’s love of Status Quo but whatever keeps him focused.
For race 2, I got a great start. I had a near miss at the hairpin after another driver had a spin in front of me and this dropped me down the order. This caused great concern for my class placing, as the contenders for the Finol Star of Tomorrow Championship were able to get past me. After the initial shock, I regrouped and focused on a recovery. With a good bit of ground to makeup I headed down the Lismore Straight and pulled past Matt Bodden to take the Finol Star of Tomorrow class lead, making use of the valuable slipstream. I was then focused on improving my overall result, trying to chase down both Ken Browne and James Jones, who were enjoying a good battle. Coming towards the end of the race, I was hoping to take advantage of any mistakes they might make, the first chicane provided me this opportunity, and I was able to get Ken up the inside, carrying great speed and a great exit out of the chicane on the very last lap. I managed to finish not only 1st in my class, but 8th overall in the race. Feeling more and more confident with each race, I can’t wait for the next round in Mondello, even though I hear it might be run in reverse!
The start to the year has been fantastic and it would not be happening for me without the following key contributors: Selco Hygiene, my sponsors for the year. Leastone Racing, Finol Oils & Formula Vee Ireland. Thanks so much for all your support. See you at Mondello!