Our track day at Kirkistown Race Circuit on Sunday 20th May provided a number of firsts for us. We really did not expect a large turn out, with such a full sporting weekend going on. Surely 100,000 spectators at the North West 200 would have included
some of our regular customers who might have been too tired to head to Kirkistown on the Sunday or perhaps those at Twickenham watching the defeat of Ulster?
Well that didn’t seem to be the case at all. There was a great turnout in glorious weather, with a lot of participants having their first track day experience. We used £70 of petrol in the Cosworth, just showing our new customers the lines and braking points of the circuit!
We have never had a customer arrange a flight just so he could be with us, so our first “first” was Johnny McFarland, who left his companions at Twickenham to get an earlier flight into the George Best Airport and make the start of our event. Johnny and the two Kerr brothers, Adrian and Chris, all from Tyrone, had a ball in their Mini Cooper S and Lotus Elise for most of the day until, late on, the Cooper developed a habit of depositing oil in unusual places within the engine bay. The third “first” was the fact that our last session at 5:45pm was a full grid affair. Usually, by that time, we are down to three or four die-hard enthusiasts but on Sunday the combination of fine weather, a large number of participants and a general feel-good factor, ensured that some people left wanting more!
The second and most unusual “first” concerned our long time regular, Thomas Bell. Now, Thomas is an enthusiast but I haven’t heard of anyone else who, in the middle of an event at Kirkistown, stopped proceedings at the chicane and went down on one knee to propose marriage to his girlfriend! Happily, she accepted. Perhaps they will get married at Debtors and have the reception in the clubhouse! They would be most welcome. Remarkably, given the numbers, we had only four cars that failed to last the day. Ralph Jess found that the new turbo in his BMW race car was just too powerful for the drive shaft and only managed three laps. Martin Currie had further problems with his Evo and didn’t even get three laps. Ciaran O’Neill’s Alfa 75 rebelled against being asked to work so hard at such an age and destroyed its head gasket. The unluckiest man of all was Ali-Resa Afrasiabi who got an early puncture in his beautiful Porsche 911 Turbo and had to go off to seek a garage to repair it for the drive back to Dublin.
Jim Porteous, from Donegal, hadn’t believed me when I had told him on the phone that he would probably need a spare set of brake pads. Thankfully, he did bring them with him because he had to put them into his Integra half way through the day. That’s the price of going well! John Lyttle consistently lapped quickly in his reliable Toyota MR2 as did Alan Mullan in his Toyota GT4. Gavin Kilkie made a welcome return in his Mitsubishi Evo but this time he brought along a number of his employees who availed themselves of Andrew Armstrong’s Hire Racing Civic. Both Andrew and Aidan Vance were seen to be looking quizzically as a number of these drivers went exceptionally quickly, considering they knew neither the car nor the circuit.
More potential racers for the circuit maybe?
Incidentally, this is a great service. The car is delivered to the track and fettled during the day by Andrew. All the driver has to do is turn up. John O’Neill got great value from his Colt as he circulated quickly all day. He even made a trip to the tyres at the chicane but simply reversed and carried on with a slightly rearranged front bumper. Hondas were prolific and all seemed to be going well. Upholding the Civic name were Ciaran Denvir and Stephen Potter, both going very well. The aforementioned Jim Porteous and Harry Watson represented the Integra name. Both were quite often circulating together, with little between them in performance.
Dale Kane had his Sunbeam Ti on the boil. It looked beautifully planted as it rounded Debtors. His son, David, drove a rapid Ford Ka and was exceptionally quick through the chicane. Sean McDonald, on his first visit, was impressively quick in his understated Audi S4 as was Richard Carragher in his Clio 182. Andrew Booth openly admitted that he now has been firmly bitten by the track day bug, having been very impressive in his Williams Clio. It was really good to see some MX5s making a return to our events. Chris Hatton went well in his black one, as did Alan McKeown in his black and white one. Andrew Christie brought two, a modified hot rod version and a blue Mk1. The 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland Ltd., who owns and operates the circuit, is trying to get a racing class for MX5s started. So far there is one car out but if you would be interested, you could do worse than to contact Andrew Christie about buying or hiring.
Darryl Hanna popped a tyre on his Corsa at the chicane in his first session. However, he got it sorted and was very quick for the remainder of the day. David Hourihan was taking instruction from Connaire Finn whilst driving the Lotus Elise that he had just purchased from Connaire. However, there seemed to be communication confusion as, twice in succession, the car went straight on at the Hairpin. Connaire later explained that his hand signal for “slow down” was being misinterpreted by David as an instruction to “floor it!” The Locaterfield Brigade was represented by Roy Stewart and his two sons, Ian Stewart (no relation), Steven Whyte, Roy Woods and Desi McGlade. Desi has had his fair share of trouble with his Vauxhall Westfield over the years. This event was the first one to which he had ever brought the car on a trailer. Of course, the car never missed a beat and was as good at the end of the day as it had been at the beginning. As ever, the marshals and St John Ambulance crew did a great job and the cafe seemed fairly busy. Thanks to all of the parties involved for their services.
From a spectator’s point of view, Kirkistown is unrivalled in Ireland for access to good vantage points and the venue is very family friendly, which probably explains the large number of families in attendance. Our next date is Sunday 17th June and bookings are already coming in fast. Words: Donal O’Neill Photos: Graham Curry