Track Reports

Sunday 13th November 2016.

The final event of the Trackskills season took place on Sunday 13th November and it was obvious that we had run out of sacrificial virgins, as the rain never really stopped all day. It was never a genuine downpour but it was always at least a fine drizzle.

With the ever-present Kirkistown wind during the early part of the day, slicks would still have been a brave option, as there was no standing water and the track was greasy. However, just before lunch, the rain got heavier and a BMW dumped its oil liberally round the whole circuit. Driving became very interesting.

Even though this was the last run of the season, we still had a number of new drivers in a variety of cars.

Stephen McKnight came well prepared in his black Clio. During his first run we had to bring him in twice because of an errant bonnet catch, which kept letting his bonnet flap around. Eventually, a persuasive tap with his MAC Tools hammer sorted the problem and he had no further issues during the day.

Christy Brown went very smoothly in his Mazda RX8. This car has lots of potential in his hands and should get steadily quicker next year.

James Busteed finally made his track day debut in a striking yellow Mitsubishi Evo 8. He explained to me in the paddock that he had had various failed attempts to build a reliable track car and after much frustration, had gone down the Evo route. This proved successful and he had a trouble free day.

Brendan Shannon turned up with a nicely liveried BMW 530 and proceeded to lap very quickly in the tricky conditions.

Ryan McLarnon was making his debut in another BMW and was running quite well until his engine decided to let go of its oil and its future. At least Ryan knows what he wants for Christmas now!

Bruce Carson added to the growing number of Mazda MX5s this year by debuting his version. The conditions were perfect for having lots of fun in these nimble, rear wheel drive cars and Bruce did his justice.

Cambell Thompson turned up in his pretty Alfa GTV Spider. With Terry O’Neill encouraging him from the passenger seat, he negotiated the conditions very well.

T J McDowell was a model of consistency, lapping very quickly, without drama, all day in his red Evo. He has come a very long way from his debut years ago, when he parked it on top of the bank at Debtors. T.J. is now one of the quickest and safest drivers on track.

Jim Kennedy forsook his trusty Toyota MR2 for a Golf V5 and was seriously quick. More importantly for him, the car was metronomically reliable. His good friend, Damien Moran, ran equally successfully in his aging Lotus Elise. The third member of this team, Joe McArdle, completed yet another season at Kirkistown in his Nissan 350Z. Joe has been constantly attending and lapping at Kirkistown longer than anyone else, from anywhere and from any time.

Ciaran Weir lapped quickly all day in his Sierra although the car proved a handful through the hairpin as he tried to apply the power.

Ryan Weir got caught out by the conditions at Colonial Two and got right up the bank on the left before returning to the circuit. However, all was well and he was able to continue with the day.

Another driver to make a rare mistake in the tricky conditions was Derek Le Mahieu. Derek always extracts the maximum from the Mazdabitz Ford focus but this time he went exploring the hedge at the Colonial complex. No harm was done to either himself or the car and he was soon back on track and up to speed.

Oliver Cormican was giving the ex-Philip Shields Evo its first run for a number of years and he made steady progress all day. Conal Cormican’s Proton ran faultlessly throughout.

Robert Newell was circulating well in his MG ZR160, as was Andrew Maxwell in the Dubshed Golf.

The MX5 ranks were well represented by the O’Duil brothers, Liam O’Flaherty, the Lynch and Joyce clans, the previously mentioned Bruce Carson and Michael Lynn. Only five cars between them all but none of them missed a beat.

Antony Dempster’s Prelude went very well before the Kirkistown brake pad eating monster struck, yet again.

As ever with this meeting at this time of the year, track action was constrained by loss of daylight. With the rain clouds, this was somewhat earlier than usual, at around 4:45pm, but the last session was wonderful to watch and from all reports, equally wonderful to drive. The videos which are appearing on social media do make it look darker than it was.

Trackskills would like to thank everyone who has continued to support us throughout the years. We would also like to thank the marshals who have worked consistently in whatever weather has been delivered by the coven. Thanks also to Philip Brooks who provided the medical backup all season.

Our first track day at Kirkistown in 2017 is on Sunday 5th February. Hopefully we’ll see you there!

 

Sunday 16th October 2016.

Sunday 16th October was probably our quietest day of 2016 so far. Possibly, it was the threat of poor weather or maybe it is just nearing the end of the season and cars have been put to bed for the winter. Who knows?

However, our sacrificial virgin may not have been entirely honest about her past but she was fairly good and that gave us mostly dry running on the day.

The torrential rain prior to our event had washed the track of all rubber and so it was very green at the start and remained so all day.

The two really quick cars were Arnold Gibson in his BMW, which was proving to be a real handful on the slippery surface, and Stephen Potter in his exceptionally fast Honda Integra.  Arnold maintained his fitness by constantly changing his tyres in search of friction that never really came, while Stephen was giving his car its first run since getting mapped the previous day in Galway. The videos of these two are on YouTube.  https://youtu.be/w_xvrI7eBTs

Dean Kennedy was not far behind in his very fast Civic.

Jim and Rebecca Wilson made a welcome return in their Subaru Impreza and apart from a scary moment into Colonial One in their first session, they had a fast and reliable day.

Also returning after a long absence was Mark Macauley, this time in a Toyota MR2. He didn’t take long to dial himself back in.

Barry Leason was going quickly in his Honda engined Mini Clubman.

Patrick Starr made his first appearance with us in his MNR ‘Bussa, an unusual looking Lotus 7 derivative. He went well and hopefully, will be a regular addition to the Locaterfield Brigade.

We had two regular Mondello competitors up for the day. Shane McFadden was in one of the Mondello ST Fiestas and Kevin Doran was in the Mondello version of the Kirkistown Fiestas. Both seemed to be enjoying themselves and mentioned that they would like to see the ST class making a racing visit to Kirkistown next season.

Paul Dunstan struggled to get his Mitsubishi Evo to go quickly for more than a lap. He worked on the beast all day, changing coil packs, filters, plugs and anything else he could think of but to no avail. He suspected it was a mapping problem.

His friend, Matt Hull, making his first appearance at our events in a Honda Accord, had no such problems and went well all day.

Three track days ago the combined Lynch and Joyce crews bought a Mazda MX5 for our events. Since then, the wee car has been pummelled relentlessly by all concerned and the smiles regularly displayed by various drivers confirm the benefits of the purchase. However, scratch below the surface of some of this bunch and you will find a penchant for rallying. In fact, Liam Lynch will tell you that this track circulating doesn’t really float his boat at all. Whether or not this had any bearing on the antics of Angela Lynch, who, on her first run out, managed to turn infield at Fisherman’s and run over a mud heap raised by the current drainage programme. Now the unfortunate thing for Angela was that the soil had only recently been dug out and was still very loose. It went up in the air and poured down into the MX5, probably doubling the weight of the car and leaving her with a massive cleaning job. She figures she will be able to clear the soil heap next time!

Joe McArdle shared the driving duties in his 350Z with Damian Moran, who had left his Elise at home following the demise of his truck.

The trusty V6 Sierra of Joe Weir never missed a beat all day and it was great to see the McDonnell brothers having a trouble free run in their Impreza. This car is now a serious piece of kit with gazillions of horsepower but, more importantly, brilliant brakes. It is not particularly loud either, which is great.

I have often sung the praises of Renault Clios as track day cars and continue to do so. However, when someone “upgrades” to a different car, certain factors can come into play. The infamous Kirkistown Brake Eating Monster doesn’t bother Clios that much but it will have a go at BMWs, as Ex-Clio man, Marc Dowie, found out. One session and his front pads were gone in his BMW Compact! Of course, he was able to fit the spare set that we advise everyone to bring. Eh…no. Never had that problem before with the Clio. Didn’t think it would happen to the Beemer. Oops! I tried to resist saying, “Told Ya so!” to Marc but I failed miserably.

Thank you to the marshals who only got slightly wet compared to the day before and to Philip Brooks for the medical cover and the other assistance that he always provides.

The next day is our last of 2016 and it is on Sunday 13th November. By then the clocks will have gone back and we will be running into the dusk. Please bear in mind that cars that are hoping to run for as long as we safely can, must have working lights, front and rear.

Sunday 25th September 2016.

Once again our sacrificial virgin proved her worth. The weather for the great majority of the day was absolutely perfect. It was only at 5:20pm that the heavens opened and the few cars that were left at that time decided to call it a day.

It had been interesting event. The age range of drivers span six decades. Youngest was Jack Weir at seventeen in a 2.5 Sierra and Joe McArdle was at the other end of the spectrum, in his latter seventies and driving a Nissan 350Z.

Joe was joined by seventy two year old Ron Birch in a pristine Robin Hood kit car. The last time Ron had been at the Kirkistown circuit was in 1966! Having said that, it didn’t take him long to remember his way round.

Craig Davidson brought his RT2000 out but only got a couple of laps due to a faulty fuel pump. However, he said that those laps were amazing and he is looking forward to getting back again when it is sorted.

The smoothest driver of the day has to have been Justin Duff in his very well prepared BMW M3. Street Racer have done most of the work on this car and it responds well to Justin’s inputs.

Another smooth and fast BMW driver was Colin Anderson. He put in a large amount of laps at really quick speeds.

T J McDowell was motoring well and he impressed a close friend of ours while giving him a passenger run. I had arranged for this friend to get a run with Justin as well but after the ride in T.J.’s Evo he said that he had had enough excitement for one day!

It was good to see Larry Mawhinney back after some time and I think he made the most of the dry weather in his Westfield. He certainly wasn’t hanging about.

Joe Kelleher was with us for the first time and he went well all day in his silver Elise.

The infamous Kirkistown brake problems afflicted John Cochrane’s MG Rover all day, providing him with quite a few brown trouser moments!

Dean Kennedy was absolutely flying in his Civic and he told me that he is definitely coming out to play with the Kirkistown Saloons at race meetings next season.

This year has seemed to be the year of the Clio, as far as numbers are concerned. These are great track cars, usually easily bought and relatively simple to maintain. They provide a lot of speed per Pound or Euro. The result is that quite a few dedicated track versions are turning up and this leads me to the old chestnut of what is the first thing to do a car to improve it for the track?

It is our view at Trackskills that the first modification should be a full cage. This immediately stiffens the car and improves the handling. Crucially, it also gives the driver much needed protection.

The next thing to spend money on is uprated brakes. There is more lap time to be found while stopping than while accelerating.

After that, tyres will provide the best gains. Better grip will lead to later braking and faster corner speeds. Then look at suspension to maximise the tyre contact patch and minimise body roll.

When all those modifications have been done, only then should the engine be considered.

Unfortunately, this was brought home to Conor Doherty on Sunday, when he rolled his 172 at the Chicane. He had been going really well but just came off the kerb on the wrong line and she went over. Conor was fine but the car was bent stupid. A cage would have made a big difference and might even have prevented the accident altogether, due to better handling.

For reference, for a quality custom cage fitted to your car, the man who did most of the Kirkistown Fiestas to the proper specification, was James Graham of the Roguery Road, near Toomebridge.

David Watters returned in his quick red Puma. He circulated without incident all day.

The Dundalk Dancing Team were out in force with mixed results. Jim Kennedy’s MR2 is really quiet and very quick. Damian Moran’s Elise seems to run endlessly without bother but Karma is still punishing Brendan Cumiskey for deserting his beautiful Mini for a Clio. This time it was a brand new injector that let him down. The quick stepping Cosgrove brothers got many good runs in their not-so-quiet MR2 before the locking brake problem began to reappear towards the end of the day. As mentioned before, Joe McArdle belies his age in his quick 350Z.

The Mazdabitz Focus was really quick, no matter who was driving and the Meegan brothers, Colin and Paul, seemed to be having a great time in their Clios.

When asked what car to buy for a track day, I usually point people to a Clio if they want front wheel drive or a Mazda MX5 if they prefer rear wheel drive. The Lynch and Joyce brothers have gone down the route of the MX5 and are sharing one between the four of them. Judging by their smiles, they are happy with the choice.

All in all, it was a mostly good and educational day. Conor Doherty wasn’t hurt but his accident has given food for thought to many others.

Thank you to the marshals who did a perfect job and to Philip Brooks for providing medical assistance, although, thankfully, it was not required.

Our next date is Sunday 16th October. Email info@trackskills.com if you are planning to come, please.


Sunday 21st August 2016.

Having had a Race School cancelled the previous day due to the bad weather, our sacrificial virgin proved her worth and we had great weather on Sunday until 4:50pm, when the drizzle began as a precursor to a downpour.

The first car on track was Ryan Weir in his well-finished BMW 320. Justin Duff was back for two in a row in his BMW and we welcomed Nicholas Wood back in his “Princess”, a Honda engine Lotus Elise. These cars motored quickly and trouble-free all day.

Damien Moran had a nice V5 Golf, in place of his trusty Elise, this time. It went well until late in the day, when gremlins struck. Derek Le Mahieu didn’t seem to have been slowed by his recent Canadian holiday and his black Focus went well all day.

John Cosgrove will have to endure the wrath of his brother Michael for breaking their trusty Toyota MR2 in his absence. An excess of brakes seemed to be the problem!

Highlight of the day for me was the great tussle that Terry O’Neill in his Maserati 4200 had with Jonathan Garrett in his Audi RS4. While they were always a respectable distance apart, the combined sound was wonderful!

John Bates lapped quickly and safely in his VW Bora as did Conor Doherty in his Clio. Other Clios included Mark Mooney, who always goes very well, Brendan Cumiskey, who seemed to have a trouble free run at last, Alan Forde who ran trouble-free and fast all day and Leslie Graham who had an engine issue after his second run.

David Hill was there for the first time in his mint Fiesta ST with a very snazzy paint job. The sun (yes, it was shining!) reflected wonderfully on the metalflake. He and his companion both drove well but elected to quit shortly after lunch, having had a good time.

We had an influx of Murray Motorsport cars for the first time. All were well turned out and mostly ran quickly without problems. I think the only issue was a boost pipe, or suchlike, coming loose on Davey Murray’s Impreza. Paul and Ryan were also running Imprezas while Seamus was running a Honda Civic and Declan was running an Astra GSi.

Arnold Gibson was flying, as usual, in his Yellow BMW and he and Stephen Potter (Integra) were never far apart.

Lyle Simpson had a Nissan 300ZX, which seemed to be a bit of a handful in the corners. A dodgy rear shock absorber was suspected.

Colm O’Duil and David Cousins were upholding the reputation of the Mazda MX5. The #22 East Engineering car had a fuel pressure problem, early in the day but David sorted that and it ran well to the end. Colm’s car never missed a beat.

Dean Kennedy’s Civic is a really quick machine and he made best use of it all day. Jonathan Christie had forsaken his trusty Prelude for the joys of a Civic and it took a serious constant pounding.

The Locaterfield brigade were represented by Stephen Dawson in his Caterham and Andrew Parkinson in his MK Indy.  Stephen had just decided to call it a day and head home, when the heavens opened! Half an hour earlier and he would have been home and dry! Unfortunately, Andrew’s car had an expensive blow-up towards the end of the day.

As ever, the marshals did a great job all day, as did Philip Brooks who provided medical cover and generally did anything else that needed doing. Thanks to all of them.

Our next date is after a five week gap on Sunday 25th September.

 

Sunday 17th July 2016.


        Fel McIlroy, our Chief Marshal, summed our track day up on Facebook. “Was brill day all round ..the sun ..the cars ..what more could we have asked for?”

On Sunday 17th July we had one of our best days ever at Kirkistown Circuit. The weather was very good, as were most of the driving standards. There was a great turn out of cars and to cap it all, our caterers from The Quays, raised a ton of money for a local girl who needs life saving cancer treatment in America!

Gareth Blaine brought his new BMW 330 race car out for the first time. Gareth’s cars are always beautifully turned out and this car is no exception. It went as well as it looked. Gareth tells me that he fully intends to race the machine. Ralph Jess also brought one of these cars and throughout the day he took potential drivers round for quick laps. The intention is to start a class for them at Kirkistown, probably next year.

It was a pleasure to welcome Justin Duff back two one of our days, after an absence of over six years. It is fair to describe Justin’s style of driving as extremely smooth. He has honed this style with years of experience around the Nordschleife in Germany. This time, he was in a BMW three series and he lapped anonymously and quickly as ever.

Curiously, another Long time absentee made a

welcome reappearance, albeit as a spectator, while sporting a cast on his arm as a result of a mountain bike accident. It was Nigel McGowan, also somewhat of a Nordschleife expert. I left the two of them discussing an upcoming trip back to The ‘Ring in September.

    Steven McKay brought his rally Cosworth Fiesta back for another go. Unfortunately, he is still having teething problems with this beautiful car. This time it was a power steering failure that brought his day to a premature close.

    David Cousins, from East Engineering, had two of his well-prepared Mazda MX5s out this time. The #22 car ran like clockwork as usual. However the #33 car initially refused to run on any more than two cylinders. After a bit of fiddling back at the garage, the problem was solved and both cars circulated quickly for the rest of the day.

    Gary McWilliams brought his very quick Toyota Starlet out once again and was very impressive.

    Terry O’Neill returned again with his beautiful sounding black Maserati 4200. This car makes a fantastic noise and yet it is not piercing. Terry is not afraid to push it on but then he does come from the NW200 Triangle Area.

    Another car making a fantastic noise was Tom Gaughran’s Audi R8. This was a delight both to the eyes and ears. Tom was meant to have a new Porsche Boxster 718 but the car is still in Germany. He hopes to have this machine at our next track day in August.

    We had a number of Toyota MR2s in attendance. A couple of older shape models seemed to rotate quite often. According to some video evidence submitted by East Engineering, the cause of these spins seems to be the presence of a Mazda MX5 in the rear view mirror!

    Joe and Ryan Weir, from Dungannon, were consistently quick in their V6 Sierra and BMW, respectively, as was Barry Leeson in his Mini.  Colin Irwin also lapped smoothly in his immaculate Focus ST.

    One of the most interesting cars in the paddock and on track was Seamus Morris’s Darrian GTR. It seemed to be a work-in-progress situation throughout the day but the car was good to watch.

    Of the new participants, Owen Young went well in his Polo, after a few initial hairy moments under braking. Martin Portis, in another BMW 330, put in some very useful laps. Both Kenneth McKinstry and Colin McCusker piloted their Citroen Saxos skillfully.

    We had a number of hard luck stories, including the previously mentioned Cosworth Fiesta. The most impressive, for all the wrong reasons, was David Steenson’s Corsa. A steel rod decided to change route and exited through the block on his first lap! Ian Henderson’s Corolla developed rumbling bearings after the first session. Having quite a distance to drive home, Ian called it a day. Rob Gallagher also developed issues with his Westfield Megablade after a couple of sessions and David Morrisson had issues with his BMW 330.

    A number of Fiestas from the Kirkistown Zetec Series were in attendance. Jonny Forsythe, who is currently leading the championship, was lapping very quickly while Paul Sheridan and Eórann O’Neill seemed to be pushing each other, literally, along the straights. Brendan McIlvanna’s model was off the pace. It has an issue with rev limitation after 6,000.

    Ian Stewart’s Westfield was flying, as was Richard Kee’s model. It seems that gone are the days when we had a dozen of these machines making a regular appearance.

    Generally, in most cases, spectators stayed in safe places and so did the cars. On the one occasion when a car did hit a barrier, it was bare, which didn’t do the bodywork any good but reduced the risk of people being hit by flying tyres.

    The marshals did a great job in the heat and Philip Brookes helped with spectator control and rescue, as well as providing medical cover.

    Our next event is Sunday 21st August 2016. See you there!

 

 

Sunday 17th April 2016.

Sunday 17th April was a day blessed with wonderful weather and a great selection of cars and drivers arrived at Kirkistown to enjoy the track. This event clashed with the BTCC at Donnington so we had some new faces on the marshal’s posts.

The selection of cars was eclectic, particularly among those attending a Trackskills event for the first time. It was arguable as to which was the more beautiful between the Mk 1 Escort of Brian McIlmurry and the Alfa GTV of Bryan Pearson. Both were a joy to watch and hear.

Ross Hompstead ventured out for the first time in another of the increasingly popular Clios, a 182 in this case. He went well and without incident. Mel McLaughlin circulated quickly in his Corsa, as did Paul Gray and friend, Adrian Patterson in a Honda S2000 and MX5 respectively. Paul’s brake pads were nearly gone in the later part of the afternoon.

Stephen McLaughlin drove his Toyota Corolla very smoothly all day.

Of the Impreza Brigade, Lyle Simpson and Andy McCrea went quickly and reliably all day but Colin McDonnell blew his turbo on his first run. Sympathy was not forthcoming from his dad, Martin, who maintained a “Told ya so!” stance. His own Seat, a car not without a troubled history, went faultlessly, which he attributes to removing the giant turbo that he had fitted previously.

The D.D.C. (Dundalk Dancing/Driving Collective) had an emergency on the road up to Kirkistown. The truck carrying Damien Moran’s Lotus Elise developed an overheating hub and had to be abandoned en-route. Que David Cousins and the #22 MX5 to the rescue! David delivered the car to the circuit for 11:30am and Damien had his fun all day, along with Brendan Cumiskey, who damaged his Clio in an off at the Hairpin.

I am amazed that this #22 MX5 was available, as it is a wonderful car and can be hired from David for an extremely reasonable fee. Part of this fee goes to The Simon Community, so you can have an extra feel-good factor, knowing that you are directly helping the Homeless as you hammer round Kirkistown!

David has also informed me that the #33 MX5, an altogether more challenging version of the #22, will be making an appearance at our May event. After this shakedown, this car will also be available for hire to suitably selected individuals.

The trusty “Quiet” MR2 of the Cosgrove Brothers motored reliably and quickly all day, regardless of whether it was being danced or driven!

The Locaterfield Legion was limited to Andrew Parkinson in his MK Indy and Michael Campbell in his Reiss Hayabusa. Both showed their experience and went very quickly.

Jonathan Christie made a welcome return in his Honda prelude. It developed a noisy exhaust during the day, which threatened to curtail its activities. Once again, David Cousins to the rescue, this time with welding gear.

David also welded a turbo pipe for another participant.

The Weir family were out in force. Joe’s Sierra V6 makes a very pleasant noise and it goes well. Ciaran’s Cosworth version was quick but seemed to be a handful at times. Ryan’s BMW looked really well and went well too.

I noticed Ryan’s Beemer jumping at slow speed in the paddock and later enquired about his diff. He went into considerable detail about ratios while his female companion looked at my face and said, “It’s welded.”

Female nous! Perfect!

The most unusual looking car in attendance was Adrian Smyth’s Honda powered, space frame Mini.  It was his first time out in it and it seemed to go very well.

As mentioned earlier, Clios are becoming increasingly popular for track days. Chris Carson, Ross Hompstead, Colin Meegan and Mark Mooney entertained observers all day in their machines. Unfortunately, Conor Doherty blew his engine in his 172 during the first session.

Kirkistown Fiestas were there in numbers, with Mark Stewart getting mileage ahead of his Dad, Roy. Brendan McIlvenna is getting up to speed in his model but Ricky Hull blew his engine in his.

The Mazdabitz Focus went well as did David Marshal’s Puma.

The last run of the day still had around ten cars, such was the enthusiasm of the participants.

Thanks to the marshals and welcome to the new ones. Thanks also to Philip Brooks for his ambulance and his assistance on the gate.

Our next event is on Sunday 15th May and already many of this weeks participants have rebooked.


Sunday 13th March 2016.

The March track day was always going to be busy, although a car test day at the circuit, the day before, removed a few participants.

There were quite a few new drivers along with some folk who hadn’t been with us for a number of years and wished to go in the less experienced group. One such man was Paul Hamill in his Tiger Avon, a fairly rare Locaterfield style car. Paul soon shook off the cobwebs and ran quickly.

Another new guy was young Danny Conlon in his Kirkistown Fiesta. Danny already has a long history in Karts and is graduating to the Kirkistown Fiesta Zetec class this year. He lapped really quickly all day. (Since this report is being published a few weeks after the track day, I can tell you that Danny got a 2nd and a 3rd on his race debut on Saturday 2nd April!

Gary Whyite went consistently in his BMW M3, as did John McReynolds in his E46 325 Ti.

Donna Anderson is getting steadily quicker in her MX5.

James Perry ran well all day in his Caterham. He competed in the Sprint the following week at Kirkistown, in the same car.

The Dundalk Macarena Team were well represented, with the Cosgrove brothers driving the wheels of their MR2 with abundant skill, as usual. Joe McArdle had his trusty Nissan 350Z back and going well and Brendan Cumiskey had his beautiful 1330 Mini Clubman on song once again. Jim Kennedy kept his usual low profile in the other quick MR2. (Low profile + quick = good!)

The MazdaBitz team went rapidly in their very inexpensive Ford Focus and Mazda 323. The Mazda out-lasted the Ford, which is good advertising, in a way.

Henry Graham was a bit concerned by a rattle coming from the engine of his BMW after the first run but after some sage advice from a knowledgeable spectator, he continued and proved the reliability of BMW for the rest of the day.

Luciano Saia had his Beemer flying on what may be its last track day. Luciano is switching to Audi power in the near future.

Mention of Audi brings us to Dave Howell and James Mateer who pedalled an S8 and S6 respectively. Both were great to watch and the S8 sounded beautiful when on power. Dave had a slight excursion at the hairpin, which led to firstly the S8 and then the Trackskills Cosworth getting stuck in the mud!

The Clios of Colin Meegan, Leslie Graham and Mark Mooney were flying and proving to be almost the ideal track day cars. Although I love rear wheel drive MX5s, the Clios are quicker and every bit as much fun. Leslie’s model decided to exile its con rod towards the end of the day but he happily informed us that he has another few engines in the garage and will be out again very soon!

The most interesting car was Barry Leeson’s Mini Clubman powered by a 1600 Honda. It was very quick.

Scoobys and Evos were there in quantity. The Cormican Brothers were having fun in their Evos while Martin Currie had mixed fortunes in his model. Stewart Getty ran well in his Impreza and Gary Craig, with suitably improved brakes from February, had a good run in his model.

Unluckiest man of the day was Tom Gaughran who’s Mini Cooper went sick on his first run.

As the season goes on and the weather gets warmer, I would expect to see more Locaterfields and MX5s.

Thanks, as always, has to go to the marshals, who were without their leader, Fel, this time. She will be back for our next day on Sunday 17th April.

Thanks also to Philip Brookes for his medical services and the other bits and pieces that he does every time.



Sunday 7th February 2016.

The first Trackskills track day of the 2016 season was fairly uneventful. Numbers were okay and as would be expected during what is still the Winter, there were no Locaterfields, although Allen Hume did go with just a soft top on his MX5.

For once, the weather forecast was accurate. It was dry but cold until 3:00pm and then the rain came.

Donna Anderson continued to learn in her black MX5 and Liam O’Flagherty learned that brakes are a necessity on his, having the pedal go to the floor in the first session!

Alastair Whitten and Gareth Johnston lapped quickly, mostly together, in their Imprezas. Later, Colin McDonnell joined the party in his rather quick model. Unfortunately, Gary Craig had brake problems after a couple of sessions in his. That ended his day.

Kirkistown Fiestas had a few representatives. Jonny Forsythe went well in the car he hopes to take the championship with this year. Three Stewarts shared two cars along with Desi McGlade in his replacement for 2016. Desi had issues in the form of a slipping clutch that curtailed his activity.

John Whyte went very well in his larger engine Fiesta. One could almost see the thought bubbles above the heads of the Kirkistown Fiesta drivers as they watched him!

The Mazdabitz Focus went well with a variety of drivers as did Tom Gaughran’s Clio Cup Van!

Damien Dixon took his Mazda RX8 out for what may be its last track day and went well. Damien is going to Japan for a year and is selling it before he goes.

The Clios of Alan Forde and Conor Doherty continued to demonstrate why these are such great track cars with both running quickly all day without missing a beat.

Thanks go as usual to the marshals who braved the cold and, after 3:00pm, the rain.

It’s a five week wait until the next one on Sunday 13th March but already bookings are coming in.

On a final note, the stew provided by Mark in the café was excellent and helped keep the cold at bay.


Sunday 1st November 2015.

Someone once told me that the word “Amazing” is great to use when describing an event, person or item that could well have varying appeal or repulsion to different people. It allows the speaker to know what they mean while letting the listener think something different!

And so it is that I will say that last Sunday’s track day was amazing!

Firstly, up until 3:00pm it was like a Summer day. Blue sky and low wind left most people with smiles of pleasant surprise on a November day.

We got each group two runs before 1:45pm and, with hindsight, we should have gone for another session each before breaking for lunch. That would have taken us to 2:30pm. Looking at the sky and the surrounding landscape, we had no idea that we would be encased in fog by 3:00pm!

However, that is what happened and for the next two hours the marshals, the drivers and Philip Brookes, our medicine man, all were brilliant at keeping the event running. To explain Philip’s role, he took flags and manned the flag post at Debtor’s to maintain safety, given the poor visibility.  The marshals kept unnecessary radio chatter to a minimum and constantly kept Control aware of the situation at their posts. It was very obvious that they were determined to keep the event running safely.

At 5:10pm, as darkness combined with the fog, we called it a day, although some drivers were still itching for another run.

So how did people get on?

Well, having got permission from his ten year old son to come, both Conor Aston and said son had a ball in their Porsche 911. The other supercar on the day was Philip Shields in his 458 Ferrari. He flew in the clear sessions and was still motoring quickly in the fog. “Quickly” in the Ferrari is “Extremely Fast” in anything else!

Donna Anderson made a welcome return in her MX5 and is steadily building up her speed. She is a perfect example of the fact that track days are for people to explore their own limits and not necessarily the limits of their car. I firmly believe that if Donna keeps at it, she will eventually approach the limits of her MX5.

David Cousins was the Man Of The Meeting because he provided his #22 East Engineering Mazda MX5 free, for the marshals to each have a session during the day. If any marshal did not want to actually drive the car, David took over pilot duties and the marshal went for a fast ride as a passenger. David is moving his engineering business right beside Kirkistown in the next few weeks and still hopes to have two cars for hire next year.

Young Cameron Fenton went very smoothly in his Ginetta G20. He coped exceptionally well when his throttle jammed wide open on track. A cool head and judicious use of the kill switch got him safely back to the paddock, much to the relief of his attending fan club, which included fellow Ginetta Junior racer, Megan Campbell.

Keith Bennett in his Nissan 200 went very well all day, on his first trip to the track. Olivia Ligget brought her sprinting experience to bear and was both smooth and fast in the MR2 that she hadn’t seen before that morning!

The fastest duck of the day was in an Audi TT. He was simply glowing with satisfaction!

The Clios were out in force and made a great sight, circulating in rapid formation. Conor Doherty, Colin Dynes, Colin Meegan, Leslie Graham and Mark Mooney horsed these motors round all day. I think the title of “Most Enthusiastic Driver” has to go to Mark who was still wanting to go round again after it was all over. He was simply beaming when I talked with him at the end.

Warren Corr’s Skyline was a pleasure to listen to with the turbo whistling as it went past.

Being slightly biased, I was delighted to see two Seat Leons out and going well. Martin McDonnell seems to have finally got all of the gremlins exorcised from his and Conor McEntee was his usual quick and smooth self.

Martin’s son, Colin, was fairly flying in his Impreza and he was joined for a few sessions by Martin Currie in his Evo.

There were a few hard luck stories. Kealan O’Connor never got his Integra running cleanly at any stage during the day. Alan Hume’s MX5 expired on it’s first run. Harry Watson had the biggest “off” all day, losing it at Debtor’s. Luckily, his car slid all the way to the grass bank, which it mounted before stopping. There was little damage but Harry resembled a mud wrestler after having to dig to the subframe before finding somewhere to attach a tow line with which to pull the car. When the car was finally returned to terra firma, it drove away under its own steam (quite literally, since everything was soaked!).

It was good to see Damian Dixon getting a clean run in his RX8 after having troubles at our previous event.

Thank you to everyone who supported us all year. The standard of driving and preparation has generally been excellent.

Thanks to the caterers who opened longer hours this season. Hopefully, that was to their advantage.

Thanks especially to our marshals and Philip Brookes who kept us running safely all year. Philip pulled us out of a hole on two occasions when the new regime at St John Ambulance let us down at extremely short notice.

Our wish list of dates has been submitted to the 500MRCI and hopefully we will have these confirmed soon.

In the meantime, if you are looking for ideas for Christmas presents, we still have “Debtor’s Is Flat” T-shirts available and we can also provide open vouchers for next season.

 

Sunday 11th October 2015.

The weather remained perfect all day at Kirkistown on Sunday 11th September and a smaller than usual gathering of enthusiasts enjoyed the track day.

Tony Greenan brought his supercharged Atom back out to play. He confused everyone by following his friend Gavin Stanfield in the Impreza. Observers thought he couldn’t get past as Gavin was driving very well but apparently the situation has been agreed between the two before venturing out. I still don’t know what they were doing! Later on, Tony was flying in the Atom, as well as getting into bother with the Chief Marshal and myself over some unorthodox overtaking!

Unfortunately Neil Carson, Andrew Gardiner, Glen Cinamon and Brendan Cumiskey all hit mechanical or tyre problems on first runs and retired early.

The fun car to watch was Victor Smyth’s Honda engined Mini. The speed at which it could negotiate the Crosslé Chicane was breath taking.

I have done Tom Gaughran a disservice in previous reports. His “van” is actually a Clio Cup car, with the rear side windows vinyled! It is very quick.

We had three Toyota MR2s in attendance. The Cosgrove Brothers’ white one, which used to known as The Quiet One but which now belies the name, Jim Kennedy’s blue version and James Erwin’s later model, also blue. All ran well throughout the day, although the Cosgrove’s model seemed to have a penchant for spinning!

Joe McArdle brought his Nissan 350Z back to play alongside Damian Moran in his trusty Elise and Anthony Davidson in his big TVR. Anthony was watching the clouds all day but I assured him that Saturday’s sacrifice had been pure in mind and body and we would have no rain!

Martin McDonnell made a welcome return, this time in a managerial role! His Subaru Impreza was very well driven buy his sons, while he organised the whole team.

We only had two newcomers. Michael O’Donnell drove quickly and without drama all day in his Honda Prelude as did Colin Miller in the East Engineering Mazda MX5.

Richard Kee was the sole Locaterfield pilot in his Locost. This time it behaved well and saw him successfully through the day. It seems that the days are gone when we could have a session purely for these cars.

Leslie Graham gave his “new” Clio its first outing. He claimed to be worried about driving a front wheeled drive motor but one would not have guessed by the way it was going! The “Toon MR2” is now a distant memory.

As the day progressed many participants left early. Something to do with a rugby match, I was told. That left us with a Spartan final session at 5:40pm, which turned out to be most entertaining for the marshals and the spectator.

David Cousins’ customers had had loads of fun and gone home so he decided to take his hire car out himself. John Cosgrove would still be circulating at midnight if he was allowed and it only takes two cars to have a ball! The result was an epic session, with both drivers making minor mistakes as it went on. There was rarely more than a car length between them and the in-car video from Michael’s car can be seen on the Trackskills Facebook page. It was a great way to end the day.

Thanks to all the marshals and to Philip Brookes for the medical service.

The final Trackskills date this year is Sunday 1st November. This is the one where headlights are required for our final session. Bring your car and your camera for great shots of glowing brake disks and fiery exhausts.

 


Sunday 20th September 2015.

It was Sunday 20th September and against all predictions, bar that of the virgin, the sun was shining! However, we were still wary that the weather may change (She was thirty!) and so a special effort was made to get off the mark sharpish.

The first group were experienced drivers in quiet cars. David Marshal led away in his Ford Ka. Luciano Saia is now classed as experienced and he went very quickly in his BMW M5.  James Smart was back is his aging but quick Golf. Brendan McIlvanna was the first driver in the family Astra. Tom Gaughran brought a smile to everyone’s face as he took off in his Peugeot van!

We had a large group of new drivers and these made up the bulk of the second session. John Piggott and Damien McGrane had hired the #22 MX5 from East Engineering. By all accounts, they had a great day.  The two Pauls, McNulty and Campbell brought their Toyota GT86s and it was great to see these cars on track. Jamie Graham went well in his Clio 182, as did Alastair Whitten in his Impreza.

Unfortunately, newcomer Damien Dixon’s Mazda RX8 did something bad in the engine department on his first run and he had to limp off home.

The third group had some tasty machinery, including Tony Greenan’s new toy, an Arial Atom with a supercharged Honda engine. Reliable sources say that he was lapping two seconds faster than his best time in the Bonda and that was on treaded tyres!

Chris Rooney was going so well in his Civic that he had to go out in search of four star after three sessions! Eamon Connolly’s Civic went extremely quickly. He has a very unusual wastegate pipe coming out of the bonnet, just below the passenger windscreen. The flames coming out of it will look great during our November meeting!

Arnold Gibson was on his own, in more ways than one. Usually, he has his son with him and in the past, the dices between him and Tony Greenan were legendary. This time he had nobody to run with but he continued to lap very quickly, especially in the late afternoon when the rain did finally arrive.

The Cosgrove brothers, as ever, danced their MR2 rapidly all day. Theirs was the sole MR2.

Richard Kee was another unfortunate whose car let him down in his first session.

It was great to have Tom Horan back after a number of years. He still lapped quickly in his Honda engined Westfield.

Saloon racers Andrew Armstrong and Aidan Vance put on a great display in the StreetRacer BMW and Civic respectively. Unfortunately, Aidan’s overheating problem returned in the afternoon.

Shane Murray went very quickly in his MK2 Escort as did Stephen Campbell in his Civic. Stephen really should be racing.

One of the nicest looking cars was Gareth Blaine’s Nova Hot Rod and it went as well as it looked.

A fate decreed, this was the last ever outing for the McIlvanna Astra as it had a big off at the Crosslé Chicane and Brendan has informed me that it is not an economically viable fix. Possibly, there may be a Kirkistown Fiesta on the way!

At 4:10pm the rain began to fall and it didn’t stop. However, that did not seem to deter most people. In fact, some people positively revelled in the conditions. One such was Cormac O’Doherty in his BMW 116. He was driving away from Arnold Gibson’s 3 Series!

By 5:45pm everyone had had enough and we called it a day. Our thanks go to our damp marshals who did a great job of keeping things rolling.

The next date is Sunday 11th October and this is our penultimate date of  2015.

 

 

Sunday 24th May 2015.


Wow! What an event! The Trackskills track day on Sunday 24th May had a marvellous turn-out of cars and drivers. All enjoyed near perfect weather conditions.

The first two cars into the paddock were Sean Turner’s beautiful Crosslé 9S and Jim Hutcheson’s equally gorgeous RSR Escort Mk1. Both drivers used the day to bed in brakes and check other set up parameters. While Sean’s day ran perfectly, Jim got most of what he wanted done before being thwarted by an electrical gremlin.

Miller McIlrea returned, after some years, in a Mitsubishi Evo 6 that he had just got on the road. He had no idea if it would go well or even go at all! However, it ran perfectly all day.

Another returnee after a long absence was Jonathan Christie in his trusty Honda Prelude. This car used to get an awful punishing at our events and on this occasion it voiced its objections towards the end of the day by going off a cylinder or two.

Ken Moore also made a comeback in his Prelude. He was going well but had to stop early due to a seriously cracked front brake rotor.

Joe McArdle hadn’t got his 350Z back on the road so he brought a Twingo! He wasn’t the slowest!

Brendan Cumiskey’s 1330 Mini Clubman still isn’t repaired after its altercation with the tyres at the Crosslé Chicane so he hired the East Engineering Mazda MX5 from David Cousins. He shared it with John Moran and the two of them had a ball all day!

This wee car has to be the bargain of the century. For £425 you arrive at the track day and it is there, waiting for you. Your entry is paid. It is full of fuel, has good tyres and brakes and David is there to fettle it all day. On top of that, you can feel good about yourself because £50 of your £425 will have gone directly to The Simon Community. It’s a no-brainer.

It is often said that it is a small world and that is even more true in this country. Niall Meegan was signing in with his Lotus Elise and I asked him if he had anyone related to him called Colin. He confirmed that he had a cousin called Colin and that he was a car enthusiast as well. It turned out that the said Colin was also booked in with a Clio 172! Both drivers went well all day.

The Mazda Mafia were out in force with “Don” McNaught directing affairs with Roxy (his RX8). His confederates were Liam O’Flaherty, Allen Hume and Stephen Murray, all in MX5s. Judging by their comments and smiles, all had a great time.

The two regular Ford Pumas of Derek Le Mathew and David Watters went really well again and the Cosgrove MR2 was ably driven as usual by Michael and John. It will be good to see the in-car videos that Michael regularly posts as he was having a mighty tussle with a Clio Cup car for most of the day. Leslie Graham’s MR2 gave him trouble all day and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him replacing this one.

The Locaterfield brigade was well represented. Michael Campbell fairly flew in his Reiss ‘Bussa. Andrew Parkinson went well as usual in his MK Indy but he was more interested in his new toy, a drone with which he got some excellent pictures of the whole paddock from above! James Perry was his normal quick and tidy self in his Caterham, as was Stephen Dawson in his version.

Philip Reid and Ryan Caughey were making their debuts in Westfields and both slotted in very well. Unfortunately, Richard Key’s Locost broke a drive shaft early in the day and he spent the rest of the time waiting for a friend to arrive with a welder!

Brendan McIlvanna’s Astra never missed a beat and neither did Stephen Potter’s rapid Honda DC2.

James Smart was another to return after over a year away and he seemed to have lost none of his speed in his VW Golf.

Lee Sales got his Saxo VTS running very rapidly as did Nigel Kyle, who was out for the first time in his Civic Type R.

Cormac O’Doherty was in the queue to leave around 4:30pm. I approached his recently uprated BMW 116D and inquired as to why he was going, to be told with a smile that he was exhausted! These track days take it out of you!

We were very well supported at this event and the driving standards were, generally, excellent. The only red flag called was for a broken down car in a dangerous position. There were two incidents of over-enthusiastic driving and the drivers were spoken to with a view to modifying their approach. Both made the necessary attitude changes and nothing more needed to be done.

The marshals and St John, as usual, did a perfect job and our thanks go to them.

The new caterers made a conscious effort to improve their service and the reports I received form those in the paddock were of greatly improved presentation and quality of fayre. Aaron and Mark, the brothers who have the franchise, are easy to work with and are eager to get their service to a top standard. They will welcome constructive criticism and suggestions from any of their customers.

Our next event is on Sunday 21st June. We look forward to seeing you there.


Sunday 19th April 2015.

As track days go, our April one on Sunday 19th was a classic. It had everything, great cars, great drivers, great weather, great track and great, enthusiastic spectators!

The scene was set when, upon arrival, I saw that the Breezemount Motorsport race truck was already in place at the paddock garages. That meant that Philip Shields had brought more than one car. In fact, he had brought one of his 458 Ferraris and his ex-BTCC Vauxhall Vectra.

To cap that, Philip arrived in his LaFerrari, the only one in Ireland and it remained on display, beside the truck, all day.

Tony Greenan made a very welcome return in his Bonda and I burst out laughing when the initial session got under way with Philip away first and Tony on a mission, right behind him. The two of them just pulled away from everyone else at a massive rate.

In that same session was Nicholas Wood, who was experimenting with a new brand of rubber. After this session, he was very concerned as he felt that his Hondus was slipping all over the place. However, after his second session, it was behaving much better, as the tyres scrubbed and by his third session he was going much quicker than he had ever done before, to the tune of around two seconds!

Roy and Paul Stewart and Desi McGlade were out in their Kirkistown Fiestas and were very entertaining to watch. Later in the afternoon they were joined by safety marshal, Conor Mulholland and Team Trackskills pilot Eórann O’Neill, in similar machinery.

Eórann has acquired her Fiesta from Megan Campbell in a deal which has resulted in Megan taking ownership of Eórann’s much-loved Ginetta Junior machine. Megan had her first run in it in the afternoon and went very well.

Rooth Cousins also made her debut in her dad’s East Engineering MX5. Already an accomplished horse-woman, she enjoyed herself so much that she now wants to go racing!

It is great to see the girls staking their claims to a piece of trackday action and we would love to see this trend increase.

Another returnee was enthusiastic Newcastle United supporter, Leslie Graham, in his “Toon” Toyota MR2. After the first session he was threatening to burn it as he was suffering overheating problems, after spending nearly a grand on engine repairs! However, a slipped hose was the problem and a big jubilee clip was the solution. By the end of the day Leslie had a grin from ear to ear. You would have thought Newcastle United had beaten Sunderland, ten-nil!

Father and son team, Arnold and Andrew Gibson brought their BMW 5 Series back and were scorching round, despite some tracking problems.

The Street Racer team of Andrew Armstrong (BMW) and Aidan Vance (Supercharged Civic) entertained the spectators throughout the day. The acceleration of Aidan’s Civic is amazing, although he was having some overheating issues.

With having great weather during the days leading up to Sunday, the soft-top guys were out in force. Richard and Chris Kyle were going well in their Westfield before mechanical gremlins brought their afternoon to an early halt. Richard Munnis was giving his Stryker its debut, having moved away from the bike engine counterparts. Michael Campbell went very well in his aerodynamic Reiss Hayabusa. Rob Gallagher had the odd mechanical hic-cup in his orange Westfield while Andy Parkinson’s MK Indy seemed to be trouble free. Steven Whyte, Larry Mawhinney and Richard Kee completed the Locaterfield Brigade, going well in two Westfields and a Locost, respectively.

For the first time, Derek Le Mathew’s Puma had another one to play with as David Watters returned with a red version. These cars go really well round Kirkistown.

Newcomer, Keith Hannafin, went very quickly in his Civic. It would be no surprise to see him on the grid in future saloon races.

The most unfortunate story of the day was the crash at the Chicane involving Brendan Cumiskey’s beautifully prepared Mini Clubman 1330. Brendan drives the wheels off this car and it is great to be able to see such a rare machine being used properly. However, this time the Chicane bit back and the side panels took a hammering. Brendan was not hurt and the car drove back to the paddock.

The final session of the day was almost full, including the Cosgrove brothers who were travelling back to Dundalk and the Harron brothers who had even further to go. In fact, their father asked us to black flag them before the end of the session so that they could get packed up to go home! That says it all really. Tremendous fun was had by all.

Thanks go to St John’s as always and to all of the marshals, who had already had a busy weekend at the previous day’s Croft Hillclimb.

Our next date is Sunday 24th May and bookings are being taken.


Sunday 22nd March 2015.


Yet again, the participants at Kirkistown on Sunday 22nd March were blessed with almost perfect weather. Yes, it was cold, as expected in March, but the sun shone all day.

The health of this branch of motor sport can be judged by the number of newcomers sampling the joys of driving fast and safely on a closed circuit.

Jonny Firkin was new to the Mazda MX5 ranks and he went well on his first day.  A man who also joined the growing MX5 Brigade was experienced wheel man, Malcolm Bruce, who in the past has pedalled a Subaru Impreza at the circuit.

Rafael Ribeiro took it very easy in his Toyota MR2 on his first day but Conor Hamill seemed more at home in his Westfield, as a newcomer. This is the beauty of track days. Nobody is expected to go any harder than they wish. It’s all about gathering experience at a comfortable pace.

Paul Dunstan went quickly, without trouble, in his well turned out Mitsubishi Evo.

We also had a number of Ginetta Junior drivers who were amazing, given their ages.

Trackskills are very proud of the large number of drivers who have left their ranks to go racing, over the years. Included in the list is the outright lap record holder at Kirkistown, Philip Shields. Philip comes back every now and again and usually brings one of his immaculately prepared Ferraris. Such was the case on Sunday. He spent most of the time on track giving passenger rides to some lucky folk, in his race prepared 458.

The trend towards competition continues and this year we have Roy and Paul Stewart, Desi McGlade and Jonny Forsythe joining the Kirkistown Fiesta class. These four plus Niall O’Hanlon and Cahal Nugent were a great sight to watch as they racked up the miles in close company all day in these evenly matched cars.

A few people didn’t have great luck on Sunday. Tony Traub’s DC5 refused to run cleanly. A fuel starvation problem is the likely cause. Raymond Grimes’ MR2 gave up the ghost half way through the afternoon and Loris Nikolov discovered what it feels like to suddenly become a passenger rather than a driver when he had a suspension failure in the chicane.

The Locaterfield people have begun to come out of winter hibernation, perhaps attracted by the sun! It was great to see the return of Paul Keys and Jeff Rutherford in their Megabussas. Father and son team Richard and Chris Kyle brought theirs as well as did David Murray. Davis Buick brought his Reis Aero variation back after a long absence.

An interesting phenomenon is that of Nicolas Wood and his Princess (Elise). Ever since the Honda heart transplant, this car just gets quicker and quicker and yet Nicholas becomes more anonymous! It must be the extra concentration required to go round so fast. We hardly know he has been there! We’re missing your craic, Nicholas!

Special mention has to go to Brendan Cumiskey who drove his beautiful Mini Clubman 1330 hard all day. It was a pleasure to see this rare machine being driven properly.

Another beautifully turned out machine was “Roxy”, the extremely sexy Mazda RX8 belonging to Norman McNaught.  This car is ready to race and we are encouraging Norman to take the plunge and join the ranks of the Kirkistown GTs.

Thanks to the marshals and also thanks to the new crew from St John who dealt with the Loris Nikolov incident quickly and efficiently.

The wait until our next date is shorter this time. It is on Sunday 19th April. See you there!


Sunday 8th February 2015.


The 2015 track day season got off to a wonderful start with the Kirkistown Weather Gods playing a blinder. I was walking around in a T-shirt, on the 8th February!

 

There was a lot of activity already at the circuit with the Rescue marshals having a training and grading weekend. Outright circuit lap record holder, Philip Shields, had provided a couple of his cars for the exercises and they were of great interest to many in the paddock. His GP2 record holding single seater (180 mph through Debtor’s!) was eye catching, as was one of his Ferrari 458s. While the GP2 wasn’t started, the Ferrari was and it sounded beautiful!

 

We were happy to welcome some drivers who were attending their first ever Trackskills day. Sean Burns ended up going very quickly in his Vauxhall Astra, having built up speed steadily all day. Ivan McAteer, as predicted by some who knew, was very quick in his oil burning Golf. He definitely had an advantage over others in his group, as he didn’t have to see through clouds of black smoke! Leslie Graham had a mixed day. When his MR2 was trouble free, he went very well but the car had intermittent overheating problems, which curtailed his activities from time to time. Oliver Cormican’s was a similar story with his Evo 6, only his had a more spectacular ending, with an engine fire in the paddock. Thankfully, it was extinguished without major damage.

Although the day was sunny, James Demster must have been cold in his Locost. However, he circulated quickly for most of the day and all his body parts were still attached when he went home. The car was perfect too!

 

Three cars for the Kirkistown Fiesta Championship were in attendance. Roy and Paul Stewart shared one and went very smoothly all day. Jonny Forsythe did likewise in his but Desi McGlade had overheating issues from the off and he went home early.

 

I spent a lot of time observing at various corners and the two drivers who really stood out for me were Kealan O’Connor in his very rapid Honda DC5 and Derek LeMathew in his Ford Puma. Kealan is planning on racing his car in the Kirkistown Saloons this year. He should be right at the sharp end. Given his performance on Sunday, Derek really should be racing something. He was smooth and fast in the 1700cc Puma. From what I saw, the only car that was quicker through the Hairpin was Kealan’s DC5.

 

The regular team from Dundalk made the journey but had very mixed fortunes. The Cosgrove Brothers’ MR2 ran sweetly but Jim Kennedy’s version expired in the first session. Even that was better than Joe McArdle’s experience. He arrived at the circuit, only to spot a crack in his front right brake rotor through which daylight could be seen! Damian Moran’s Elise did run without issue although, as he often points out, he brings his own hill with him, just in case it needs a bump start!

 

Conor McEntee drove his Seat Leon Cupra R very smoothly, generally equalling or out performing the Mitsubishi Evos that seemed to be always in his vicinity on track.

 

Two Renault Clios entertained on the day. Mark Mooney was very smooth and consistently quick in his blue version and Marc Dowie was very impressive in his black and newer version. I figure he got psyched up by being parked beside the GP2!

 

The most beautiful sound on track came from Jonathan Garrett’s Audi RS4. This car was well driven all day and was such a pleasure to listen to as it accelerated out of the hairpin.

 

Neil White spent the last nine years restoring his immaculate MGBGT and he took it out on track! It was a shade of white, so we tried to keep it away from Ivan’s Golf! (Only joking.) As one would expect from Neil, the car ran perfectly.

 

Trackskills’ track days seem to becoming an attraction, even to those who aren’t planning on venturing on track, During the day we had a visit from a dozen or so MX5s, in convoy. We also had an extended visit from three, not quite standard, Fiat 500s. Add those to Philip Shields’ Breezemount Motorsport display and there was something for every petrol head to enjoy.

 

As always, St John’s were providing the medical cover and they were called upon twice during the event. Both incidents occurred in the paddock. One involved a driver getting a noxious liquid splashed in his eye while the other involved a person sustaining a minor cut on a sharp object. As it is often quoted, motor sport is dangerous and not always where one would expect!

 

The marshals did a great job as usual so thanks to both them and St John’s for their enthusiastic help.

 

There is a six week gap now until the next Trackskills’ day on Sunday 22nd March but bookings are being taken through Donal@mulsanne.co.uk or info@trackskills.com.

 

 

Sunday 9th November 2014.

2014, by any measurement, has been a good year for our track days at Kirkistown. We have been blessed with good weather and few accidents. Perhaps to stop us being too smug, Fate conspired to have a gentle and ironic laugh at our expense on our last event on Sunday 9th November.

We had decided to launch our new T-shirt at this event. The often-quoted statement about the fastest corner on any permanent circuit in Ireland, Debtor’s Dip, is that “Debtor’s is flat!” Our T-shirts are emblazoned with the slogan, “Debtor’s is FLAT, if you know what you’re at!”

When we arrived at the circuit on Sunday morning we were greeted with the sight of a newly formed lake stretching from Debtor’s Dip to Colonial One, rendering the main circuit unusable. With one of the biggest entries all year, we would have to use the smaller Sprint circuit and no one would be round Debtor’s on that day!

From that point onwards, we were in uncharted territory. We knew we would be restricted with the numbers we could allow on track and would have to adjust the track time for the sessions. As the day progressed, we constantly tweaked the settings and with everyone’s cooperation, we kept things moving at a pace.

Many of the drivers of smaller, front wheel drive cars said that they enjoyed the change but the tight track was a real handful for the bigger machines.

There was a selection of MX5s and most ended up hanging their tails out on the twisty link section between the two straights. When Gary Armstrong’s turbo came on mid corner, there was no way to stay straight! Stephen Murray seemed to have less of an issue in his beautifully liveried, normally aspirated version whereas Caolan Smith was even more sideways than Gary in his model.


Stephen Campbell and Blaine Bradley represented the Seat marque in a Leon and Ibiza, respectively. Both were great to watch into the first right hander, on a flying lap, with the back right wheel locking in clear air, under braking.

John Lecky was going well in his Focus but had niggling problems with new brakes glazing in the early part of the day.

The best show of the day was put on by a contingent of Civics who entertained everyone with some fast and close precision driving. There were various double drivers so it is hard for me to say in this report who was in what, at a particular time, but Liam Gore, Paul Gorman, Alan Forde, Ryan and Ross Lynn and Kealan O’Connor were in the mix. Jay O’Reilly was in there too somewhere!

The prize for having the biggest gonads on the day has to go to Richard Kee who was out among the Civics in his Locost. He sat behind for a couple of laps before getting right into the mix!

Philip Shields had brought two Ferraris and his 1 Series BMW. However, the Ferraris were totally unsuited to the Sprint track and he confined his activities to the Beemer.

The MR2 contingent did not seem to be troubled by the tightness of the track and the Cosgrove brothers, Michael and John, Raymond Grimes and John Lyttle, and Robert Kennedy all went well in the three models that they drove. As ever, Michael has a video uploaded on YouTube for anyone to watch.

There were a number of bigger cars that really couldn’t stretch their legs, although it wasn’t for want of trying. There was no way Gavin Stanfield could get the enormous posse of horses in his Impreza to work in such confined space. Andrew McCrea had less horsepower in his model and probably got more satisfaction from the tight course. Gavin Kilkey and TJ McDowell did seem to get a rhythm going in their Mitsubishi Evos.

All of these had four wheel drive but Arnold Gibson only had two in his very rapid BMW M3 and mostly got frustration from the Sprint track.

Special mention has to go to Ginetta Junior driver, William Quinn, who was thrown in at the deep end on a circuit he had never driven on before. For such a young guy, he drove very well.

Brian O’Rawe drove in a very sensible way all day in his BMW, as did Peter Henry in his Peugeot 205 and Paul Curran in his Sirocco. In fact, Paul claims that the tight track suited his car better than the full circuit.

Perhaps because of the lower speeds on the tighter circuit, there were few stoppages for red flags. We had one Westfield jumping over some tyres, with only minor cosmetic damage and a couple of incidents in the tight, in-field section where a spinner blocked the track but all were marshalled under control.

As always happens at our last day, the final few sessions ran in near darkness. Such was the number of cars still wanting to go on track during these, we had to limit them to vehicles with working lights, both front and rear. We also issued the marshals with coloured torches to augment their flags.

It seemed to be the Clios that had the glowing brake discs this time and it was a spectacle to enjoy.

Finally, our thanks go to all of the marshals and St John personnel who came to our events throughout 2015. Also, thank you to James Higginson, who left his post in the café to drive the tractor, as we laboured to get the flood to drain away, albeit unsuccessfully.


Finally, finally, thank you to all the drivers, mechanics, helpers, gofers and supporters who came to our events this year. You were a pleasure to work with and we hope to see you again next year.

Sunday 17th August 2014.

I have said this so many times and it is true. Kirkistown has its own weather system and it is usually benign. From start to finish during our August track day we had, at most, 15 minutes of rain. Because of the near constant wind, the track dried as soon as the rain stopped. Participants were arriving telling horrible tales of downpours in Carrickfergus, Belfast and Lisburn. The virgin sacrifices seem to work for us!

It was a very busy day and we were graced with some beautiful cars. Top of the class has to be Philip Shields’ Ferrari 458. Philip happily took many delighted passengers for runs throughout the day.

Toyota MR2s seem to becoming the tool of choice for many at our events. This is, perhaps, due to the entertaining in-car videos that are regularly posted on YouTube by John and Michael Cosgrove in their ‘quiet’ car. John Lyttle and Raymond Grimes pensioned off their red MR2 at the beginning of the summer but they introduced a ‘new’ black one at this event. I think there were some teething problems to do with the cooling system.

We also had a throw back to our early events in the “noughties” when we had loads of Mazda MX5s. This time we had the East Engineering hire car, ably driven by Rafal Krawczky. Andrew McCann was a newcomer in his red model.  Declan O’Duil and Stephen Murray went well in their variants while experienced competition man, Allan Harriman seemed to be enjoying his first visit to a Trackskills event in his beautifully turned out example.

Colin Reid was also giving passenger rides in his extremely quick “Locaterfield” to ‘winners’ from a competition he had been running to raise funds for his local school. His friend Andy Parkinson went a stage further and actually let track marshal and Kirkistown Safety Crew member, Conor Mulholland, drive his version.

Jim Kennedy brought his Mini Z-Car back once again. He seemed to have slightly better luck with it this time, although it remains a work in progress. The pneumatic gear change sounds brilliant!

Norman McNaught brought out Roxy, his beautiful Maxda RX8 and he duly went very well, spitting out fire at every gear change! Chris Rogan was the man getting toasted in his Renault R26R, right behind him.

Nicholas Wood and Ryan Vauls went quickly and smoothly all day in the Lotus Elise and Honda S2000 respectively, as did Damian Moran in his Elise and Joe McArdle in the 350Z.

The performance of the day has to go to Arnold Gibson and Tony Greenan who ran extremely quickly, nose to tail, in every session they were in together. There was a lot of mutual respect shown between them and great awareness demonstrated by the other participants in the sessions. They were entertaining to watch and if you are interested, there is some great in-car footage on the Trackskills FaceBook page.

When I describe someone’s performance as anonymous, it is not an insult. In fact, it is the direct opposite. It means that person drove quickly, smoothly and without any incident all day, so much so, that they were never mentioned by the marshals for any spins or off-track excursions. Such people include James McConnell in his BMW, Stephen Potter in his Integra, Ray and Ken Moore in their Prelude and Peter Henry in his Peugeot 205 GTi.

Special mention has to go to the Mazdabits Ford Puma. I heard from more than one source that this car was going better than it had any right to be! Derek Le Mathew owns it and he shares the driving with others so I do not know who should be getting the credit. Perhaps all of them!

We always thank the marshals but on this occasion a special thanks is required as a number of our team were directly involved in the immediate response to the fatality in the Ulster Rally the previous day. The fact that they turned out less than 24 hours later for our event shows what they are made of. Thank you guys and girls.

Thank you also to St John’s who kept us right all day.

Our next event is on Sunday 14th September and the entries are coming in already.

 

 

 

Sunday 6th July 2014.

July’s track day turned out to be a small affair. It may have been the weather forecast, the holiday period or the clash with the British Grand Prix and the Men’s Wimbledon Final that reduced our numbers significantly.

The weather at Kirkistown in the morning was beautiful but the forecast was for sustained rain from Midday onwards. However, we managed to get everyone three dry runs before lunch, which coincided with the heavens opening.

The first session after lunch began behind the safety car, to show the drivers the location of the standing water. This water rapidly disappeared as the rain had stopped and while there were another couple of showers during the afternoon, none had the ferocity of the lunchtime downpour.

Jonathan Christie was the only driver in his Prelude, as his usual companions were away.  He must have done over 100 miles, as he seemed to be out and going well in every other session!

Chris Derrick was there for the first time in his BMW E46 M3 and was lapping increasingly quickly throughout the day. Unfortunately, he was caught out by the damp surface at Colonial 2, late in the afternoon and did some cosmetic damage to his car.

It was good to welcome back Nicholas Wood in his Honda engined Elise. His “Princess” was going very rapidly in both wet and dry conditions. Unfortunately, Hugh McAvoy’s similar machine was beset with overheating problems all day and even with Connaire Finn’s assistance, he never got a proper run.

Most impressive for both speed and reliability was Mark Lester in his Peugeot 106. Like Jonathan Christie’s Prelude, the wee Pug seemed to be out in every other session and was quicker than many, more expensive, toys.

Damian Moran’s Lotus Elise was having battery problems but he had brought his own hill with him, in the form of a tilt bed lorry. He simply reversed the car up the bed after a run and was able to roll it down for a bump start the next time!

James Perry dodged the showers in his Caterham until mid-afternoon before deciding enough was enough, while Nigel Bradshaw, at his first Trackskills event, did fewer sessions over a longer period. Both drivers deserve credit, as they were still getting wet from the spray and puddles, long after the rain had stopped falling.

Ülo Starast brought a smile to everyone’s face in what was probably his last appearance at Kirkistown for some time to come. His trusty, matt black Metro is for sale and he is returning to his home country in Eastern Europe. The car is not fast but it kept going and Ülo’s enthusiasm was infectious. We wish him well.

The real surprise of the day came in the form of, late entry, David Emerson’s Toyota MR2.  For someone who had never been round the track before, he was extremely quick, in all weather. We do hope to see him back soon.

The East Engineering Mazda MX5 car was hired and driven well by Alan Moran, this time. This car is a wonderful addition to our events. It can be hired from David Cousins at very reasonable rates. David delivers it to the circuit and fettles it all day. The driver just has to turn up and drive!

David informs me that the car is already booked for our August and September events. He also tells me that he will have a second machine ready for August, which he will use himself at that meeting, sharing with his son, Aaron. Having sorted out any teething problems on that day, this car will be available for hire as well, from September onwards.

Mention should also go to another two new participants who seemed to have a ball all day, regardless of the weather. Eoghan Campbell in his Citroen Saxo and Gerald Meehan in his Honda Civic circulated in very close proximity all day. The craic in Hugh McAvoy’s covered trailer among them, their crew and rest of the County Louth League was mighty.

As always, the marshals did a sterling job, this time in inclement weather. St John’s crew were helpful, as always and James and Jacqueline kept everyone well fed!

Judging by comments from many people who got in touch with us to say that they would miss the June or July events but would definitely be there in August, it looks like our next event will be busy.

Sunday 13th April 2014.

The weather forecast had been good for Sunday 13th April and that’s how it turned out at Kirkistown for our third track day of the year. Sunshine often broke through the clouds and although at one stage the sky did darken, rain never seemed a possibility. One mystery for me is why Formula One teams spend a fortune on wind tunnels when they could come to Kirkistown for next to nothing! The crows were flying sideways all day!

There was a hearty welcome in the paddock for the return of Nicholas Wood and his beloved Princess (Elise), now with the heart of a Honda. His refettled car never missed a beat all day. A brace of MR2s kept the Elise company with Michael Cosgrove dancing in the white one and John Lyttle and Raymond Grimes taking turns in the red one. Damien Moran added to the mix in his grey Elise.

These track days are addictive, as Alister Brown will concur. He put many miles on his MGF in near perfect conditions.

Jonathan Christie was back in his rapid Prelude while Liam O’Flaherty forsook his own MX5 to pilot the East Engineering MX5 that Jonathan drove during the March event. Liam couldn’t believe the change in grip when David Cousins fitted slicks to the #22 car!

John Charters returned in his well prepared MK2 Golf and seemed to have a problem free day.

BMWs were in great supply although two had problems on their first run, each taking no further part in the day. The Bonda of Tony Greenan had great fun with Angus Gibson’s example and Richard O’Mahony shared his new racer with young Ritchie until exploding a tyre towards the end of the day. Ralph Jess made a short appearance, sharing his E36 with Richard Ryan.

Rebecca Wilson was honing her craft in preparation for her inaugural sprint in her father’s Impreza in the coming weeks.

Conn Keenan lapped very quickly in his very quiet Seat Leon. This car has the best of everything and is still for sale on the Trackskills web site. Gerry Bradley got over an initial battery problem to circulate with Conn in the ex-Martin Currie Evo while Martin had a trouble free run in an Audi.

A trio of well finished Civics came down from Letterkenny, although they shared mixed fortunes, with two blown engines. David McCrabbe’s went in the first session, which was a real bitter pill, having travelled so far.

Peter Henry’s aging Peugeot 205 ran well all day, as did Mark Lester’s 106.

Hugh Gordon impressed on his first day as he coped with a steep learning curve in his Renault Twingo RS.

The day ran particularly smoothly with only one session red flagged, due to a stranded car in the middle of the hairpin. Driving standards were mostly excellent and more importantly, those few drivers who received some friendly advice from me, took it on board and ran faultlessly for the remainder of the event.

St John’s were on hand as always and assisted above their call of duty, as they do. Fel’s team of dedicated marshals did their jobs with skill and good humour and James kept the café open later than normal for those who had a long journey home.

We have a six week gap now until our next event on Sunday 25th May. Enjoy the break!

 

Sunday 23rd March 2014.

With the March date being the second track day of the year at Kirkistown, we were always going to have a good crop of newcomers checking the waters, so to speak. Incidentally, the waters stayed away and we had near perfect conditions all day.

Ylber Karrabechj struggled at first in his BMW Compact but he may have being trying too hard. As the day wore on, he did seem to come to terms with the concept and have more enjoyable runs.

Jordan Dempsey is a young man with a future in the racing game. He was quick and smooth from the outset. Watch out for him in the Irish Ginetta Junior Championship.

Alister Brown seemed to be having a great time in his MGF as did Jonathan McDowell in his VX220. Both lapped all day without incident and their smiles got broader as the sessions went on.

Jonathan Christie hired the West Coast Engineering Mazda MX5, in place of his normal Prelude and seemed to be enjoying this great handling little car.

The Moore brothers, Ray and Ken, pounded their black Prelude round all day at great speed. Their car seems unbustable!

Aidan Vance brought his new toy out to play. It is 2.0L Civic that he is preparing for racing in the Saloon class at Kirkistown. While it will be great to see Aidan at the sharp end of the grid, it is a great pity that more racers did not take up the option of running the 1600 Civic Cup cars that Aidan and Andrew Armstrong promoted. It is a great, cost effective class that provides close racing.

The Lotus 7 derivatives were well represented by Roy Stewart, Stephen Dawson, Larry Mawhinney, Davey Murray, David Mutch, Robert Beckett and James Perry. If we can keep up this increase in numbers, we may be able to do what we did a few years ago and have a session totally filled with these wonderful cars that were inspired so long ago by Colin Chapman.

As ever, some people’s days were not plain sailing.

Stephen Potter brought his newly imported Skyline. While it looked beautiful, it tortured him all day by blowing off hoses beneath the bonnet.

Mark McAuley had issues with his Golf that totally curtailed his day.

Mark Dowie had mechanical problems with his Clio in the first session, which resulted in his retirement from the rest of the day.

The worst tale of woe has to be Jay O’Reilly, who towed his car from the centre of Ireland and was the first one at Kirkistown that morning. The car had run perfectly, earlier in the week. However, when he tried to get the EG Civic to start, it totally refused. Jay, his mechanic and various others from the paddock community worked on the car all day, with no joy. At 5:00pm the car was pushed back on to the trailer and Jay set off for County Meath again.

I talked with Jay later in the week and the problem was an ECU that got soaked as they travelled through some heavy rain to the circuit. Such are the joys of motor sport.

Derek Le Mathieu’s little Puma ran near perfectly all day until the second last session, when it stopped in the middle of the track at Fisherman’s. It seemed to be a drive shaft/gearbox issue but with some gentle persuasion we got it loaded onto a transporter and were able to run a curtailed final session until 6 o’clock.

As ever, our thanks go to the marshals, some of whom were exposed to the wind all day because their huts had been blown away in the winter storms!

St John’s Ambulance service were on hand as usual and although their medical services were not needed, they often helped out in other areas. Thanks to them as well.

Our next date is Sunday 13th April and that will lead us into another six week gap so if you are thinking of coming, please get in touch through www.trackskills.com.

Sunday 9th February 2014.

There was a certain amount of anticipation surrounding this first track day of the new season at Kirkistown on Sunday 9th February. Most concerned Tony Greenan’s Bonda that had had a new supercharger fitted during the winter break. The Bonda is looked upon fondly by most regulars at Kirkistown, having been attending track days, on and off, for almost as long as we have been organising them! The car has changed hands a few times but it keeps coming back to its spiritual home at Kirkistown.

Tony, to his great credit, has taken the car to its rightful place as a saloon racer. Being more than a little talented behind the wheel, he responded to the many suggestions of his peers and admirers by getting his race licence and entering the Libre Saloon Championship in a couple of races during 2013. While he performed well, he discovered that what was a quick track day car, wasn’t going to cut it with the race cars. More power was required. Hence, the supercharger.

On the morning Tony was the first to arrive, full of excitement. This was going to be good!

Only, it wasn’t.

Before he ever got near the track the Bonda broke a belt on the new supercharger and had to be put back onto the trailer. Such are the joys of motorsport.

Others did have a good day, however, including Ainsley Laughlin, who dutifully ferried each of his daughters alternatively, in his rapid Mazda RX8. Mark Stronge, shared his Citroen Saxo VTR with what seemed to be an ever growing number of his friends. He looked increasingly perplexed and remarked on more than one occasion, “I have to drive this to work tomorrow!” It says a lot that the little French car never missed a beat all day.

Liam O’Flagherty and Aaron Cousins had a ball all day in their respective Mazda MX5s. Liam, in particular, was able to carry a tremendous amount of speed into Colonial One, whilst still keeping it neat and tidy through Colonial Two.

Nigel Houston produced a rocket ship of a Mitsubishi Evo Mk V11 and was going very well before having a brown trouser moment after slipping on some fuel that had been leaked by another car! He did well to avoid the scenery and keep the right way up!

Two Martin Currie Evos turned up with Martin driving his red one and Gerry Bradley driving the older white one. The older one seemed to be more reliable but both went well.

Kris McCloy brought his newly acquired Honda Integra DC2. He seemed to ironing out a few niggles while his dad, Amos, was enjoying the pleasure of a repaired gearbox in his similar model.

Probably the most impressive car to watch through the chicane was Niall O’Nanlon in his Todd’s Leap racing Fiesta. The entry speed for a car on such small tyres was amazing!

Aidan McPoland brought his trusty Mitsubishi FTO and ran quickly and reliably all day.

Marc Dowie and Jonny Killops lapped reliably and swiftly all day in their Black Clio 172s, as did Michael Cosgrove in his almost silent Toyota MR2.

Raymond Grimes in his not-so-silent MR2 had a very scary moment when a tyre let go right in the middle of  Debtors, the fastest corner on the circuit.

Aidan McKinstry struggled all day to get his Cheverra (4.7 Chevy v8 engined Sierra!) to run cleanly. By 5:30pm a dodgy fuel pump was the final diagnosis before it was put back onto the trailer.

Desi McGlade, Roy Stewart and Andy Parkinson upheld the honour of the bike engined sportscars. Having three there at all in early February shows their enthusiasm or lack of sanity!

During the winter storms a number of marshals’ huts were blown away and some of our trusty band had to stand in the biting wind all day. Thankfully the rain stayed away, although we were able to watch it circumnavigating the circuit at different times during the afternoon.

Thanks to all the marshals but in particular to those unfortunate ones who got their bits nearly frozen off by the wind. Thanks also to the St John Ambulance Service who make us all feel safer for their presence and who also helped man the cross-over gate.

The next track day is Sunday 23rd March, one week before the start of the racing season at Kirkistown. Bring them both on!

Sunday 15th September 2013

The weather forecast said it would rain from 6:00am until midday and then clear up, getting sunny around 3:00pm and remaining so until 6:00pm.

As we left for Kirkistown I hoped it was correct, as it was, as predicted, raining.

By the time we got to the track the rain had stopped and a lap round in the Transit showed no standing water. The weather gods were looking kindly on us.

Numbers for this event were not going to be high and the threat of rain had put a few more off. Thus, those who were there were in for a load of track time.

The first cars to go on circuit were mostly saloons. Derek Le Mahieu had returned in his Ford Puma, advertising “Mazdabits” on its number plates. His car was to run well all day and may have done more track miles than any other, on this occasion.

Peter Nesbitt was going quickly in his Escort, only to be called in because it was dripping oil in large quantities. An errant dip stick turned out to be the problem.

David Cousins’ pretty Maxda MX5, which he shared with his son, was quickly on the pace, as was John Arthurs in his rally Corsa. It is good to see John getting some good mileage out of this car now, after some torturous trouble with the cylinder head earlier in the season.

Alan Mullan lapped consistently in his Celica GT-4, as did John Cosgrove in his “silent” Toyota MR2. We think he has an electric engine in that car but we’re not complaining!

Brothers-In-Law Mark Jenkins and John McConnell ran well together in the Integra and BMW respectively, although John’s day was to be cut short with mechanical gremlins later on.


Just as the second session, mostly for Locaterfields, was getting under way, the heavens opened and all bar Ray Moore, who had a roof, got soaked. Then, after totally discharging its cargo, the cloud moved on and that was the last rain to be seen during the event.

A small number of new drivers took part in the third session. Aidan McPolin, a friend of regular Tony Greenan who was absent due to a rebuild after his recent race debut, brought his FTO and made good progress all day.

However, top rugby referee, Neil Morrow, was less fortunate in his sprint prepared Ford Ka, which cried “Enough!” after only two sessions.

As the day progressed, the weather continued to improve and we were granted sunshine by mid-afternoon. Everyone got all the time they wanted, in particular Neil White who was getting to grips with one of the racing Civics. Since this is being written over two weeks after the track day, I can tell you that he put this experience to good use at the final race meeting of the year on the 28th. He mixed it with top drivers Aidan Vance and Andrew Armstrong throughout the two saloon races, splitting them in the race 1 results and finishing right behind them in race 2.

There were still cars running in the final session, which is always a good sign. Then, as if on cue, as the final chequered flag dropped, the rain returned.

All in all, this was a great day and there are two more left this season.

Sunday 14th July 2013.

One can get a false sense of security after a long spell of having things go relatively well and this can be a dangerous thing in the world of motor sport.

That is why every new person driving at a Trackskills event is taken out in the Trackskills car and given valuable instruction on technique, track etiquette and safety, before being let out on their own.

It is also why the day starts with a briefing for all the drivers, no matter how experienced they might be. And it is also the reason that there is always a full compliment of trained marshals and the personnel from St John’s Ambulance Service in attendance.

At the July Trackskills event, all of the above personnel came into their own, following a single car accident on the fastest corner of the circuit.

Aimee Kershaw’s car turned sharp left in Debtors Dip and careered into the bank at colossal speed. The car somersaulted over the bank before landing heavily on its wheels but Aimee, an experienced I.T.C.C. racing driver and instructor, suffered back injuries that required her careful extraction from her car and removal to hospital.

She is currently recovering from an operation to her back and everyone connected with the event wishes her a speedy recovery.

The accident ended the track activities for the day but prior to its occurrence, a good turn out of drivers were enjoying perfect conditions.

Father and son, Amos and Kris McCloy lapped very quickly in close company with each other in their respective Hondas, while two other father and son combinations, Richard and Chris Kyle and Roy and Paul Stewart had to take turns sharing their respective Westfields.

It was great to see Andy Parkinson back into his MK Indy for the first time in years. It didn’t take him long to shake the rust off!

Another returnee after a long time was Nathan Hogg, a very talented young driver, whom we tried to convince to go racing in his Citroen Saxo. However, since it is his every day transport, there is not much chance of that.

Richard Munnis and Davis Buick were there in their locally built Lotus 7 derivatives. Richard calls his a GMS. It is a beautifully constructed machine and, in our opinion, really deserves a better colour than grey!

The Kirkistown brake bogey man was present as usual and this time it was John Cochran who got little or no running because of faulty brakes. Declan Duffy was there for the first time in his Evo 4 and could hardly believe the wear on his pads. He said that a day pounding round the ‘Ring had used a fraction of what he used on our shortened day!

Norman McNaught was going quickly in his very tidy Peugeot 205, as was Mark Angus in his Golf Gti.

As usual, one could hardly hear John Cosgrove’s rapid Toyota MR2 as he, Damian Moran (Lotus Elise), Hugh McAvoy (Lotus Elise) and Joe McArdle (Nissan 350Z) circulated together.

Peter Nesbitt went very well in his Escort RS1600i, as did James Stronge in his fate tempting Peugeot 205, with 666 on the door!

It was a perfect day for Locaterfields and as well as those mentioned above, Alan Bryson, Alex McConnell and Desi McGlade were enjoying the sunshine in their Westfields.

Two quiet men, Arnold Gibson and Mark Macauley, went very rapidly in their BMW and Audi S3, respectively.

Prior to the stoppage, it had been a great day with an even more eclectic collection of cars than usual, the weirdest of which has to have been the not quite completed MX5 kit car of Chris Hatton!

I always say it but the events of this day illustrate why great appreciation has to go the marshals, St John’s Ambulance crew and also on this occasion, our caterer James Higginson, who physically assisted at the scene of the accident in no small way.

The next Trackskills event is on Sunday 18th August. See you there!

 

Sunday 16th June 2013.

It seems the World was conspiring to make getting to Kirkistown difficult on 16th June. Firstly, there were all the preparations for the G8 conference and rumours of roads closing and checkpoints. Then there was a 1,000 strong charity bicycle ride from Bangor to Newtownards via Portaferry. Lastly, Mount Stewart was having a big attraction for Fathers’ Day.

However, everyone got there that wanted to get there and we started on time, in glorious sunshine.

We were happy to welcome a number of guests from the EK9.org group and they put on a great show in their cars, mostly Honda Civics. Thanks to Leigh Moore for coordinating this appearance and we look forward to having them back again in the future.

A number of “Oul Hands” appeared, having not been with us for some time. It was great to welcome back Peter Hazlett in his Glanza and Mark Jenkins in his Honda Integra. Neither appeared to be too rusty and both lapped quickly.

Unfortunately, Paul Keys’ return didn’t go so well, with his Westfield not getting into the spirit of things and refusing to go beyond the Chicane. Rob O’Reilly’s return also went sour with car troubles from his Civic Vti.

However, Aiden Boyle, who now resides in Australia, combined a trip home with a reappearance at Kirkistown in his Civic Vti. He and his car went very well all day. We hope to see him on his next trip back home again.

As ever, both James McConnell and Arnold Gibson got on quietly with the job of going quickly in their respective BMWs. No fuss and plenty fast!

John Cosgrove piloted his exceptionally quiet Toyota MR2 very quickly while Raymond Grimes and John Lyttle drove their louder version equally fast.  Quietest of them all was Ainsley Laughlin in his Mazda RX8. He was putting his recent experience at Race School Ireland to good use.

The Ginetta marque was well represented by Wayne Boyd in David Beatty’s G50, Jack Finlay in his own G40 and Joanne McSeveney and Eórann O’Neill in G20s.

The good weather was a blessing to the large contingent of Caterham and Westfield drivers, who didn’t have to worry about getting wet. It is interesting to note the rising number of these cars that are sporting competition numbers and timing beam breakers, as their owners explore the pleasures of sprinting and hill climbing. This is yet another demonstration of participation in track days being the first rung on the motorsport ladder.

A special guest at the day was the Chief Doctor at the 500 MCRI race days, Gwyn Beattie, who took his immaculate Lotus Elise out for a couple of sessions. Incidentally, this little used car is for sale, as Gwyn is now based in Scotland.

Possibly the star of the whole day was Tony Greenan in his refettled Bonda. He had to revert to the Honda S2000 differential and this changed the gearing, possibly for the better! As he circulated, the car looked like it was on rails. There are slower combinations of car and driver already racing and Tony should get his competition licence sorted and get out with them sooner rather than later.

Since I have mentioned racing, Owain Drought, who has recently won a race in the ITCC at Mondello, brought his racing Integra and his mentor, Peter Geraghty, to our day to see what all the fuss was about the Kirkistown circuit. According to Peter, Owain loved the place and we may soon see him racing with the Kirkistown Saloons!

A special mention has to go to the resident caterer at Kirkistown, James Higginson. He had had his frying equipment serviced during the week, in preparation for the big anniversary meeting at the track on Saturday 22nd June. Sunday morning was the first time he turned it on and it refused to work!

After exploring his own considerable knowledge to rectify the fault, with no success, he phoned round various engineers until he badgered one enough to come down to the track and fix the gear. Normality was resumed and tens of hungry track drivers and crew were well fed.

The marshals and St John Ambulance crew did a great job as usual. Luckily, there was only one incident of note all day and the driver was shaken but not stirred!

Our next day is Sunday 14th July and since this is right at the start of the holiday fortnight, we may have a smaller turn out than normal. Of course, this just means more track time for those who are there!

Sunday 19th May 2013.

The North West 200 was rained off on the North Coast the day before but the weather was perfect for Trackskills’ track day on Sunday 19th May at Kirkistown.

New faces abounded and all, I think, enjoyed themselves.

Ephrem Bogues needed a bit of help from James McConnell to get his Peugeot 205 going. I watched with amusement as James’ BMW towed the Pug round and round, past our office window at sign-on. Eventually it fired and ran for the rest of the day, except for the numerous times that it ran out of fuel! A bigger tank is needed.

Seamy McGarrity produced his well finished Peugeot 205 Mi16. It ran very quickly indeed.

Just to confuse me, we had two silver Honda S2000s. Steven Strange drove one very well and Chris Ball shared the other one with his wife, Sonya. Each took turns at baby-sitting as the other drove. Both went well, although in Sonya’s case, that is hardly a surprise as she is Derek McIlmoyle’s sister. Derek is one of the quickest drivers at our events and he proved so again this time in his well sorted Lotus Exige.

Tony Greenan brought the Bonda out again and went extremely quickly until an ominous knocking noise started emanating from the diff or that region.

Robert Johnston ran his Volkswagen R32 very quickly and was bemused by how his petrol/mileage-left indicator just couldn’t keep up!

Chris Kyle finally got to drive his dad’s Westfield and did a good, safe job.

Seamas Jennings dusted down his Caterham for a few runs and circulated very rapidly.


Jonny Killops and Stewart Getty both went well in their respective Imprezas although Stewart had some issues with brakes over heating. However, his problems were nothing compared to those of Tom Gaughran whose new brakes on his Evo boiled the fluid on the third lap.

Carla McGookin was both smooth and rapid in her Renault Megane RS250.

Arnold Gibson is steadily becoming very quick indeed. He has quietly improved his BMW, having fitted coilovers since we last saw him. He now makes the car go very quickly with a minimum of fuss! James McConnell has done a similar mod to his Beemer, with equally positive results.

John Montgomery and friends produced a Honda Prelude which went very well, despite chronic understeer. This almost came to tears at the hairpin but a nine inch miss is as good as a mile!

The day didn’t run as smoothly as some, with a number of stoppages to recover broken down vehicles or attend to spilt oil and coolant on the track surface. However, everyone seemed to get as much running as they required.

Thanks to Fel’s team of marshals and St John Ambulance service, who all did a great job as usual.

Our next event is on Sunday 16th June and we have been advised to remind everyone to expect traffic disruption in and around the International Airport and Belfast City Centre due to the G8 Summit.

Sunday 14th April 2013.

With the March Trackskills track day at Kirkistown being cancelled due to the terrible weather, the April one was always going to be busy. And so it turned out to be.

The day began with an early safety briefing at which it was emphasised that driving standards needed to be of the highest standard, to avoid unnecessary stoppages during the day.

To say the response was positive, would be an understatement. While the Trackskills Crew and the marshals all did what was required, the drivers deserve most of the credit for what turned out to be a great day. Driving standards were, generally, excellent. On only three occasions were cars red flagged to the pits and in each case it was because the marshals had spotted a mechanical malady that required immediate attention.

Some “old hands” that we hadn’t seen for a while, made a welcome return. Tom Gaughran had lost none of his speed in his Mitsubishi Evo while Bob Cameron fairly flew around in his Gulf coloured Supercar. Nigel Averill with his trusty MX5 enticed a whole batch of similar enthusiasts to come along as well.

James McConnell, who usually travels with his brother-in-law Mark Jenkins, was alone this time, which was maybe just as well as he had an almighty “off” at Debtors in his BMW. Luck was with him, however, and he managed to get out of the muck with some assistance.

Ainsley Laughlin had a good day, with his Mazda RX8 running faultlessly this time for the whole event. I dread to think of what his petrol bill was like!

Paul Hamill turned a few heads in his Porsche 968 as did the rest of the Porsche attendees. Pat O’Sullivan had some intermittent problems in his GT3 Cup model but when they cleared, it was a rocket ship! Alan Moran was very civilised in his Boxter. David Beatty shared the driving duties in his 993 with Ex-British Formula Ford Champion, Wayne Boyd.

Wayne joins the list of great Irish drivers with a gross imbalance between talent and money. While chatting with him in the paddock, he confirmed that he is now seriously looking at avenues other than single-seater racing, to further his career. Hopefully, in the near future we will be reading about him along side Tim Mullan and Adam Carroll.

Perhaps because of the poor weather on Saturday we didn’t have as many Locaterfields as usual. However, Roy Stewart, Larry Mawhinney and Desi McGlade upheld the Westfield name while Stephen Dawson and John Leecock campaigned a Caterham and a Locost, respectively. All went rapidly. Unfortunately, Desi’s beast blew it’s engine in the late afternoon and he deserves great credit for getting it off the racing line immediately and laying the oil in a safe place.

We had a number of Honda Civics who put on a great show. Ciaran Denvir’s car is now seriously quick, while Nigel Gilliland, Conn Keenan and Stephen Potter were keeping him more than honest. These guys really should be racing in the Civic Cup at Kirkistown.

Newcomers John Cochrane and Aiden Mackin seemed to be enjoying each other’s close company in their Renault Sport Clios while Jason Pollock went very well in his Polo GTi.

GT racer, Richie O’Mahony shared the driving in his Supercar with his dad, Richard Snr., who has raced all sorts of exotic machinery. No wonder it was so rapid!

The Belfast Metropolitan College Astra had a few teething problems but when sorted, seemed to have a fair turn of speed. This car has been reconstructed and maintained by the students of the college under the supervision of Stephen McKeegan. Stephen and the students share the driving.

Neil Kirpatrick’s Evo was very quick and hopefully the passenger ride he gave his father-in-law, will encourage Ray to come back out himself.

David Cousins was with us for the first time. He brought one of his more standard MX5s but we know that David has some much more rapid heavy iron at home. Perhaps we will see his Baby Bertha clone in the near future.

It says something about the day when one considers that the final session had a full compliment of cars at 5:45pm.

Thanks, as always, are due to all of the marshals and the St John crew. Thanks also to James Higginson for putting on some great food.

However, once again, thanks to all of the drivers for their responsible, safe and entertaining driving during a very busy day.

Our next date is Sunday 19th May.

Sunday 3rd February 2013.

The first track day of the year is always a gamble. Will it be dry, wet or under a foot of snow? Will anyone turn up? The one thing that is certain is Kirkistown will be bitter cold!

Fortunately, James, the resident caterer, had chicken broth on offer as well as his usual menu and it went down a treat.

Considering it was early February, we had a good turn out and a very good selection of cars. The rain and snow stayed away.

In the pre-lunch section both Connaire Finn and Shamus Jennings entertained in their Porsches. Martin Currie got a full session in his Evo. Gerard McVeigh did one session in his Evo before deciding that his new gearbox was worse than the one it had replaced!

New drivers Alan Bryson, Ainsley Laughlin and Aaron Black in their Nissan 370Z, Mazda RX8 and Honda Civic Type R respectively, went very well and without incident.

Paul Keys, Roy Stewart and Alex McConnell were the hard men, braving the cold in their Westfields. Alex had a slight excursion during one session, on the exit from Colonial 2. However, with a little manhandling, the car was coaxed back to the black stuff and he was able to continue.

Nicholas Wood circulated quickly all day and his smile got wider every lap!

Mark Angus was giving his Golf VR6 what may be its last outing, as it is up for sale and he has a replacement Golf Mk2 in build.

Ryan Cherry seemed to be having great fun in his Seat Ibiza 1.8t. It looked like everything, from brakes to engine, was overheating when he came in from his first session but it all cooled down and the car lasted the entire day.

The BMW marque was represented solely by Mark Magennis in his red E30. He went consistently quickly.

Michael Crymble and a bunch of mates campaigned a Fiesta Mk 4 all day. It went really well until, without notice, the clutch decided to cease operation. At least that is what they diagnosed on site. Unfortunately, the car was going no further without the aid of a transporter and the guys had driven it from Carrickfergus that morning. Cue an excuse for some to go to the pub in Kircubbin, while others went to get another car and trailer. Such are the joys of track driving!

The last cars running, as light began to fade, were John Lyttle and Raymond Grimes in their Toyota MR2 and Eórann O’Neill in her Ginetta G20.

By 5:00pm, everyone had had enough and the winter lay off had been officially ended. Roll on March 24th for the next one!

The marshals and St John crew did a sterling job as usual and we are forever grateful for their help.

Sunday 11th November 2012.

The final Trackskills track day of 2012 took place at Kirkistown on Sunday 11th November. The weather was kind to us. It stayed dry and wasn’t even that cold, for the time of year.

In the end, there was a good turn out but at the start of the week the bookings were thin, as people sized up the weather prospects.

Tony Greenan had a trouble free day in the Bonda. There’s a man who should be asking for a race licence for Christmas.

Current racers Martin Currie and Martin McDonnell circulated very closely in their Evo and Seat Leon race cars. Another racer, Aidan Vance, brought his Civic to play and lit up the scene with his brake discs during the final run. Check out the video on the RMS site or Trackskills site.

Only one of the Imprezas had a good day. Patrick Gillian ran quickly right to the end and he also has his glowing discs featured in the video. However, both Tommy Bell and Malcolm Bruce had first lap mechanical troubles that curtailed their day.

Andrew Mercer was a joy to watch in his very rapid Lotus Elise.

It is rare that we get a VW Beetle at our events but Lenny Hutchinson went very well in his. Cormac O’Doherty was a first timer in his Ford focus and was very impressive.

Richard Munnis had recently bought a MK Indy R that he intends to race in 2013. His background is in Autograss and this showed with his car control. He will be a force with which to be reckoned on track in 2013.

Ignorance can be bliss sometimes and this was highlighted by Charles Hill, who was going very quickly in his BMW M5. This car has so many information sensors that the driver can get a persecution complex! Charles was able to tell me that the front tyres were over heating, compared to the back. It didn’t slow him down!

Sarah Dowling was having her first track experience in her powerful Honda Integra DC5. She dived in at the deep end but was trying a bit too hard. After rehearsing a massive spin at Debtors for three or four laps, she finally achieved it in spectacular fashion! In the next session our instructor, Greer Wray, sat in with her and her style got a lot smoother. She continued without any more dramatics, right up to the final session in the dark!

Paul and Mark Stewart are usually in their father’s Westfield but this time they hired a racing Civic from Andrew Armstrong. They soon got used to front wheel drive although they mentioned something about brake issues.

Sam and Wesley Lyle appeared for this last meeting, bringing both of their Sierra Cosworths out to play.

The final session commenced at 4:40pm in reasonably good light. At this time only a handful of cars were still playing and these included Derek Le Mahieu of  “Mazda Bits” fame in his Puma, John Lyttle and Raymond Grimes in their Toyota MR2, Patrick Gillian who was exercising his Impreza before the following Saturday’s Sprint, Sarah Dowling in her DC5, Aidan Vance in his Civic, Steven Whyte in his Westfield and Eórann O’Neill in her Ginetta G20.

It was amazing how quickly the light faded and by 5:00pm it was no longer safe to run.

The marshals, as ever, were great. A special mention has to go to Nad Haigi who provided chocolate cookies for all! St John’s were on hand as usual and thankfully, were not called upon. James Higginson and Jacqueline put on a good menu in the café and seemed to get a grateful response from the attendees.


Thank you to all who supported us during this season, whether by attending, participating or encouraging us from afar. We get messages from people on our mail list who cannot often attend but their good wishes are always appreciated.

As soon as we have the dates for 2013 we will post them on our web site at www.trackskills.com

We wish you a good festive season. Don’t forget to ask Santa for bigger front brakes!

 

Sunday 14th October 2012.

Saturday 13th October was a beautiful day and I thought we were on for a sunny and dry track day the following morning. Perhaps the little drops of rain that were falling at 2:00am, as I locked up the shed after preparing my daughter’s Ginetta, should have warned me!

As we were just about to leave on Sunday morning, the phone rang from the track at Kirkistown to say that, although it was not raining, the bottom of the circuit was flooded! The man on the phone and hero of the day was James Higginson, the caterer at the circuit. He said that he would try to get a tractor and brush the water away.

When we arrived, an hour later, James had done a phenomenal job. Although there were some puddles, the track was serviceable and it was “all systems go”.

The drivers’ briefing was a stern affair, as we had some very wet grass that was almost guaranteed to lead straight to the barriers, should anyone venture onto it. We also had a number of participants who would normally compete at various levels of motorsport and we wished to ensure that everyone knew what behaviour was acceptable at one of our track days.

I will say that the driving and behaviour standards of this group were impeccable all day and I am sure that our regular attendees possibly gained a few tips on lines from them.

We decided to make the first group mostly saloons so that they would dissipate the puddles before the open topped sports cars went out in the second group.

Unfortunately, the rapid MR2 shared by John Lyttle and Raymond Grimes was the first to discover just how slippery the wet grass was, as it got wide at the hairpin and torpedoed the tyres. Fortunately, the damage was cosmetic and the car was able to continue for the rest of the day.

Seamas Jennings circulated very rapidly in his BMW M3. The noise of that car on song is just wonderful! Conn Keenan was another who was circulating surprisingly quickly in his Seat Leon. He was just driving away from Tony Greenan’s S2000 engined BMW down the straights, although Tony was keeping him honest in the corners.

Mark Angus was having his last outing of 2012 in his Golf VR6 and he had put new tyres on it to celebrate! They seemed to work and he went very well.

Adrian Hanna went quietly about his business all day in his Porsche 944. He is more used to the Nordschleife!

It was good to see Tony McLoughlin and his boys back again. They had been victims of the Kirkistown Curse during our last day. Lack of front brake pads! On this occasion they had plenty of pads and got loads of laps until finally, late in the afternoon, the car went onto the grass at Colonial 2 and bogged in. After getting towed out and taking part of the bog with it, the guys decided they had had enough for the day.

Our second group consisted of Desi McGlade, who brought his brother who was visiting from California, Jeffrey Kidd in his Tiger kit car, James Perry in his immaculately prepared Caterham, Paul Hart in a Ginetta G20, Richard Finlay in a Global Light, Jack Finlay in a Ginetta G40 and Martin Currie who was to get more track time in his Evo this day than he has had all season!

Once again we had a large number of new drivers in our “newbies” group and a very eclectic mix of cars. Perhaps the rarest was an immaculate left hand drive, rear wheel drive, 1986 Peugeot 505 2.2 Intercooled Turbo driven by William Pollard.

The fastest was undoubtedly the heavily modified Mitsubishi Evo belonging to Dean Reilly. This thing was a rocket ship and Dean drove it really well.

One of the slowest cars, with only a little 1400cc engine, was the Dutton belonging to Neil Thompson. It is fair to say that Dean was nervous before venturing out on track but he drove extremely well and although the car was slow on the straights, he mixed in well with the other track users before his seat mount broke at the end of his second run. I think Dean really enjoyed himself and look forward to having him back soon.

As an organiser, when there is a quick car on track and I hear no reports from the marshals, I know the driver is good. Such was the case with Warren Corr in his R33 Skyline GTST. He circulated almost anonymously all day, just being consistently smooth and quick.

There was some curiosity online in advance of Robert Davidson’s appearance in his Saab 900 Turbo. True to form, this car was very quick. However, the brakes weren’t quite up to the job and Robert had a scary moment going into the hairpin. Commenting as one who has had a big off due to brakes failing while approaching the hairpin at Kirkistown, I must say that Robert did a great job keeping the car away from the barriers and guiding it deep into the gravel trap.

Hard luck story of the day, apart from Neil Thompson’s seat, goes to Desi McGlade who has won this award on one or two occasions. His Westfield shed a drive shaft while exiting the Chicane. Upon recovering the car to the pits he discovered that a custom-made piece of the shaft was missing, presumably still on the track. Instructor, Greer Wray reported having seen something matching the description, on the kerb, exiting the corner. However, by the time anyone could retrieve it, a car had clouted it and it took off, never to be found, even though Desi and his brother searched until dark.

Wind-up of the day goes to the aforementioned Greer Wray. Photographer Tom Maxwell had arrived at the circuit in his brother’s new BMW. While he was getting a cup of tea in James Higginson’s excellent café, Greer attached a towrope to the Beemer from our Cossie, stuck a number on the side, took a photo and posted it on FaceBook. Talk your way out of that one, Tom!

Thanks again to all our marshals, most of whom had been partying the night before, yet still got out of bed to cover us. Thanks to St John Ambulance Service. Thanks to all the participants for driving safely, courteously and with respect for each other.

The biggest thank you has to go to James Higginson who probably rescued the day with his actions on the tractor in the morning. If ever a man deserved your custom in his café, it is he.

Our final date for 2012 is Sunday 11th November. This is our traditional “glowing brake disks” day. It is well worth watching at the heavy braking zones approaching Colonial 1 and the Hairpin.

See you there!

 

Sunday 19th August 2012.

Our August date at Kirkistown was very successful, with absolutely no stoppages during the sessions all day. That says a lot for the discipline, good driving standards and respect shown by all participants during the event.

The good weather during the week leading up to the 19th brought an increase in the numbers of Lotus 7 style cars, so much so that the second session of the day was solely for these machines! Since these are the fastest cars on the circuit, a session full of them was a beautiful sight.

We had quite a few new drivers so we held the session for them back a little to ensure that everyone had had some instruction laps in our Cosworth before venturing on track.

Charles Hill was very careful in his beautiful M5, while Mark Carson found out how hard Kirkistown is on brakes, as the ones on his Alfa Guilietta faded a little towards the end of the session.

Tony McLoughlin fell victim to the most common issue at Kirkistown, which is indeed, brake wear. After one session the brakes on his Fiesta RS1800 were metal to metal and he had no spare pads.

John Andrew lapped well all day in his very pretty Impreza WRX while Kris McCloy went really quickly in his very well turned out Honda Civic. Kris is a man who would fit in well with Andrew Armstrong and the Civic Cup guys.

Martin Currie got a bit further this time in his “spare” Evo, despite losing a pulley from his engine as he approached the hairpin!

Stephen Johnston’s Noble M12 and Shamus Jennings’ Porsche GT3 RS represented the “supercar” class with both going as well as they looked.

Peter Haslett made a welcome return, having replaced the gearbox in his Glanza. The car was going really well, particularly whilst under heavy braking. It always amuses me when people go over to look at this little car, because of how quickly it has been going on track. Almost every time there is a look of amazement when they see the hand control system and put two and two together, realising that the bloke in the wheelchair is the driver who has been piloting it so rapidly!

Wesley and Sam Lyle brought two Sierra Cosworths which, when you add ours to the mix, almost made it a convention!

Philip Andrew’s Honda Integra was seriously quick, especially through Debtors’ Dip and Tony Greenan’s S2000 engined BMW is getting quicker every time. All Tony has to do now is improve its reliability so that he gets a full day’s running.

Keith Mackey, who is a real dark horse (watch out for him in rally stages!), arrived for what he told us would probably be his last track day for the foreseeable future. His Golf carries a number plate that just says “BUNS” as he is involved with a bakery. At lunchtime he presented us and the marshals with a comprehensive sample of his produce and very nice they were too!

Another stalwart of  Trackskills’ track days that we may not be seeing so much of in future is Paul Keys. This was his last one before he gets married at the end of the month! From now on his beloved Westfield will have to take second place to Rachel. We wish them all the best.

At one point during the day I went to the outside of the hairpin, ostensibly to watch Eórann O’Neill’s lines in her Ginetta. However, I could hardly believe the punishment the front left tyre on Alan Annesley’s Clio was taking, without coming off the rim! It was amazing.

At 5:55pm, in the last session, we still had a load of Westfields, Nicholas Woods’ Elise, Raymond Grimes’ ever-quickening Toyota MR2, Sam Lyle’s Cosworth and Eórann’s Ginetta circulating.

The marshals did a great job as usual. However, for a couple of sessions, Fel handed over to Steven Hawthorn while she accompanied first Peter Maxwell and then Paul Keys in their Westfields. It was great to see her back on track again, even if she wasn’t in the driving seat.

Fel won’t be at our next event on Sunday 16th September as she will be on duty at Goodwood but there will be a full team of experienced marshals in place on the day.

Hopefully, you’ll be there too!

Sunday 15th July 2012.

Sunday 15th July surprised with a good turnout, given that it is slap bang in the middle of the holiday period. The weather obliged, providing us with a dry and warm day.

It was good to see Billy Fanneran making the trip from Donegal once again with his Seat Leon Cupra. Having finally got his clutch woes sorted out, he circulated well all day.

Another “blast from the past” was Terry O’Neill who returned in a Masseratti, a 4200 this time. It sounded beautiful!

After three attempts, John Arthurs finally had a trouble free day in his rally Corsa. He had traced his head gasket woes to an elongated dowel, a tiny problem that caused all sorts of trouble.

Brian Kennedy entertained the spectators with his rapid Atom while Shane Johnston impressed on his first appearance in his Legnum.

Tony Greenan was getting ever quicker in his Honda engined BMW before a piece of rear suspension rebelled, stranding him at Colonial.

Graham Alexander and Damian Moran upheld the pride of the Lotus Elise marque, in the absence of Nicholas Wood, who is still repairing his little “Princess”.

Shamus Jennings brought his rock solid BMW M3 and flew round the circuit. It is obvious that the experience he is gaining racing his Ferrari is applicable to the rest of his fleet.

Most improved driver, without a doubt, was T.J. McDowell in his Evo. T.J. was quick, safe and displaying a confidence not previously seen on his other visits to the circuit.

Andrew Booth in his Williams Clio was experiencing the joy of having good tyres and was bubbling with enthusiasm all day. Another man who seemed to be having a serious amount of fun was John O’Kane in his Mazda MX5. It was his first visit and he claims that he is now hooked!

The Caterham and Westfield gents were well represented by David McCrea and Steven Whyte, both on their first visits, Richard Kyle, Roy Stewart and Desi McGlade. Unfortunately, Desi’s Vauxhall engined Westy decided to divorce itself from its drive shaft at the hairpin. Luckily, Desi brings his car on a trailer these days!

Making a rare appearance was Jack Frost, who was really there to check out the effect of a new turbo he had recently installed in a customer’s MK Indy. From a spectators view point, he must have done a great job as the thing was a rocket!

As ever the marshals and St John crew did a great job and we would be lost without them.

Sunday 17th June 2012.

We always seem to have our June date land on Fathers’ Day and this year was no exception. Having had some horrendous weather during the week, Sunday at the track was a dry affair.

Although numbers were conservative, there was a great selection of cars.

Probably the most unusual was the Lexus Soarer Turbo of Mark Jenkins. This car has nice lines but Mark is unhappy with its weight and hopes to get back to an Integra soon.

Adrian Kerr’s Mini Cooper S, which ate a piston last day, was flying once again until, late in the day, he noticed a big crack in the front brake disk. That ended his activities prematurely.

The newest member of the Tyrone Squad, Paul Moran, had a great day in his Honda Prelude. Unfortunately, near the end, his fuel pump packed up and the car went home on the back of the Kerr Brothers’ transporter.

James Smart worked through most of the previous night, building one good Golf out of two donor vehicles and it was all worth while as he got a full day on track.

Four of the main Kirkistown Saloon drivers made an appearance. Ralph Jess seems to have his BMW sorted out with the new blower. It was circulating very quickly. Stephen Traub was also going rapidly in his Integra DC5. David Morrison had major problems in his BMW and left early to get them sorted. The real surprise was Martin McDonnell who has swapped the diesel engine in his Seat Leon for a 2 litre Turbo petrol version, with amazing results. He will be well in the mix on Race Day.

I always harp on about the necessity of bringing a spare set of front brake pads to track days and Arnold Gibson in his M3 amply demonstrated this.

Arnold did have spares, which is just as well because I have never seen such a set of pads removed from a car before. There was no abrasive surface left at all and, in fact, the metal backing plate was almost gone as well!

James Nelson made his first appearance at a Trackskills day. After a rather adventurous first session in his Honda S2000, he got the hang of it and mastered the corners as the day went on.

The Locaterfield brigade was well supported. Desi McGlade was pushing his boundaries throughout the day in his Vauxhall engined Westfield. James Perry circulated rapidly, without incident, in his Caterham. Roy Woods, Roy Stewart and Jeff Rutherford upheld the ‘Bussa engined pride. Gregory Kerr also went well in his Ford engined Westy.

Unfortunately, later in the afternoon, Michael Smith’s Westfield went on to the grass on the exit of the hairpin and got caught up in the tyres, the impact breaking the lower wishbone.

Stephen Lowery muscled his Mercedes AMG C36 round all day. The car looked like a handful but Stephen drove it well.

Southern visitors and brothers Damien and Alan Moran went well in their Lotus Elise and Porsche Boxter respectively. Friend and Porsche racer, Joe McArdle  circulated swiftly in his Nissan 350Z.

John Lyttle and Raymond Grimes shared their Toyota Mr2 all day and they, along with Damien Moran and Joe McArdle were still running at 6:00pm when we finished!

Thanks to all who came, to Fel and her marshals, to the St John team and to James Higginson and Jacqueline for their services in the café. A special thanks is due to Jeff Rutherford who assisted with the recovery of Michael Smith’s Westfield and enabled us to get the event running again quickly.

Our next date at Kirkistown is Sunday 15th July.

 

Sunday 20th May 2012.

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? And what about 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 Johny McFarland, who left his companions at Twickenham to get an earlier flight into the George Best Airport and make the start of our event. Johny 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 racecar 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?

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 café 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.

 

Sunday 15th April 2012.

Perhaps it was the fact that it was only three weeks since the previous one or maybe the Easter holidays had had an effect but the turnout at our track day on Sunday 15th April was down on previous totals. However, those who were in attendance got lots of track time in sunny but cold conditions.

New drivers included Ciaran O’Neill in his older Alfa 75, which had overheating problems throughout the day, Keith Mackey in his VW Golf who had a trouble-free day, Michael Smith who was trying out his recently acquired Westfield on track to good effect, Harry Watson who was really going well in his Integra and Derick Patterson who was shaking down his new hill climb Peugeot 106.

Entertainment for the marshals was provided by Chris Rogan and Andrew McCullough, in their Kirkistown Fiestas. They were nose to tail all day. These cars are vindication of the idea that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have immense fun on the race track. I am told that there will be almost a dozen out at the next race meeting on Saturday 28th April 2012.

The marshals commented on the skills of Stephen Potter in his burgundy Civic, stating that his lines, braking and throttle delivery were those of a much more experienced driver. Stephen has built this car for the Civic class in the Kirkistown Saloons race but budgetary problems are curtailing his progress at the moment, which is a major loss to the class.

Jonathan Christie was down in his Glanza. That car has a ridiculous power to weight ratio, which makes it very interesting to pilot and says a lot, positively, about Jonathan’s abilities.

Derek McIlmoyle made a welcome return in his orange Exige. As usual, he was extremely fast and precisely smooth all day.

Sam and Wesley Lyle brought their old MR2 out for the first time in ages. Unfortunately, it shed a belt early in the day and they had to revert to their trusty Skyline.

Mark Jenkins and Daragh McConnell made the trip from Dublin and were circulating quickly until Mark’s Honda cried, “Enough!” They put it back on the trailer and both continued in Daragh’s BMW.

Two guys with no luck were Martin Currie who’s Evo refused to start and Kit Law who’s Cosworth Escort developed problems on its first lap.

Brendan McIlvanna didn’t have much luck either when his big Vauxhall VXR8 broke away from him at the chicane. It went into the tyres but the damage was mostly cosmetic and Brendan was unhurt.

Another very rapid but very smooth driver was Ali-Resa Afrasiabi in his Porsche 911 turbo.

Philip Cardy brought a bit of variety by driving his Subaru Legacy Estate very competently all day.

Seat Leon Cupras were well represented by Jonny Forsythe  who has swapped his Ford Focus for one and Conn Keenan who hopes to be racing his in the next few months.

Tony Traub did a number of quick sessions in his rapid Honda Integra DC5 race car.

By 5:15 everyone had had their fill or perhaps I should say needed a fill, either petrol tank or stomach. A good day for almost everyone.

Thanks as ever to the marshals and St John Ambulance crew. Our next date is Sunday 20th May.

Sunday 5th February 2012.

Having spent the week anxiously watching the weather forecasts and being fascinated by reports of the battle between the warm air coming in from the Atlantic and the cold air coming from Russia, the main worry was that the front lines of this war would be over Northern Ireland, resulting in a massive dump of snow on Kirkistown!

Snow was the only weather that was worrying us because of the considerable drainage work that has been carried out by the owners of the circuit, since we were rained off this time last year.

We needn't have worried as the battle took place over South East England and Kirkistown remained cold, damp but snow free.

This was just as well because there was an excellent turn out for so early in the year.

The usual Westfield and Caterham brigade were there and it was pleasing to see Desi McGlade having a trouble free run all day. (Unfortunately, it didn't last long enough to get him home, as the Vauxhall engined Westy broke down at Dundonald!) Peter Jennings upheld the pride of Caterham amidst the Westfields of Messrs Keys, Stewart, Rutherford, Jones and Kyle.

My heart sank when we had to red flag the first session after Gareth Talbot was caught out by the cold, greasy surface, resulting in his Peugeot Dimma making contact with Johny McFarland's Lotus Elise. Neither driver was injured and while the Dimma went home in a number of pieces, the Elise carried on for the rest of the day. "Carry on" being the appropriate term, as Johny's exploration of the limits of grip whilst circulating in the close company of fellow Tyrone man Adrian Kerr in his Mini Cooper 'S', provided great amusement to all watching. Throughout the day, there seemed to be a competition as to who could provide the most spectacular spin at Debtors!

The racing Honda Civics of Andrew Armstrong, Aidan Vance and Ciaran Denvir were also amazing to watch through the fastest corner, all three getting slightly sideways. Gerard McVeigh spent the day getting used to his Evo 8 race car. This car won its class in the Welsh Sports & Saloon class last year and Gerard will be racing it in the Saloon class at Kirkistown this year.

Chris Rogan arrived in an MX5, something of a departure from his usual Renault R26R. He reveled in the rear wheel drive on the greasy surface. His girlfriend deserves a medal for maintaining her composure, no matter what!

Glenn Woods in a 197 Clio and Gerard Hughes, Jimmy Gately and Brendan McIlvanna in their Peugeot 205s all went very quickly without drawing attention to themselves, although some marshals expressed disbelief in how well Gerard's car turned in to corners.

Dave Cobain provided the music with a sound system to rival the circuit p.a. in his tow car! He went well on track in his Golf VR6 until an increasingly rapid water leak put paid to his afternoon. Theodore Bad was there for the first time and fell victim to lack of front brake pads on his BMW. It's always better to have a spare set and not need them, than the other way round! P.J. McAlister was another victim of front brake problems, although he lost his on track whilst approaching the hairpin at considerable speed. He showed good skill at avoiding damage to his beautiful classic Porsche 911 SC.

Don Murray was there for the first time in his Mini Cooper convertible and went well all day. Don is the owner of the company that is launching Tracksmart to the motoring public. Tracksmart is an inexpensive, portable, GPS vehicle locator that can let you know if your vehicle is in the process of being stolen and where it is exactly. He demonstrated the device while attending the event.

 

 

In all, this was a fairly eventful day but it was a day when drivers learned a lot about their cars' behaviour on a slippery track. Now we are looking forward to the next one on Sunday 25th March.

Thanks to all of the marshals who did a great job whilst having their bits frozen off! Thanks also to St John Ambulance Service for their reassuring presence.

Sunday 13th November 2011.

There is an old showbiz saying, "Stop on a high and leave them wanting more!" While we ran as long as the light would permit, those who were still on track at 5:00pm were having a ball when the final chequered flag flew.

The day dawned with fine weather and that being the case, we expected a good turn out for this final track day of 2011. We weren't disappointed.

Patrick Gillian came back after a long break only to have problems with his Impreza. However, he got parts delivered at lunch time and got a few sessions in before dark. Thomas Bell gave us all a scare during his first session when his Impreza began belching out black smoke. However, it cleared and he ran through the rest of the day without incident.

There were three of the racing civics that will be competing in the Saloon class at Kirkistown next year. Andrew Armstrong, Aidan Vance and Ciaran Denvir circulated quickly and reliably all day. This is borne out by Graham Curry's pictures of their glowing brake disks as the light began leaving us.

Sam Lyle brought his rare Lotus Carlton out to play and James Currie returned in his beautiful classic Mini. Exotica was provided by Shamus Jennings' beautiful Porsche 997 GT3 RS. Peter Jennings brought his little Fiat Abarth out and went very quickly.

Martin McDonnell and Con Keenan were going really well in their respective Leons. Martin is getting ideas about, perhaps, going racing with his next year.

The biggest grin that I noticed all day belonged to Nicholas Wood. I thought the top of his head was going to fall off!

As ever, there was a large "7" contingent. Most improved driver on the day must go to Jonathan Irvine who took some guidance from instructor, Keith Wray and then made great use of it in his Westfield.

Marshal turned driver, Gordon Laird, went very well in his Elise but Johnny McFarland only got two sessions done before his similar car expired. However, the other founding member of the Track Invaders of Tyrone Society, Adrian Kerr, helped out by sharing his rapid Cooper "S".

Other drivers out for their first taste of track driving included Geoff Kidd in his Tiger kit car and Phil Cardy in his Legacy GT. Both went very well, as did Richard Bill in his TVR Chimaera. David Glen was out for the first time in his BMW 1 series but he also took a drive in Ralph Jess' racing BMW, which he is considering hiring to race next season. Hunter Godfrey, also out for the first time, was very impressive in his VW VR6 Mk3 Golf.

The award for most resilient driver of the day has to go to James Smart who broke two cars and went home and got a third one. I think it survived.

The day was largely without any incident of note and this says a lot about the calibre of person who attends the Trackskills days. There is a mutual respect between the drivers and the organisers and among the drivers themselves. It is understood and accepted by all involved that everyone is there to enjoy themselves as safely as possible. Hence, high speeds but with top class discipline. It really doesn't surprise me that so many of our past customers are now racing at a proper level and I think that trend will continue.

Trackskills would like to thank all of our patrons for their support in 2011 and years before and look forward to another great season in 2012. We would also like to thank Fel McIlroy and her team of superb marshals, Philip and the team from St John Ambulance Service, James and Jacqueline and the catering crew (the stew was lovely!) and Richard Young and the 500MRCI for assistance throughout the year.

See you in 2012!

 

 

Sunday 16th October 2011.

We arrived at Kirkistown to be greeted by sunshine and even a certain amount of heat! There seemed to be a lethargy in the air. Perhaps it was because we are getting near the end of the season. By 11:00am there were only three cars in the paddock! However, from then onwards more arrived in a steady stream.

The first cars rolled onto the circuit just before Midday, led out by James Smart in his Golf. James was to have a mysterious electrical problem dog his progress for most of the day.

It was good to see a number of old friends making a return visit after some time. Tom Gaughran returned, this time in a Clio Cup car. Sam Lyle brought his trusty Skyline back to play and Ronnie Brown brought his Peugeot 106 and another car to add to the fun. Chris Rogan brought his very rapid Renault R26R and was impressive.

We only had five new drivers on this occasion and they had mixed fortunes. Donald Keys was going very well in his Westfield before his alternator began playing up at mid-afternoon. Since he had to drive the car home, he had to curtail his fun. Roy Woods was getting to grips with his Westfield Megabussa and making great progress until, unfortunately, a slight mistake at the chicane rearranged his rear geometry and the car could take no further part in the day. Conn Keenan suffered a bit of banter from myself and his mentor, Martin McDonald, but he was actually going very safely and improving all day in his Seat Leon. Abbas Ali soaked up the advice from instructor, Greer Wray, and circulated safely throughout the day in his Citroen Saxo. Furthest travelled was Frenchman, Etienne Beuter, who was on holiday in Ireland and had hired a Railway Motorsport BMW for the event, under the guidance of saloon racer and friend, Richard Ryan. He made great progress throughout the day. Will the saloon cars at Kirkistown have an international driver competing next year?

Quiet man, Stephen Potter, arrived in his Honda Civic Type R just after lunch and proceeded to circulate extremely rapidly for the remainder of the day.

There were two of the racing Honda Civics that will be competing in their own class next year at Kirkistown. Both went very well until, late in the afternoon, the clutch in one cried enough! Driver and constructor, Andrew Armstrong, explained that they knew it was on the way out and would be fitting a new one anyway over the winter. These cars really are the epitome of cheap motorsport. A ready-to-race car with cheap spares always available and very reliable components anyway, can be yours for less than £6,000. The rules of the class will be very tight to keep costs down and the cars are basically all the same so no one should have a car advantage. I know Andrew wouldn't want this to happen but even if you were never going to race it, one of these cars would be the perfect track day vehicle.

From 4:00pm onwards the paddock began thinning out as people had used enough petrol (or in Martin McDonald's case, diesel!) in pursuit of their track day fun. I asked Sam Lyle why he was packing up, to be told that he had gone through one full tank of fuel in his Skyline plus another full jerry can and that was it for the day.

The award for most unlucky driver of the day goes to Desi McGlade, who didn't even get there! Apparently his Westfield Vauxhall refused to restart at the fuel pumps at Forestside when he went to fill up before making the journey.

One driver who deserves a mention is Paul Stewart. Paul has been taking guest drives in his dad's Westfield Megabussa for some time now. On this occasion I was very impressed by how much smoother he has become as a driver. As a result he is beginning to access the upper regions of the car's performance and he was certainly safely on the limits on many laps at this event.

By 5 o'clock only James Smart in his temperamental Golf and Nicholas Wood in his rorty Lotus Elise were still circulating. The rain had arrived, having stayed away until that point and both boys called it a day shortly afterwards. The marshals and St John Ambulance crew got an early bath, having done a sterling job all day.

The last Trackskills event for 2011 is on Sunday 13th November. With the clocks having gone back before then, it is usually curtailed before 6:00pm by darkness but the last session is always worth watching at the hairpin or Colonial to see the brake disks glowing under heavy use. Bring your camera!

 

Sunday 25th September 2011.

Sunday 25th September provided every kind of motoring experience at our Trackskills track day.

The weather was dry and sunny when we got under way but rain was expected at some stage during the day.

The first session included Desi McGlade making his return with a rebuilt engine in his Westfield. He seemed to have lost none of his speed. Clarke Forsythe in his Westfield was also returning after a long absence. This car is for sale and is an extremely clean example of the marque. The details are on our "For Sale" page.

Eric Cooper, having enjoyed the experience of his first Kirkistown track day at our last event, returned again in his quick Renaultsport Megane 225. The Tyrone contingent of Johnny McFarland in his Lotus Elise and Adrian Kerr in the Cooper S were back and on a mission to enjoy themselves.

Once again, we had quite a number of first time track drivers joining our regulars. The number two group, which is for these drivers, included ex-British Quad champion, Jim Gately in his troublesome Toyota MR2. The BMW marque was well represented by Daniel Flynn, Rowan McIlveen, Jonathan McCully and Colin Anderson. We also had Robin Mercer in his TVR and Denis Lynn in his Porsche 911. Denise Hughes was having her first track experience in her Renault Megane and after some helpful instruction from saloon racing ace, Greer Wray, she got going well.

Group three included most of the Megabussa brigade, including Paul Keys, Roy Stewart and Jeff Rutherford.  Shamus Jennings was in his beautiful  Porsche 997 GT3 RS and Ali-Reza Afrasiabi was back in his Porsche  911 Turbo.

By the time the third group was on its second run, the rain had arrived. The track was getting slippery. We decided to have the lunch break at this time, in the hope that the rain would ease. Alas, that wasn’t the case and when we resumed, if anything, the rain was heavier.

However, the poor weather did not seem to deter many, not even the open top Westfield brigade and the sessions were full for the remainder of the afternoon. One or two did leave but, to be fair, they were folk who were attending for the first time and in rather powerful and expensive, rear wheel drive cars.

I was very impressed with the aforementioned Porsche drivers, Shamus and Ali, who seemed oblivious to the weather! Conn Williamson continued to delight in his glorious sounding Sunbeam Tiger.  The Honda Civic contingent, who are planning to race at Kirkistown next year, got some valuable wet running experience.

As the afternoon progressed, the rain eased and drivers commented that there was a surprising amount of grip available. I cannot emphasise enough how much can be learned on a wet day. It brings to the fore the necessity for smooth inputs from the driver in every area, whether braking, acceleration or steering. Corner lines, which may be different in the wet compared to the dry, become so important for a quick lap.

The quote of the day goes to Johnny McFarland who, having found good grip and then gone in too hard at the hairpin, declared he was, “walking like a moth!” As he said this, he strode off with his legs about a foot apart. I made the mistake of asking what he meant...

By 4:30 the rain had been completely stopped for some time and things were running smoothly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to last and a call came through on the radio of a massive accident at the hairpin. A driver had wrecked his BMW M3. Fortunately, no one else was involved. At the time of writing it seems a component failure was to blame but that isn’t confirmed. The ambulance was mobilised and the driver, who had got out of the car by himself, was taken to hospital.

Two of our medically trained marshals accompanied the driver and his dad in the ambulance, as it left for the Ulster Hospital. That left us with no medical cover and as such, the day came to an end.

We always praise the marshals and the St John ambulance crew but on this day they earned our praise in spades. They did a fantastic job.

The driver was released from hospital the following day, battered and bruised but with no broken bones or internal injuries. His accident highlights the fact that, no matter how many precautions are taken, motorsport is dangerous and not to be undertaken lightly or without respect for safety measures. His BMW, although badly damaged, protected him well, as did the bucket seat he was strapped into.

Thanks to all who got in touch, concerned with his well being.

It was a truly mixed day and one that tested our systems to the limit. It is good to know that everything that we needed was in place and will continue to be so in future. Our next date is Sunday 16th October.

Sunday 14th August 2011.

We had expected this day to be less well supported than previous events this year because it was only three weeks since our July date. However, largely due to the presence of 11 new drivers, we had a great turn out.

James Currie was one of these new drivers and he brought his immaculately prepared 998 Mini. Naturally, it wasn’t the fastest car on the track but James circulated very well indeed.

Adrian Kerr, another new driver, brought the modern version of the Mini Cooper and went well, as did Eric Cooper in his Renaultsport Megane 225. Eric, a visitor from England, came on his own but was soon chatting with our regulars. He was later spotted on track in the passenger seat of Paul Keys’ Megabussa, getting a few pointers from one of our most experienced drivers.

Jonathan McCurry had a great day’s sport in his BMW 3 series. He had a few strange noises emanating from his front left wheel but got those sorted and continued apace.

Having tested the water last month in his Caterham Roadsport, Shamus Jennings came back in his incredibly rapid Caterham CSR Superlight. His son, Peter, drove the Roadsport this time.

To illustrate just how fast the Superlight was, it pulled away from Ali-Reisa Afrasiabi’s Porsche 911 Turbo down the back straight!

Johnny McFarland was another newcomer, in his Lotus Elise. He came with Adrian Kerr and both seemed to have a ball!

We try to keep those visiting a Trackskills day for the first time in a group of their own for at least two sessions. This lets drivers learn the track largely without having to worry about quicker, more experienced participants clogging up their mirrors. This policy seems to work, as when the new drivers mix in with the more experienced later in the day, they seem confident and happy.

Trackskills are heavily associated with the Saloon class at Kirkistown Race Circuit and at this event a number of the competitor’s cars were in attendance, all-be-it in some cases, without their normal drivers. Richard Ryan’s BMW was driven by his brother Bob and Davey Morrison’s similar car was driven by his girlfriend, Samantha. Maybe we will see them out racing next year in one of the Railway Motorsport BMWs.

Hard luck story of the day goes to Jeff Rutherford whose Megabussa exploded on the back straight.

We had a particularly eclectic mix of cars in attendance including Tommie Nolan’s Mitsubishi  Legnum VR4, Andrew McCullough’s Toyota Starlet GT turbo, Richie O’Mahony’s RT Supercar, Alan McCutcheon’s Seat Leon Cupra, Tony Lester’s MGZS and Thomas Purdy’s immaculate Mk 2 Escort 2.5 rally car.

Paul Soutar’s MR2 gave us cause for concern because of the amount of smoke it was expelling on the early sessions, so much so that we brought him in. “That’s normal until it warms up”, said Paul and he was correct!

Aidan Vare brought one of the 4 Honda Civics that he hopes to have racing next year. It went well and if he is successful at getting them out, it should make for interesting competition.

The weather stayed good and all seemed to enjoy the day.

Thanks to the marshals and St John’s Ambulance Service and to Higginson Catering.

Our next date is the day after the final race meeting of the season. That makes it Sunday 25th September. Why not make a weekend of it?

Sunday 24th July 2011.

It is amazing what difference great weather makes! Kirkistown Circuit enjoyed two days of glorious sunshine and two days of great motor sport with a full card of racing on Saturday and our track day on Sunday.

We were pleased to welcome a number of people attending for the first time. Philip Kerry came up from Dublin in his Mini JWC and ran well all day. Seamus Jennings circulated well all day in his beautifully prepared Caterham. It was great to see Chris Hatton and Paul Ferry from the NI MX5 club keeping MX5 regular, Nigel Averill company on track. All three ran without a hitch. Norman McNaught, although chairman of the NI MX5 Club, brought a very tidy Peugeot 205GTi and went very well indeed.

Variety was supplied by James Wright in his Falcon space-frame Mini, which looked and sounded brilliant, although he had to keep his sessions short to avoid rising temperatures.

Gerry Magennis took his son's racing GMS Seven round with some authority, in close company with Steven Wright's similar machine.

Regulars, Thomas Bell and Richard Bloomfield piloted their Imprezas well all day while Gareth Talbot entertained the spectators in his Dimma Peugeot. He was a victim of failing brakes towards the end of the day, as was Stephen Pickering in his Integra.

Returning Porsche 911GT3 pilot Ali-Reisa Afrasaibi circulated very rapidly. There were three drivers in this car during the day and all entertained the marshals with skillful and tidy driving.

New man, Peter Brannigan, showed a lot of maturity by driving well and seeking advice from ourselves on improving lines. We would expect to see Peter getting the best out of his Civic on a regular basis.

Hard luck story of the day goes to Nathan Hogg's faithful mechanic, who didn't get a run last time down because the clutch blew in the Celica when Nathan was on his first run. Having worked hard to fit a new clutch he watched dutifully as Nathan headed out for a shakedown run before coming in to hand the car over. Unfortunately, history repeated itself and the clutch blew again!

It is no secret that Trackskills is run by racers and the we have always encouraged talented participants towards that path. Aside from the two aforementioned NI Seven racers we also had experienced racer Godfrey McCartney on track with his beautiful Lotus Elise. Regular marshal Nad Haigi was also out in his VX220. Mazda RX7 racer, Craig Davidson was showcasing his rapid RX7 to potential buyers while Ian Baxter was gaining valuable experience in his Westfield before venturing back out into the Sprint and Hillclimb end of the sport.

Past Trackskills participant, David Morrison, turned up in the paddock, fresh from his maiden win and "Driver Of The Day" award at the 500MRCI race meeting the previous day. David is a great ambassador for track days and racing. His display of enthusiasm and exuberance was wonderful to witness on Saturday. Having won the second saloon race, he stopped at the Chicane on the slowing-down lap, got out of the car and saluted the spectators on the bank, in Valentino Rossi style! We need more like David in our sport!

As six o'clock approached we still had four cars circulating, including, as usual, Paul Keys and Roy Stewart in their rapid Megabussas.

Thanks, as ever, to the marshals and St John crew.

Only three weeks until the next one!

Sunday 22nd May 2011.

We had our best turn out for over a year! Thank you to all who attended. The weather played ball as well. We had one downpour which began and finished during the drivers' briefing and another which came around lunchtime. Again, it only lasted ten minutes. With the brisk wind, the track dried very quickly.

We had quite a few drivers who were new to Trackskills. Thomas McCrea brought his tidy rally prepared Nova but was plagued with overheating problems all day. Steven Dawson got on well in his Caterham Roadsport SV175 but his friend Steven Whyte had engine woes with his Westfield. Jacqueline McHugh was nervous in her Black Civic and an early spin didn't help but she persevered and was going well as the day progressed. Stephen Johnson's Noble lapped quickly all day while Greg Kelly improved markedly in his Audi RS4 after shadowing Keith in the Trackskills Cossie for a session. Chris Ryan seemed to be enjoying himself in his Exige as was Patrick McGrattan in his Clio 182. Kit Law had nasty noises coming from his Cosworth engine after the second session and took no further part.

Billy Fanneran came a long way only for his Leon's clutch to pack in on the first session. He worked hard to fix it all day to no avail. However, his two friends, Danny Butler and Aidan Boyle put on a great show in their Honda Civics, lapping closely and quickly all day. And all within the noise limits, which proves that Civics don't have to be shattering eardrums to be fast!

It was great to see talented driver Mark Jenkins back after quite a while. The Integra is no more but he piloted a BMW 3 Series quickly all day. Gavin Robinson and Nigel McGowan brought their new Renault Clio Cup cars out to play. The colour of Nigel's car was breaking the sound limit! Bright green! Colm Gallagher made a welcome return as well in his trusty Corolla.

The usual Westfield/Caterham contingent were there and circulating as quickly as ever. Jeff Rutherford was driving a Westfield Lawn Mower on a couple of occasions.

The marshals, as ever, did a great job of marshalling and observing. Philip's St John services were not needed and that's the way it should be. It tells a tale that at six o'clock there were still five cars pounding round when the final flag fell.

Sunday 13th March 2011.

After a rained-off false start in February, we were treated to a completely dry day at Kirkistown. Having said that, it was raining up the road in Greyabbey!

The turn out was moderate with our usual faithful regulars in attendance.

John Mulholland (Ford Focus RS) and Connáire Finn (Lotus Elise) put on a great show of close, fast and controlled driving. Nicholas Wood seemed to be going for the mileage record in his Elise. He told me that he was trying to master a heel-and-toe technique. (Is he thinking of going racing, I wonder?)

Sam and Wesley Lyle brought two new acquisitions with them. A Lotus Carlton and a Mazda MX5. The Carlton was quick. Wesley was able to dry his hair with the roof down in the Mazda!

Ralph Jess and David Morrison brought their competition BMWs out for a shake down. Ralph had some teething troubles but when the car was going, it was a lethal weapon! It sat and bounced as he tried to put the power down. (I'm praying for wet races all season!)

Roy Stewart, Dessie McGlade, Jeff Rutherford and Larry Mawhinney made the best of the good weather in their Westfields. However, Andy Parkinson had clutch and gearbox problems in his MK Indy.

Chris Rogan had to do some body work modifications to his quick Clio to stop the tyres rubbing on the rear wheel arches.

It was good to see some new faces. I think Alan Patton, Adrian Hanna and Gareth Jackson enjoyed themselves.

Thanks, as ever, to Fel's marshals and St John's ambulance service.

Sunday 17th October 2010.

We were pleasantly surprised with today's turn out. I think that maybe after a six week lay off, people were getting stir crazy!

Most of the regular guys were there. It was great to watch John Mulholland and Ronnie Brown circulating very quickly in their RS Focuses. I don't think the stars ever quite lined up to put Nigel Magowan's R26R with them at the same time but maybe I just didn't see it!

As often is the case, Conor Loughran had little luck with his Evo but enabled some others to continue their day due to his supply cache of necessary oils, etc.

The Locaterfield brigade turned out in force, all-be-it with Paul keys sharing Jeff Rutherford's 'Busa. Richard Ford and Gregory Kerr circulated together all day and got steadily faster.

Malcolm Bruce has fitted a new exhaust to the Celica. It is much quieter but, if anything, it has made the car faster!

From a variety point of view, we had the addition of Mark Hutcheson's Atom, which was incredibly quick and disturbingly quiet! Connaire Finn helped Mark make adjustments throughout the day and I think the car's driveability steadily improved.

We also had two very quick Mk 2 Escorts with sequential gearboxes. Pat Donegan and Robert Wilton were the registered drivers but both John and Josh Mulholland among others took turns at piloting them. There's something about a well sorted Mk 2. They are always entertaining.

It was good to see Jason Wright's VW Vento and Colin Irwin's Golf getting good runs after their disastrous last day. The reliability factor today was impressively high.

As ever, Nicholas Wood circulated rapidly and without incident in his Elise, as did Andy Toland in his 205 Oil Burner. However, if there was an award for the car that stays under the radar but is always very quick, it has to go to Martin McDonell's Seat Leon (which is also an oil burner!).

We has one big incident which involved Stewart Clyde trying to reposition the marshal's post at Colonial with his Corsa. Stewart lost it under braking, got a wheel on the grass and was a passenger from that point onwards. Amazingly, when we pulled the car from the tyres, both it and Stewart were hardly damaged at all and 20 minutes later both were back on track!

The weather threatened rain for about five minutes and thought better of it. (Possibly, last night's virgin had been considering a change of view!).

As always, thanks to Fel's team of marshals and to Philip's St John team, who got to do something medical today, hence the smiles!

The next one is the last for a while. Hope to see you all there!

 

Sunday 5th September 2010.

A very small turn out today, probably because of the change of date. However, those who were there got oodles of track time!

A warm welcome to new participants Mark McAuley in his BMW E36, Martin McDonnell in his diesel Seat Leon and Tony Lester in his MG ZS V6. All three went very well although Martin had some concerns with vibration from the drive train on the Seat. It didn't seem to slow him down!

Derek Wilson was going very well in his Porsche 993.

The Westfield, Caterham, Locost guys entertained everyone. Alas, Paul Keys' con rod decided to leave through the side door somewhere along the back straight and this ended his day. Paul always puts a brave face on things but he was struggling to do so with this one. Understandibly so, since he had just repaired the engine and it had been flying. The old saying rings true. Before they blow, they go!

Malcolm Bruce was nervous when the weather turned wet but he continued to lap smoothly, quickly and with no incident.

As usual Roy Stewart and Desi McGlade were the last running, both enjoying themselves in the damp conditions, seeking and sometimes finding the limits of adhesion!

Thanks to the marshals, who got wet. It has been nice to see former drivers like Simon and now Nad going down the marshalling route.

Sunday 22nd August 2010.

Yet again, we had perfect weather.

Some of our regulars were on holiday but those who were there had loads of track time.

It was great to see Peter Hazlett back after depositing the guts of his engine onto the Tarmac during our July date. Malcolm Bruce also got his Celica back out after his trials with tyres in July. Both were going well. Sadly, Nad brought his TVR back out and it did the same damage to the engine on the first session as it did in July. Back to the drawing board!

Stewarty brought his racing Clio out and assures us that he will be racing at the next race. We wait to see.

Tony Traub used the day to sort out some issues with his racing Integra.

Both Naoise Enright (Mazda MX6) and Barry Chambers (Honda Accord) ran all day without problems and did a phenomenal number of laps. Unfortunately Scott Robinson's Astra went out on the first session with brake problems.

Nicholas Wood was a welcome returnee and after using the pre-lunch sessions to re-acquaint himself, was well up to speed in the latter half of the day.

Garry Hannah proved that an Evo 7 can be quick within the noise limits.

Thanks to Fel and her marshals who had a testing day with dodgy radios (and a crazy little blue car!).

Please note: Our next date is changed to Sunday 5th September.

Sunday 25th July 2010

Once again we were blessed with good weather on Sunday.

There were a few new faces in attendance but it was the old hands who had trouble. Malcolm Bruce, Kevin Daly, Nad Haighi, Jason Wright and Kenny Wylie all were done for the day before the end of their first run!

That left a very skimpy field but got everyone else loads of track time.

It was great to see the young Jake Byrne racking up the miles in the Ginetta Junior that he is campaigning this year.

As usual, the Westfield Brigade put on a good show.

Philip Dalgity brought his tidy Honda S2000 out to play and had a few hairy moments but he left with an enormous smile!

David Buchanan showed that he wasn’t scared of his Porsche 997 GT3, finding its limits on a number of occasions.

Paul Keys teamed up with Stephen Pickering in his Honda, since Paul’s ‘Busa is currently in bits.  The sight of him hounding Roy Stewart’s ‘Busa round the hairpin was humorous.

Brian McCann spent the day adjusting tyre pressures and suspension settings on his Porsche. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him before he left to see if things had improved.

The marshals, as ever, did a great job and have our whole hearted appreciation.

There are photographs available on the RMS site .

 

Sunday 20th June 2010

We had a great day at Kirkistown yesterday with another sunny day. The car numbers weren't fantastic but the weather was and the track action was good.

Wesley Lyle got the Cossie into the 1:08s on the slicks that I sold him. (I should have held on to them! ;-) )

Ralph Jess was out in the M3 Compact. It is sorted and will be flying on Saturday.

Roy Stewart had a rare breakage on the Westfield and had to leave early, much to Ross's disappointment. On the other hand, Dessie McGlade took his Westfield home in the same good condition that it arrived. Great to see him finally having a trouble free day. Andy Murphy had a few teething problems with his new Westfield that he has recently built but he worked at them and got track time before a drive shaft coupling decided not to couple any more. Jeff Rutherford seemed to have a fast and trouble free day in his Westy and David Law and his associates had an equally impressive outing in their Caterham 6 R.

Gareth Talbot's Peugeot 205 was really motoring as was John Garett's Evo 6.

Richard Lewis and friends were new to the track and put in some very impressive performances in their Clio 172. We look forward to their return after the summer.

The biggest casualty of the day was Peter Haslett's Galanza that gave birth to engine bits somewhere near Colonial 2.

In keeping with our supposed policy of landing on Celebration dates, today was fathers' Day and perhaps that was why the paddock was empty by 5:30pm as fathers headed off for celebration tea!

Thanks once again to Fel and her marshals and to Philip and St John Ambulance Service. Thanks also to James for the catering. James had had around two hours sleep, having catered for a 700 strong, fund-raising, barn dance the night before. He was with us in body...

 

Sunday 14th March 2010

Our track day on Mothers' Day was blessed with good weather and we had an improved turn out from our February date. Many of the usual suspects were there. John Mulholland has switched his Focus STi to another one and was going well. James Smart had his trusty Golf hammering round and Wesley and Sam Lyle had the Escort Cosworth that they intend racing, going great guns all day.

Richard Ryan had switched from his quick Golf to a quick BMW and was having fun coming to terms with rear wheel drive.

We had four new guys who had mixed fortunes. Peter Haslett took to it well in his Starlett as did Mark Adams in his BMW Roadster. Andy Tolland circulated very quickly in his oil burning 205. Graeme Baird's Westfield only managed a lap and a half before lying down.

The highlight of the day from a spectator's view point was the numerous dices between a certain mean green Focus RS and Nigel McGowan's Renault R26R. Have a look at the video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3Fe-QTiooA

Unusually, Paul Keys' Westfield swallowed its clutch and there were a few other engine woes among participants. Lee Cull customised his Clio slightly at the chicane but he was OK and the car will be too.

Our next date is Sunday 11th April which is Juan Santamaria Day. This means that our usual contingent from Costa Rica will probably not turn up and there will be more track time for everyone else!

Sunday 14th February 2010

Whether it was concern about noise levels from annoyed wives or girlfriends because it was St Valentine's Day or noise levels permitted at the track this year, Sunday's turn-out was less than expected. The upside of that, of course, was that everyone there got all the track time they wanted. We have never, ever had a track day end because there was nobody left to circulate, until yesterday!

As expected in February, it was cold but it was mostly dry. We ran an (a) and a (b) session all day and the cars certainly got well used. Richard Ryan's purple Golf cried "Enough!" late in the afternoon and Andrew Scott's Evo did the same after two laps! However, everyone else survived the day.

Ivan McCullough's GT-R was incredibly quick as was Nigel McGowan's R26R. Both, as ever, were very neat.

Rhonda Carson brought her Classic 1980 Porsche 911 along and after an initial spin at the hairpin, got quicker as the day went on.

The VW Golf squad of James Smart, Richard Ryan and Alan Croskery drove the wheels off their machines while Kevin Daly terrified his passenger in the Honda Civic.

Gavin Kilkey discovered that a Westfield requires a higher level of fitness from its driver than an Evo!

Speaking of Evos, there was concern that noise would be an issue at this meeting. Barry Dunnigan figured that his was one of the loudest around so we tested it. He was correct. It registered 100Db which is 2DB too loud. However, as we had already stated, we were not going to turn anyone away if they were close to the limit, on condition that they would rectify the situation for future dates, so Barry enjoyed the rest of the day.

So that was it. The first day of the new season completed.

As ever, thanks to all the marshals and St John Ambulance Service.

 

Sunday 15th November 2009

 

On Monday morning I got up, opened the bedroom curtains and laughed out loud. It was pouring down and miserable, yet the previous day we had had our busiest day of the year at a rain free Kirkistown. Sure, it was cold and windy but what can you expect in November?

Our busiest day of 2009 also included a record number of drivers trying a Trackskills day for the first time, with mixed fortunes. Dónall Sweeney brought his imported drift Sylvia and soon discovered why Kirkistown has a reputation for killing brakes. He was going well before they started to fade. I know his is a drift car but it demonstrates what we always say about modifying any car for the track. Start with a cage and then uprate the brakes. After that do the suspension and tyres. Only then think about tweaking the engine. Dónall continued for most of the day, keeping an eye on the brake temperatures. Unfortunately, his gear box cried "Enough!" later and that was the end of that!. Another newbie and a friend of Dónall's was Michael Garrity in a quick Escort. Unfortunately, his gearbox went out in sympathy with the Sylvia, at the same place on the track! Andrew Christie brought his quick Nova but only got a few laps before blowing an oil pump. Sam Gowdy had better fortune in his rapid Nova Hot Rod, lapping extremely quickly. Raymond Kitson and Andrew Donnan had trouble free runs in an Exige and S2000 respectively. Paul Williamson brought his 60's Sunbeam Tiger with a Shelby Ford under the bonnet (I probably should say "hood", since it's a Shelby). At first we thought it may not start but it eventually did and from then on just got better all day.

Eamon Matheson brought his Ninja out. I was worried because I know this car and just how fast it can go. Low 50's are the norm on a race day. To Eamon's credit, he and his other drivers were extremely careful around other cars and gave us all something exciting to watch.

It was great to see Paul Keys out on track again. His injuries still won't let him pilot the Westfield but he was having fun in Stephen Pickering's Honda CRX.

Marty Mounce was having a ball in his BeeM. He really should be racing as indeed should Nigel Magowan, Aaron Magowan and Justin Duff. All of these guys demonstrate their class at every track day. Another guy who is going quicker, safely each time is Patrick Gillian in his Impreza.

The Locost racers put on a static display in the paddock and offered passenger rides to anyone interested in racing in their class in 2010. This really is bargain basement racing. Very competitive, yet friendly and change out of £10K (including the car!) at the end of the season.

We ran a couple of 'special' track days, mid week, during the year to facilitate the students from Limavady College who use three cars donated by the P.S.N.I. as engineering projects. It was a pleasure to welcome them at the last date of 2009 and they fitted in well with our regulars. The P.S.N.I. came down too and did some filming of the boys on track. I get the feeling that they can see where we are coming from. There is no doubt that doing track days improves the skills and knowledge of drivers.

A long winning streak came to an end at this track day. Since 2000 we have had the odd car roll and we have had a few thump the barriers but until Sunday we had never had car to car contact. Unfortunately, this came to an end when Thomas Scally lost his Renault 5 Turbo at Fisherman's. He managed to gather it up but that left him right in the path of Alex McConnell's Porsche 944. There was nowhere for the Porsche to go and the Renault got thumped. Thankfully, both drivers were unhurt and the damage was not too serious. Both cars and drivers continued the day.

Thanks for the whole year must go to Fel McIlroy and her loyal team of marshals and to Philip with his St John team. It is a cliché but we simply couldn't operate without them. Thanks also goes to James Higginson for keeping us all fed and to Jacqueline for putting up with him! (Only joking!)

Lastly, thanks to all of our customers throughout the year. I hope Santa brings you all the go-faster goodies you want and look forward to seeing you in 2010.

Donal.

 

Sunday 26th July 2009

You know, I had my doubts. Maybe it was the six inch stilettos and mini skirt or it might have been her "Come to bed" eyes. Either way, I doubted her when she claimed to be eligible as our maiden sacrifice for sunshine. The television weather forecasters backed up my opinion with their predictions of mega-rain and winds for Sunday. Well, she was telling the truth and must have been as pure as the driven snow because we had one of the best weather days at Kirkistown this year! There was no rain and a serious risk of sunburn all day due to the brisk breeze giving a false sense of cool security.

We got started slightly late because of some efforts to clear rubbish that was blowing all over the place from the paddock. However, the first session got under way with a selection that included BMWs, Lotus Elise and Exiges, an Alfa GTV, an MGF and others. Unfortunately for David Bloomfield, his Skyline gave up the ghost after only four laps. It is no comfort to David but it says a lot for most participants' car preparation that the Skyline was one of only three cars not to make it to the end of the day. Nelson Stewart's Porsche 944 (with well over 100,000 miles on the clock) technically just made it, as it died on the last run of the day.

Dean Reilly came in after half of the first session in his "Time Attack" Civic. I asked him what the problem was and he replied. "Too hot". When he was lined up waiting to go out in his next session I suggested that he might like to do five minutes or so, come in for five to let the engine cool down and then go back out for the last five minutes. He explained that no, it wasn't the engine that got too hot. It was himself as he had the 'flu! I rapidly withdrew from his window and have been checking to see if I am growing a curly tail ever since!

The second session was mostly for new folk. John Garrett went well in his Evo, as did David Irwin in his Golf Gti. Gareth Talbot's Pug 205 Gti was a mean looking machine and it went well. Naoise Enright's Mazda MX6 gave us all a scare as loads of smoke started pouring from the front brakes but it turned out to be nothing serious.

The third session included 6 Westfields whose pilots were delighting in the perfect conditions. The Robinson's VX220 was also included and began a day characterised by quick laps and 'character building' spins!

By 1:30 p.m. we had more than caught up on the lost time and were heading towards lunch. In the session just before lunch Philip Shields took his 3.5Lt. Juno out for a blast. Very nice.

After lunch we ran the usual 'mixed' sessions and there was some highly entertaining lappery. Ernie Skillen and Paul Keys put on a great show that could only be performed by two drivers who knew, trusted and respected each other. Peter Maxwell had a couple of exciting moments through Debtor's that proved he was really motoring. As ever, Robert O'Reilly arrived from Dublin, did his own thing quietly, safely and very quickly and departed again minus some rubber. Robert is a pure enthusiast.

While waiting to go home, Nicholas Wood remarked that he had not previously witnessed a day remain busy so late into the afternoon. Everyone was having a ball and enjoying the conditions.

Once again, thanks to all the marshals and St. John crew and thanks to all who ignored the weather warnings and turned up.

Only four weeks left to find another virgin...

Donal.

 

Sunday 21st June 2009

A combination of events contrived to greatly reduce the number of participants in attendance on Sunday. Fathers' Day may have had something to do with it and the wet weather didn't help. I also wonder if not being on the last Sunday contributed much. I have already had one person, who had been booked, phone me to confirm that he would be there...on the following Sunday! Anyway, the bottom line is that those who were there got lots of track time! Well, most of them did!

Gavin Magee didn't! His good looking Lexus IS200 Sport boiled the brake fluid on the first run. Gavin, to his credit, worked with his crew for hours to replace the fluid. Getting all of the air out of the system was problematic but eventually they were successful and the car returned to the track late in the afternoon. Ronnie Brown had further problems with his gearbox and his Pug was back on the trailer after the first run.

James Smart has had some work done to his Golf and it was flying all day. David Watters was giving his Puma its first run and reported no problems. Wesley and Sam Lyle's Cossie developed an intermittent engine problem which was still persistent at the end of the day. Kirsty Forsythe arrived, none too happy with the weather. Her dad, Clarke, took the car out for a shake-down and came back reporting all was well. Kirsty has less confidence in her own ability than she should have and took a little convincing to get out there. However, she did and had a good time for the rest of the day.

Ernie Skillen brought his Nissan GT-R out and was exceptionally quick. To quote another's observation, "I believe the guy was fairly bored. He wasn't even bothering with racing lines and was still mopping up the kit cars". That says it all really.

Nigel Magowan brought his Renault R26R out. This car only came into the country earlier in the week. It is what I call a "Q Car" (showing my age there!). OK , it looks great but it is quiet, is very well behaved and goes round corners on rails with no indication of speed. And it's a rocket!!! Colin and Aaron are now looking for double turbos for their 197s!

Allen Erskine brought a bit of classic class to the event with his beautiful old Porsche 911 in Gulf colours. It wasn't slow either!

Derek McIlmoyle quietly put in many rapid laps in his Exige. He was one of the first to arrive and was the last car on track. Nicholas Wood's facial expression was linked to the weather. As the day dried up his smile returned and got broader and broader. Ah, gone are the days when Nicholas was praying for snow. A Lotus Elise just isn't as forgiving as an Audi S3 in the damp.

A long standing record was finally broken at this event. Prior to this, the absolute record number of miles done by one car at a Trackskills event was 200. It was held by a Mk1 Toyota MR2 belonging to Sam and Wesley Lyle. However, at this event Roy Stewart's Westfield 'Bussa clocked up 267 miles. That is over 170 laps!

As ever, the marshals played a blinder. Acting on their reports, we were able to bring in various cars during sessions to rectify faults that they had observed and were unknown to the relevant drivers, preventing potential accidents. Thanks once again to them and St John Ambulance personnel for all their help.

Donal.

 

 

Sunday 31st May 2009

Well, there's no doubt about it. The sacrificial virgin was telling the truth and we had incredible weather! An eclectic mix of cars arrived. As one would expect in such weather, quite a few Locaterfields appeared although one of the biggest disappointments of the day was landed at Kirsty Forsythe's doorstep. She phoned me at the track to say that her tow vehicle had let her down!

The question most asked during the day concerned tyre pressures. With the hot track surface, the front wheel drive cars were having a torrid time trying to find grip after only a few laps. Our compressor was working overtime as people experimented.

Connáire Finn arrived in his Porsche 993, liveried with details of his new set-up and performance business for Porsche and Lotus cars in Dublin. Connáire has been making a name for himself this year in competition in England with his Lotus Elise and spent more time in other people's passenger seats at Kirkistown than behind his own wheel. One of the benefactors was Nicholas Wood, who in his usual humorous way, described Connáire's forthright method of instruction as "excellent and terrifying!"

On the subject of instruction, I am an instructor with Race School Ireland. There is an old adage that those who can, do and those who can't, teach! Never has this been brought home to me more than on Sunday when John Mulholland asked me to sit in with his son Josh in his Focus, to see if I could give him any advice. Now Josh races BARC Formula Renault in England this year. Off we went and I stayed quiet for a lap or two. I thought Josh was simply excellent! His confidence, car control and track positioning was mighty. There was one place where I thought he might have been able to improve and I suggested it. He duly tried it over the next few laps and after the session we were informed by a person in the paddock that there was a second difference in those laps, SLOWER! The bottom line is that I learnt more from Josh in those few laps than I could have hoped to teach him. Watch out for him in the results in future!

The general standard of driving all day was very good, even from people who had never been on a track before. Everyone showed consideration to other track users and the day ran with no unscheduled stoppages. A few folk had car problems. Ronnie Brown had fitted a competition clutch to his Peugeot and it gave up after three laps! Ian Weir's Rover's top end cried "enough!" after one session. A few people ran out of brake pads towards the late afternoon. (I told you so :-) ) Unusually, a number of drivers reported loosening wheel nuts. Whether this was something to do with the high temperatures or not, I don't know.

And now a blatant plug! We run Seat Cupras in the Kirkistown Libre Saloons and one of the Sachs shocks was leaking. The Sachs web site is useless for parts. We had the shock apart and the offending seal removed but the question was where to get a replacement at short notice? I talked to a few people who said that the thing was a one off and would have to be made and would cost muchas moolah. Yell.com pointed me towards Henry R Ayton at the Cutts in Derriaghy who didn't do them but they sent me across the yard to WEP Industrial Supplies Limited where I met Eamonn McCallion. He took one look at it and declared that he thought they had one in stock. They didn't but he then informed me that he would have one for me in 24 hours. He did! He produced the two that I asked for plus two o rings that I didn't ask for but should have and the price? £15. Now that is service!

Thanks once again to the marshals and St John Ambulance service. Thanks also to caterer, James Higginson, whose menu is getting wider than my waist band!

Donal.

Sunday 26th April 2009

For the first time in a long time we were greeted with rain on arrival at Kirkistown. Thankfully it did not deter too many participants and indeed, some of the earliest arrivals were the Locaterfield Brigade of Dessie McGlade, Roy Stewart, Richard kyle and Kevin Bell. All were rewarded with a rapidly drying track from 1:00pm onwards.

There was a particularly eclectic mix of vehicles at this event. Sam and Wesley Lyle's classic Lotus Esprit looked well but succumbed to engine gremlins after two runs. Aaron McGowan and Colin Bradley's white Clio Cup 197s were joined by Stephen Noble in a silver version and he was immediately on the pace. Larry Wheelan brought his unusually coloured Alfa GTV up for the first time and went well. Two Focus ST170s were here for the first time and were well driven by John Mulholland and Stephen Phillips. BMW M3s were represented by Bryan Grieves and Colin Stanford who were both circulating very quickly. However, Justin Duff arrived slightly late and proceeded to put his long experience of Kirkistown to good use and outshone both M3s in his CSL.

Conor Loughran gamely tackled seemingly endless running repairs on his early Evo to complete a load of sessions. Jonathan Gillespie worked on his Puma engined Fiesta right up to Saturday night and was well rewarded for his troubles with an impressively quick and well handling car. Ronnie Brown was mighty in his Pug 106, driving the wheels off it as usual. Simon Rogers had a promising run in his Supra before an intercooler pipe ruptured. Said pipe was unreachable within the paddock and that was the end of his day! Richard Boyd impressed everyone with his well sorted Evo 10. The thing seemed to be a rocket ship!

The day was mostly incident free (the exception being two suicidal spectators who tried to walk through the run off area at Debtors, oblivious to the tracks beside them that were left by an M3's earlier off at that point!) with a generally high standard of driving from participants. As usual, Fel and her marshals did a sterling job and richly deserve our thanks.

Thanks to all who made it happen.

Donal.

 

 

Sunday 15th March 2009

Just when we thought that we had seen it all during the last eight and a half years, something unimaginable comes along to surprise us!

We were blessed once again with great weather and a very good turn out. Having got started on time, we were cracking on rapidly with the sessions. As is normal in between sessions, the start marshal and various assistants were opening the gates to let spectators and late-coming participants across the track and into the infield area. A Renault Laguna began coming across but instead of following the car in front straight over and through the opposite gate, it turned left and began to go round the track. The marshals were warned by radio of an unidentified car approaching them. The car did a full lap, ignoring red flags before stopping momentarily at the start/finish line and then continuing on to Debtors.

This is where it gets surreal! I drove up to the car which was now parked on the outside of Debtors, trackside. When I approached the driver and demanded to know what he was playing at, he was on the phone! He asked me to 'hold on' because he was talking to his son! At this point you can fill in the expletives yourself but, suffice to say, he was escorted off the premises post haste.

The moral of this true story is this. Next time that you think an official or marshal is being over cautious or a jobsworth, think about the tiny percentage of people out there who are selfish, inconsiderate and still trying to evolve a thumb. They exist and are a danger to us all and unfortunately, marshals and officials have to expect the worst case scenario and protect against it.

Enough of the rant! What else happened?

Well, the day was generally great fun. Four white Clio Cup 197s in a line were a sight to behold. Michael McKeown's supercharged Bora sounded positively evil! One of the many Megabussas failed to negotiate the Chicane, rearranging its steering geometry in the tyre wall. Campbell's Chicken Soup saved the day for Richard Ryan, not because he was feeling unwell (Everybody knows that chicken soup cures everything, don't they?) but by providing the necessary metal collar to fix his exhaust! Nicholas Wood had a big moment on the approach to the chicane resulting in him reversing into the tyres in his very tidy Elise. Luckily the damage was only a few scratches and he was back out and flying again very soon after returning to the paddock. Paul Keys, as usual, was sublime in his Megabussa. Sam and Wesley turned up with a Skyline (delivered by Tescos, but that's another story!). Wesley proceeded to brake so hard in it that he thought he had rebroken his recently operated-upon foot and went off home looking somewhat ashen! Mark Russell had a great first ever track day in his Caterham. His next one is at Spa! John McIlveen also had a great first ever track day in his MG180 ZS but a fuel surge problem on a low tank gave both him and a following 192 a fright in the middle of Fishermans as his car cut out! Robert O'Reilly, as ever, circulated extremely quickly in his immaculately prepared Civic V-tec. Paul Sheridan has got his racing Clio 172 fully sorted and was incredibly quick. This car is for sale and would be a great track iron for anyone thinking of getting a dedicated track day machine.

Once again, thanks to all the marshals, particularly Tigger who kept the day running, standing in for Fel and thank you to all who came, particularly those who have a "permanent booking" with us. Every day we have now is at least half booked for the rest of the year. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Cheers!

Donal.

 

Last Trackskills Day of 2008. Sunday 23rd November.

Sunday saw the final day of our calendar for 2008 and what a day it was! A grand turn out from our regulars plus the launch of Lotus Club Ireland made for a fairly full paddock.

There were a number of aspects that really stood out on the day and I would like to give them a mention here.

Firstly, the arrival of the plastic cars en mass at 9:30am was a truly great sight.  Judging by the photograph I have seen, the Strangford - Portaferry ferry never sat so high in the water with a full deck of cars before!  The Lotus contingent put on a great show, especially Bob Montgomery who demonstrated how to rallycross a 2 – Eleven at Debtors.

Secondly, for such a busy day, the standard of driving from everybody on track was amazing, especially considering it was wet all day.  Everyone observed the flags and used their mirrors.  There were a few offs but these were mostly folk out-braking themselves with no unfortunate consequences. On the two occasions when I had to have an advisory word in a driver’s ear, the advice was taken on board and the driving improved immediately. A big thank you to everyone for their consideration and co-operation.

Thirdly, our marshals (and I include Philip from St John in this group) were brilliant.  It was wet and seriously cold all day and they persevered without complaint. At one point Fel couldn’t push the button on her radio because her fingers were so frozen! We do appreciate their effort and know that we and motorsport, in general, would be lost without them.  Thank you all once again.

Fourthly, we tried to run until 5:00pm and would have succeeded, had it not been for a dirty great rain cloud that took away whatever light was left at around 4:50pm.  We had to call it a day because the flag marshals could not see each other, the drivers could not see the flags and we lost all ability to differentiate between the speeds of approaching headlights to see who was catching who.  Having mentioned all that, I thought an active Kirkistown “at night” was a fantastic sight!  Observing the moving stream of lights from Colonial One to the Chicane was wonderful and watching the brake rotors glowing on Sam Lyle’s Cossie reminded me of standing at Arnage at dusk. An emotional high and a great way to finish the year!

As ever, there were a couple of hard luck stories.  Graham Alexander’s Pulsar begged for mercy for a few laps before having a strop at being ignored and throwing a leg out of bed at the top end of the circuit.  Gary and Stephen Shields now know what  an Integra with shot mains sounds like.  The unsung hero here is the guy, who’s name I never got to know, who came up from Dundalk, at a moment’s notice, to Belfast and back down to Kirkistown with a flat bed to carry their stricken Honda away.

On behalf of Keith and myself,  thanks to everyone involved during the season for helping make this Trackskills’ best year.  We appreciate everyone’s input and look forward to seeing you in 2009.

Cheers!

Donal.

 

Sunday 16th March 2008

After a fairly miserable week of weather the sun came out on Sunday morning and remained with us for the rest of the day.

Aaron McGowan finally got his ex-Richard Dempster Clio 182 out and was moving more and more quickly as the day went on. It was nice to see two VX220's circulating very rapidly in the hands of Mark Angus and Simon Walsh. I noticed a blue one turning up to watch. Perhaps he'll come out to play in the future! Miles McDonagh seemed to be enjoying getting to grips with his new Exige.

The most unlikely car of the day has to have been Stewarty's Volvo T5 Estate Automatic. The pendulum effect it was displaying at the Chicane was giving the flag marshal, Jenifer, a near heart attack every other lap! Stewarty was joined by David Maxwell in a Volvo 850, which lapped faster as the day wore on.

One hard luck story concerned Tom Mulready who was trying to run in his racing Uno before the first race in a fortnight's time. Unfortunately, the engine had other ideas and it blew up in the afternoon. However, Tom got further than Kevin McNamee, who had engine woes in his BMW from the very start.

Steve Mitchell brought his Seat Leon Challenge car over from Scotland. That beastie is quick in a very controlled way. Most of the time, that is. Once again the luckless Jenifer witnessed David having a couple of "moments" at the Chicane as he searched out his limits.

Paul Keys capped an expensive week (he was seen in Ernie Skillen's Jewellers shop buying an engagement ring on Wednesday!) by burning out the clutch on the Megabusa.

Make what you like of this one! The following conversation was overheard by me between Ray Dowds ( who was rumoured to allegedly have hurt his back last year whilst leaping from some bedroom furniture in a Superman cape!) and his wife, Audrey, who has nerves of steel (Well she would have, wouldn't she?)

Ray: "Look at the state of those tyres. I'm only getting a track day and a half out of a set!"

Audrey: " That's because you are driving so hard!"

Ray: " I am not going any harder than usual!"

Audrey: "You are. You are much more agressive! You are too agressive!"

Ray: "You enjoy it!"

At that point I left!

A big "Thank you" goes from us to everyone who took part, be they drivers or marshals. The standard of driving in most cases was excellent. No time was lost having to pull anyone from the scenery and the new, later start and finish times seemed to work well. The new catering facilities seemed popular and this arrangement will remain for the foreseeable future.


Sunday 17th February 2008

First track day of the season got underway on Sunday 17th February at Kirkistown. There was a large turn out with a lot of “old hands” and some new faces.


Much to the consternation of Nicolas Wood in his Audi S3, there was no snow. In fact the weather was incredible with sunshine all day! The temperature was like a bell curve with below freezing at 8:30 am rising to ‘comfortable’ in the middle of the day and returning towards the lows when the sun retreated during the last hour or so. The low temperatures made grip more difficult to find although I don’t think I have ever seen such a wide grin on a driver’s face than that of Ray Dowds in his RS2000 at 2:15pm, when he informed me that the track was just about perfect now!


There was an eclectic mix of vehicles. We had plenty of hot hatches of the Toyota, Honda, VW, Peugeot and Citroen variety. We also had a plethora of Porsche 997 GT3s! Some racing machinery was shaking down, namely Adrian Smith’s Mission, Tony Traub’s Fiesta, Paul Sheridan’s Clio and Philip Higgins’ Palmer Jaguar. There was one Skyline and a couple of 200SX’s. A small Lotus contingent were present as well.


Clutches seemed to be the weak point of this day with Darren Fusco’s Mini Cooper S going nowhere fast. John Manderson’s M5 joined the club later on as did one or more Hondas. Joey Greenan’s Mini Cooper S had electrical problems which prevented him getting a clear run.


Gerald Stanley in his very nice yellow 968 fell fowl of the green conditions early on and unfortunately, travelled a long distance into some maintenance equipment. That ended his day and left the Porsche in need of some T.L.C.


Ricky Hull was going exceptionally well in his 106, as were a number of other drivers in caged machinery. It begs the question as to what it is going to take to get these guys to go racing? Three other people that I would put in this category, who jump to mind immediately, are Colin Robinson, Paul Keys and Dave Wishart. In fact I would say Dave needs to go racing.


It was great to see so many “Locaterfields” out this early in the season. Kirsty Forsythe seems to have hers well sorted this year. Mark Crawford’s Blade was quick as were Doug Nelson and Raymond Young’s machines. Paul Keys had fitted a new front end to his Megabusa and was coming to terms with a lack of brakes and direction. Colin Graham rather nervously took to the track for the first time in his very recently acquired Megabusa but soon was on the pace and having a ball. (Incidentally, if you want a laugh, hunt out Paul Keys and ask him about the trip to Birmingham and back while getting this machine!) Tom Horan’s Westfield has turned into a Racing Uno, which was also going well.


Generally, this was a successful day. Thanks to all the participants for helping making it so and thanks once again to Fel and her marshals and to Philip from St John.



Saturday 4th August 2007

NLP practitioners tell us that everyone has a preferential sense by which they experience their world and if you can tap into it you can melt that personís heart. In my case it is auditory and on Saturday I fell totally in love with the sound of an Audi RS4 on full song! Wonderful!

However, that RS4 was only one of a great selection of cars that enjoyed almost perfect conditions. A number of experienced Kirkistown drivers remarked that the track was in the ëfastestí state that they had ever experienced.

The first session got under way slightly later than planned at 10.40am and was made up of regular participants such as Micky Dardis in his rapid Escort, Paul Keys in his Megabusa, Nicolas Wood in his Audi S3 and Andy Wallace in his Westfield Ford. Ray Dowds brought his RS2000 out to play with us for the first time and we nearly collapsed with shock when Derek Latimer arrived at 9.30am and made the first session!

The second session was meant to be for the people new to us. We had a great mix including Mervyn Lemonís Westfield Ford, Richard Boydís Williams Clio and Michael Robinsonís Toyota MR2. However, the non appearance of a large number of promised Lotus prompted us to let Gavin Byrne and Andrew Yeates run their Exige and Elise respectively in the second group. Three more Lotus did eventually arrive and the Spendlove brothers, Nigel and Lloyd put on their usual rapid display throughout the day.

As always there were hard luck stories. It is difficult to know which one ranks highest. There was the Lotus that didnít make it. It destroyed an engine on the road up from Dublin! Then there was the curse of the last session! Se·n Kenny, having driven in a sensible, controlled manner all day made a slight mistake that normally would have resulted in nothing more than a scare. However, this time Fate sent his Lotus into the tyres at the Chicane. However, I think top prize has to go to Martin Bryans. He was well down our reserve list but was regularly phoning me to see if he was ëiní. Eventually he was and he turned up early with his Sierra XR4i on the trailer. Having signed on he went back up to take the car off the trailer and broke the cast iron manifold in doing so! End of day!

Interesting tit-bits from the day include the fact that having finally got their Mk2 Escort Cosworth going quickly, father and son team, Tony and Stephen Traub, assure me that they are definitely going racing at the end of the month. Who is going to be driving? They would not say!

Another potential racer, the glamourous Kirsty Forsythe, assured me that she was not touching up her make-up as she walked up the paddock with an open make-up compact. She said she was going to use the mirror to check her oil level! I thought, ìWomen can multi-task. She was probably doing both!

Speaking of multi-tasking. Regular marshal and Formula Vee racer, Jenifer Mullan, stood down for a session to give some advice to Paul Keys on his racing lines as he took her round in his Megabusa. Colm Gallagher, alias Arthur, went one better by actually swapping places with one of our participants for a few sessions. Special thanks goes to super-sub marshal Patrick Ritchie who stood in, in both cases.

As ever, thanks to the marshals, St. Johnís, Viv, Greer, EÛrann, Jessica and all the participants for making it another successful day.

Thanks to Graham Curry and Steven Legge for photographing the event.

Pictures can be found on Really Mean Sounds [click here to view]

Donal




Sunday 3rd June 2007



"Crikey!" said the ghost of Steve Irwin, "Was that a shark out there?"

No, it was Allen Erskine's Locost splashing through Fisherman's at our last track day!

On a day more suitable to water skiing we had a respectable turn out. Allen had to be the most determined. He wanted to hone his wet weather skills for future racing and he certainly did that. Yet even he took to the comfort of an Audi Estate eventually! Special mention should also go to Andrew Parkinson (whom I called Dave all day!) and Kirsty Forsythe who also braved the water in their Indy Blades.

Rainmeister Alan Edgar seemed to be having a ball in his Renault 5 GT Turbo while Paul Keys and Gareth Dillon amused themselves and everyone else in their one eyed Sierra.

The Lotus contingent, smaller than usual, aptly demonstrated how good these cars are in the wet. I think Peter Gerachty from Linders actually sold one on the day on the strength of this alone!

As usual there were "hard luck" stories. Tony and Stephen Traub brought their Cosworth Mk2 Escort down, only to discover that the wheel nuts for the drys would not bolt the wets on! Jim Wilson had no wets for his Cossie. Aaron McGowan drove through a lake just south of Greyabbey and stopped. I donít know who rescued him - probably the Coastguard! The worst one of all has to be our long time supporter Micky Dardis, who brought his Dad with him for the first time ever. Micky travels from Enniscorthy (Put it this way - Edinburgh is closer!). They took the car off the trailer, started it up, revved it up, it spluttered, it died. End of day!

Driving standards, generally, were excellent. There was only one occasion when I had to have a word with an errant participant.

The award for the stupidest action of the day was jointly given to Keith and myself. In our defence I will say that everything was waterlogged, from the radios to our brains! It was the last session of the day and it had just been red flagged because Clarke Frazer's Corsa had expired at Colonial. At this stage the rain just got harder. We debated whether to restart the session as we were standing in a two inch puddle that covered the whole pit lane exit. As there were only three cars waiting to go, we let it run. A few minutes after the restart, Ricky Griffiths in his Lancia Delta came slowly down the pit lane to join in. There was a good gap in the traffic so we both waved furiously at him to "hurry up". He did. He passed us at, perhaps, 40 miles an hour. The resulting tsunami washed us away! Nobodyís fault but ours!

Once again we wish to thank all of our marshals. It is no fun standing in the rain all day with a flag for company. We do appreciate you.

'Til the next time...

Donal.




Sunday 29th April 2007



Once again there was a great selection of cars including a massive collection of Lotus models, an impressive gathering of Locaterfields, a good number of hot hatches, some well driven BMWís and Evos, an RX8, a good representation of Dr Porscheís produce, a typically understated Skyline and a relatively rare (to us) Sierra XR4i.

However, for me and others who commented to me, the star performance was given by Richard Demsterís 182 Clio. This very clean little car, with Richard driving it, was a revelation, not least to a few Lotus drivers.

The award for innovation on the day should go to Vinny Hayes who, on a Sunday afternoon in Kircubbin, from a position of zero local knowledge including people and places, left the circuit for a while and then returned, somehow having found someone to sell him four second hand tyres and wheels for a Skyline!

The most surreal moment of the day was when the Flowerpot Men came in to sign on! Actually, they were Lee Walker and Graham Curry both looking like extras from National Lampoonís Vacation, with their flower pot hats! They did have the last laugh because I got sunburned and, presumably, they didnít!

There were a few bad luck stories like the Lotus that suffered some front end damage after an excursion at Debtorís, or Andrew Yeatsí Elise that got launched over the kerbs at Colonial 2, suffering some suspension damage. However, the worst luck of the day didnít even happen at the circuit. Regular participants, Wesley and Sam Lyle, were on their way to the circuit when a stone smashed the window of their trusty Toyota MR2. Not being a laminated screen, it broke into thousands of tiny pieces which dutifully lodged themselves in every nook and cranny of the interior of the car. Neither Lyle uses a visored helmet and so they decided that it would be too dangerous both for them and the other participants on the day, if they were to go out on track. So what did they do? Well, Sam turned the car round at Greyabbey and headed back to Ballyclare while Wesley took the trouble to come down to us to let us know that they werenít going to make it and we could give their place to someone else!

With that being typical of the people at our track days, you just know that there will always be consideration shown to everyone on the track.

As an aside, I would like to make mention of and apologise to the people who came in later in the afternoon in what, I think, were Toyota GT Turbo Hatchbacks. I am usually chasing my tail all day in the paddock and did not notice their build up. However, as the day progressed and the paddock began to thin out, I looked up at one point to see an impressively long line of these cars parked side by side right across the top paddock. They looked great and added something to the day. Unfortunately, I hadnít time to talk to any of them, nor did I get a picture. If anyone did get a picture of the display and could send it to me with some details, I would like to put it on our web site.

Judging by the comments made to me on the day, everyone seemed to have a great time. Five oíclock seemed to come very quickly and suddenly it was all over.

Thanks to Fel and her team who did a great job once again. Thanks to Viv and EÛrann who looked after the grub and to Greer who does anything he is asked to do.

Lastly, thanks to all who came and made it the success it was.

Donal.




Sunday 18th March 2007



I feel a whole year older today. It wasnít my birthday yesterday. Itís just that, in one day, we had all four seasons at Kirkistown during our first track day of the year. We had blue skies and warm sunshine, horizontal snow, hail stones like marbles and rain. The whole slide show was accelerated by strong winds.

The virgin we sacrificed on Saturday definitely lied!

However, loads of cars arrived. The selection ranged from a variety of Lotus Exiges through some very quick hot hatches, a beautiful orange RX7 belonging to Shane Rabbitt and even a Westfield Megabusa and a Sylvia Phoenix. Dave Wishart and Marty Mounce, respectively, deserve medals for driving topless(!) in such weather.

Most drivers kept it on the island and there were no major offs. Darren Cook customised his Astra turbo a little. It was a nice speckled brown colour when he got back to the paddock. I think it was mud! It did wash off but, unfortunately, the damage to the front bumper didnít. Kaman Lo won the ìWho can get furthest off the track?î award. Three ropes later we got his MX5 back on the circuit.

At 12.25pm a blizzard attacked us and with visibility down to a few feet and snow lying on the circuit, we called lunch. Twenty minutes later I received what must be the ëquote of the dayí. Nicholas Wood (Audi S3) came up an to me with the request, ìCan we get going again soon before the snow goes away?î

We ran through to just after five oíclock. Particular thanks have to go to Felís great team of marshals who, having braved the elements all day, agreed to stay on post to give Jack Mc Neice an extra three last laps before he left us for at least two years of pilot school in Oxfordshire. Good luck Jack from all of us.

The record for the most miles run probably goes again to Sam and Wesley Lyle in their quick MR2 but they were run close by the John Le Grange team in the GTi Polo.

We would also like to thank the numerous guys who offered the use of their 4x4ís if we needed them to extricate stuck cars. Thankfully, we didnít but the offers were appreciated.

Once again photos can be seen on the RMS site courtesy of Graham Curry. [click here to view]




Sunday 15th May 2005

Sunday 15th was our first day of 2005. The usual virgin sacrifice took place on Saturday night (this is getting more difficult every time!) and the gods obliged with beautiful weather the following day.

We were worried with only ten cars booked prior to the event. The trepidation increased on Sunday morning as by 10.30 a grand total of six had arrived and one of those hadnít booked!

We got under way to the beautiful sound of Ray Dowds TVR. Ray planned to sell this car over the winter but just couldnít bear to part with it. Des Cullen had borrowed Paul McLoughlinís slicks for the day and thought somebody had fitted a new turbo to his Scooby when he wasnít looking, such was the improvement. Gareth Loganís Mk 2 Escort blasted round, eating everything in its path for most of the first session before retiring with a burst radiator. So began an epic repair job with a radiator being dispatched from Carrickfergus. Chris Atwell proved the rule that smooth is fast by flying round in his M3 Evo whilst looking like he was not even trying. He got my vote for ëmost impressive driver of the dayí. Ernie Skillen put on his usual polished, rapid display and deserves some sort of award for self control, as I know that he really loves to be going sideways!

By 11.30 Kaman Lo had arrived from Dublin with a replacement Charade for the one that he blew up last year. This one is bog standard but he still seemed to enjoy himself all day, which proves the point that, itís not what you have but how you use it. Isnít that right, girls? The quiet man, Andy Wallace, had arrived with his WRX Scooby to much banter of, ìItís out of warranty then?î from Keith. Amazingly, Derek Lattimer arrived well before lunch with his trusty Legacy. As usual, he had the entire contents of his garage in the back seat and boot and he managed to get on track about 12.30!. Meanwhile, John Leckey and friends were being impressive in their semi-competition Pug 106. Do I detect a karting background there?

Shortly before lunch, two beautiful machines arrived at the gate. Pat Boal in his Ferrari Testarossa and David Frazer in his Mercedes SL 500. I thought they were there to spectate but no, they wanted to play. David had to take the roof off so that he could get a helmet on! Both cars were beautiful to watch on the circuit and I thank both gentlemen for bringing such toys to Kirkistown.

After lunch, a wagon-train of vehicles on trailers arrived along with Hayley Rowley and Leo Nulty in Hayleyís Elise. Joey Greenan was towing his left hand drive 1967 Cooper S with his Scooby SR1. Gary White had his Mk3 Rally Escort Turbo.

By 2 oíclock the fun was in full swing with Joey doing impossible things in the mini, Leo adding to passenger, Des Cahillís stress levels by spinning while exiting the chicane, Gareth Logan flying once again in the Mk2 and Pat Boal running out of brakes!

Unluckiest man of the day was Gary White who blew up the Escort turbo on his first run. Silliest man of the day was Joey Greenanís protege who forgot the keys for the trailer. Somehow they got it unhooked and Joey duly thrashed the Scooby round the track as well. Second most unlucky man was John Lecky who had to be towed in, leaving an ominous trail of oil in his wake. Glamour was provided by Leo Nulty. We could see the reflection of the very talented Hayley Rowley on his bald head!

Generally, a great day was had by nearly all who were there.

Photos, thanks to Graham Curry, can be seen on Really Mean Sounds [click here to view]

Donal.




Sunday 10th October



Three things probably contributed to this being a much better supported day than usual; the fact that this was our last date of the year, the price reduction and some good publicity from our friends at Autocar.

A great selection of cars turned up along with some old friends who haven't been seen for a while. Paul McLoughlan has defected from the Subaru camp to a Supra. His was one of three on the day although Ernie Skillen's is a monster!

We welcomed Sarah Mahon for the first time. If she was male we would be talking about her metallic reproductive appendages since she was playing with the big boys in her little Fiat Uno!

It was nice to see Winston Kerr and Paul Ayton in their respective Westfield and Quantam in attendance. To add to the variety Kevin McNamee turned up in his potent S2000 engined BMW and was just incredible!

There were a few hard luck stories. Jonathan Smyth had a strange fuel problem that stopped his 205GTi. Andy Phillips' Civic ate itself. However, the biggest hard luck story goes to Kaman Lo who brought his little but quick Charade from Dublin. He was going well when his con-rod decided that it preferred the environment outside the confines of the engine block. Since he had driven the car from Dublin, Kaman had an added problem in how to get it home. He decided to leave it at Kirkistown until he could get back with a trailer For some reason he locked it (Who was going to steal it? And how?). Then he realised that the keys were still in it!

All in all the day went well with only one major off when Mick Byrne went water skiing in the Sylvia. The weather stayed fine.

Thanks to all who attended and we hope to see you next year.

One of the marshals, Graham Curry, has posted some pictures and a report on Really Mean Sounds [click here to view]






On Sunday 25th April we had a very poor turn out but that meant that the cars that were there had lots of track time.

David Clarke was first to arrive with his Golf . He was soon joined by David Beattie in his stripped out Alfa 155. For quite a while these two had the place to themselves.

Eventually the Barry Rabbitt posse rolled in, with Barry in a very recently acquired BMW M3, Eoin Loughnane driving his very quick Audi S3, Gary Clarke in a very tasty VW Corrado and James Collen in a rapid Pug 309 GTi. Justin Egan was riding shotgun, not intending to partake, in his ridiculously fast Cossie Sierra.

The first run saw David Beattie with brake problems. Basically, there weren't any! For the next hour he feverishly worked at the front end and low, the brakes returneth! (and stayeth!)

Meanwhile Barry Rabbitt was trying to morph into something resembling a human, using copious quantities of Coke (the drink!) and Keith's gourmet sandwiches. It worked and soon he was complaining that his M3 stuck to the track too well!

Eoin Loughnane was being most impressive in the S3 and was entertaining the marshals excellently along with James Collen and Gary Clarke.

Around midday Derek Latimer weighed in with his trusty Legacy and as usual, began turning it into a race car in the paddock. I have never seen anybody get so many tools and spare wheels into a Legacy. I think it is a Tardis in disguise! This time he was fitting some newly acquired slick rubber and, just before lunch, he got his first run.

It looked that we might get a bit of rain so a couple of extra sessions were squeezed in before a later than usual lunch break.

The rain didn't amount to anything and activity resumed at 1.50pm with a threatening sea mist approaching from Fisherman's Corner. It never really got too bad but lights became a necessity for a while. What it did do, however, was cause the Strangford Ferry to be cancelled, thus necessitating a circumspect route home for our Southern participants.

As usually happens in the afternoons, much swapping of cars, drivers and passengers took place, with everyone, generally, having a great time. However, a pressure was building like that of a potentially active volcano and suddenly, it erupted. Justin Egan came into the office to sign on. That big Cossie was itching to get out!

Word went round the marshals' posts that the Cossie was coming out. They weren't disappointed. This was no ordinary machine. It was a rocket ship and Justin can handle it, which is just as well considering the way it stepped out in Debtor's on his second lap.

The remainder of the day saw good weather, better driving and much entertainment from all concerned. The only casualties were David Clarke's GTi which went on to the trailer early with no brake pads left and one of Derek Latimer's new slicks which blew out, thankfully not at Debtor's. Since it actually blew out from the centre of the 'tread' and not a side wall, Derek will be paying a visit to his supplier for a refund in the near future.

All in all, a good day. It's just a pity that there weren't more people there to enjoy it! The next date is Sunday 13th June.

Donal.