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The regional race series at Killarney International Raceway, called the Power Series, has been proceeding at breakneck speed with a race taking place almost every second weekend.
Due to time and budgetary constraints, I opted to skip round three of the series and entered for round four, which was held this past weekend.
After the break of a few weeks, I was eager to get behind the wheel of my racecar again. In the open practice sessions on Friday, the car felt great. I was able to find a rhythm really quickly and drove down to really competitive lap times.
Late in the session, I completed a lap in 1 min 34,1 seconds, three-tenths quicker than I’ve managed in this car before. In part the improvement came from some tweaks we made to the car between races; I’ll go into more detail at a later stage. This quick lap time left me feeling confident for the race day on Saturday.
Race day dawned cool and in our qualifying session the track surface was cold, which made it difficult to generate enough heat in the semi-slick Pirelli rubber to make them really effective.
Fortunately this problem was consistent across the Fine Cars field and my time of 1 min 35,1 sec placed me fourth on the grid, which I was pretty happy with.
From our customary rolling start to get proceedings underway I ran neck-and-neck with the more powerful Mazda RX-7 of Jan Koekemoer and stuck to the bumper of the Jetta Mk1 of Arnold Lambert ahead.
As we raced down to T1, Rob Toscano in another MX-5 was pulling alongside and passed me on the inside as we all negotiated the first corner. My car is pretty good on the brakes and I repassed Toscano into T2.
GAH! A lack of power
I held station behind Koekemoer and watched as the more powerful cars ahead pulled away from me. Toscano drew alongside on the long back straight and we matched each other under braking for the banked T5.
As I kept an eye on the red car next to me, I missed that Clifford Bacon in a neat BMW 535i was busy understeering across the apex and gave me a little tap on the rear bumper. It caught me by surprise but thankfully the resultant thump wasn’t big enough to cause a spin or too much damage.
I tried to stay in touch with Toscano but he put lots of space between his car and mine. As the laps counted down I realised that, not only was I keeping up with Koekemoer, but I was actually closing in on him.
With a few laps left to run I could see that his car was ailing and he wasn’t going full tilt. I caught him on the run down to T5, pulled onto his bumper and passed him at T1. With that move I regained the fourth, which is where I would finish the race.
Starting positions for the second race of the day are determined by the classification in race one so it was another second-row start for me.
With Koekemoer behind and Toscano alongside I knew that there would be a few other cars behind that would be able to run in close quarters at the start. Bacon in the BMW used his power advantage to sneak by on the run down to T1.
He held the advantage to T2 and planted his car directly ahead of mine. Through the twisty in-field I could not pass him and when we arrived on the back straight he used the BMW’s superior power (about double that of my Mazda) to pull a big gap – about 10-12 cars – to the braking zone ahead of T5.
Under braking and through mid-corner I was able to claw back that gap and even run alongside him as we made our way onto the front straight, but the flame-spitting 535i had the legs on me down Killarney’s long straights.
From my ringside seat I could see that Bacon was having a tough time controlling the unwieldy BMW. He could hardly get to an apex such was the level of understeer he was dealing with. I knew that he would overheat his tyres eventually.
I bided my time and kept a close eye on matters ahead and knew it was only a matter of time before I have an opening. And my patience was rewarded.
Around mid-way through the race, Bacon braked a little too late for T1 and struggled to get the big Beemer turned in. He ran wide, off the track, opening the door for me to make an easy and clean pass. You can see the incident in the race video below.
Bacon returned to the track behind me and without the 535i blocking my path, I cleared off into the distance. The remaining laps were spent dispatching slow-moving cars from the Classics category, with whom we share the track.
Silverware and a podium position
When the flag fell I was in fourth position on the road and when the Index of Performance was calculated I was classified third overall for the day… which was a great feeling.
As usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. For intermediate updates feel free to follow the Project MX-5 facebook page
Images: Heinrich Sauer
Here are links to all the previous Project MX-5 posts:
Part 10: http://www.carmag.co.za/speed_post/project-mx-5-part-10-race-weekend-4-wrong-way/