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Race Car Nirvana at ASI

Race Car Nirvana at ASI

Do you ever get a sense of being overwhelmed? Everywhere you turn, more and more clambers for your attention. Its an assault on your senses, an invitation to run around wildly and ultimately leave a tinge of reflection and regret seeing all that was missed. I’d felt that way before, namely at Worthersee, but to have all this confined into a roofed space was a step up on the exciting factor. As many may know, I am a racing car geek, almost obsessive, and as such, any event that brands itself as THE racing car show, it was about time I ticked it off the list. Autosport International, it seems, is something I really wonder how it hasn’t been on my calendar before, as it is truly mega!

Starting long before dawn and ending close to the early hours, it was vital to give a day trip to Birmingham the maximum amount of time. To have done things any other way would have been criminal, as ASI is soo packed full of visual goodies and opportunities to get up close and personal with cars and motorsport technology that even spending over 9 hours on site I was left with thoughts of cars that went unseen, and in one case a car I caught a glimpse of in passing but couldn’t find again!

The largest draw personally this year was the opportunity to cover the official 2018 Launch of the World Rally Championship. With the action kicking off in the snowy mountains surrounding Monte Carlo in late January, the NEC brought the vast WRC community together to kickstart proceedings. All the Drivers, Teams and more importantly Cars were presented to the masses, every move surrounded by a media scrum from every corner of the globe.

Once the covers had been pulled off the four be-winged stage rally rockets, the drivers became the attraction, with a litany of cameras and microphones following their every move around the show floor. I have idolised the WRC and its stars my entire life, so to be in the presence of some of history’s greatest drivers was an incredible opportunity, even more so when a chance stroll into the media centre to grab some refreshment coincided with the arrival of the various teams into the most informal setting imaginable. Chats and tea atop a selection of sofa’s, this was the human side that is often un-seen once the helmet goes on at stage start.

While the WRC was the largest draw, elsewhere the success of rallying was to be seen elsewhere dotted around the various halls. Now numbering over 250, it was no surprise to see quite a few M-Sport built Ford Fiesta R5’s in attendance, promoting everything from WRC2 campaigns for the factory built car, through to British Championship backing. Other R5 machines decorated the Rally GB stand, but it was the first public sighting of the VW Polo R5 that certainly drew the most admiration.

No mention of rallying at Autosport International could be made without mentioning the surprise none of us had an idea of expecting. To a certain generation of Irish Rallying fans, Eugene Donnelly is a name synonymous with success. A five-time Tarmac Champion, The Genie was our hero wrestling the glorious Toyota Corolla and later the Skoda Fabia WRC cars around the lanes in a way nobody else seemed able to match. Over the past 10 years, Donnelly has left the sport bar the odd run in a McGeehan MINI, but here, 20 feet from the new 2018 WRC cars, a beaming Eugene stood next to a white Hyundai i20 R5, and proclaimed his return. Nobody, save a very small handful, knew of the plan, but The Genie is on for a return, aiming to contest the ITRC over the next 3 years. Start dusting off the Jackets!!

While the Rally world was represented well from a cutting edge and modern standpoint, the crew from Den Motorsport made sure to remind us all that there is truly no more special a car to attack the stages then a properly built MK2 Ford Escort. The Northern Ireland based preparation company has become a go-to spot for anyone serious about building the Ultimate Escort, and the pair on display offered two differing ideas of Ultimate. Both red, making it harder to distinguish, the first car is the epitome of a Class 14 car that is the highest level available in Irish Rallying. Powered by a 2.5L Millington Engine, pushing out roughly about 350 BHP, these cars are built solely to deal with the unique demands of bumpy Irish Tar. The be-winged Escort is on another plain though. Designed to be used for Hillclimbing where the rules are a little more relaxed, the powerplant pumps 650 BHP to the rear wheels, while an abundance of aero add-ons aim to keep the car as planted as a wild beast may be!

Moving from my little rally world, the BTCC stand celebrated 60 years of men in Touring Cars crashing into each other at a variety of British Circuits. In terms of Circuit Racing, it is nigh-on impossible to beat decent Tin-Top racing thanks to the close action and sheer variety of cars involved in the action. To celebrate the anniversary, Touring Cars of yesteryear such as the Rover SD1 and Alfa Romeo 155 sat side-by-side with the 2018 crop such as Rob Austin Racing’s all new Alfa Romeo Mito.

As if having an official stand wasn’t enough for Touring Car junkies, dotted around the show were some other notable vehicles. Many may have missed it, but down in a rather cold corner, pretty much as far away from the main action and amongst an owner’s club gathering sat a proper legend, a BMW E36 SuperTourer. Complete in a beautiful Bastos livery from its attack on the 1995 Spa 24 Hours, this car is from an era of Touring Car racing unlike any we may ever see again. Production looking vehicles were turned into track weapons, costs were extortionate (think about £1m per car per year) and the action was incredible. The modern-day equivalent of this philosophy of Extreme Touring Cars is the DTM series in Germany. Rather typically for a show like ASI, a brace of cars sat in the middle of the floor, as if just left for us to stare at. No stand, no advertising and no ropes, just 2 stunning race cars sitting for us to come and look in awe at.

Drifting is the largest growing Motorsport in the last 10 years, and its only natural that the sport would find a home at a show like ASI. What may seem surprising to those looking in from the outside, is that much of Europe’s drift scene is spearheaded by a crew of Irish, led by Dave Egan. Starting with the IDC, and following on with the BDC and Drift Masters, the Zeigen crew have brought drifting to a level of professionalism it always strived for, and the plans in place for 2018 are testament to the bravery of Egan and others to push the envelope continually. We’ll discuss the 2018 season at another time, but if you want to draw attention to your stand, few cars sucked in the masses like Aidan Walsh’s V8 AE86 Corolla. This thing is barbaric on full throttle aimed at concrete walls, so to see it gleaming under show lighting is a testament to the build. Next to it, Baggsy’s air-ride S14 was there to represent the BDC, although it was Baggsy’s other toy than was catching more eyes. Built by Abbey Motorsport for a Monster Energy video, the Skyline GTR has a presence already, but the addition of large fenders, a V8 and a turbo the size of a small child is sure to draw attention.

In the live action arena, it fell on local drifting talent to truly put on a show for the masses. Coming off without the year of his life, James Deane was using ASI to debut the latest incarnation of his Falken Nissan Silvia S14, and he had company from one of his many Protégé’s, 14-year-old IDC Semi-Pro champion Conor Shanahan, debuting his all new Link Energy livery for 2018. Rubbing walls, spitting flames and hitting limiters, this was a chance for many new faces to experience exactly what many of us know is the spectacle of drifting!

To go into detail of everything on display at ASI would take too long, so I’ll leave with a collection of images. Anyone with even the slightest interest in race cars seriously needs to make the trip at least once, and with the NEC within a 5-minute walk from the Arrivals area at Birmingham airport, there’s no excuse not to make the hop across in 2019! There was another side to the show though, and don’t worry, I’ll be looking at the Performance Car Show in time. Expect wild paint, over fenders for days and strong opinion in that post!

Bang Goes 2017

Bang Goes 2017

A year is a long time, but in reflection, it is nothing more than a well-orchestrated collection of events, routine and emotion. We spend the clear majority of the year fixating on points in time, forthcoming proceedings and reflection on moments passed and only come the end do we pause and look at what has transpired. I’m exactly like everyone else, in so much as I’m always trying to get to more places, see more things and meet more cool people, all while fitting in a full-time job, a social life and seeing family and friends every so often. In the past 12 months though, I have pushed myself to follow my obsession, and experience more and more of the automotive world I only dreamed of before. Some of these experiences I shared with you on this site, with 27 published articles and countless pictures revolving around my rambles, but only now can I look back and reflect on how mad 2017 actually was, and share an insight into all I did and saw over the past 12 months, and take a chance myself to chronicle what was an action-packed period.

Nissan S14 Kouki JDM

Nissan S14 Kouki JDM

January 2017 was an exciting time in a number of ways. On the 1st day of the new year, FreshFix.ie went live after an absence of nearly four years’. I had grown up addicted to automotive content, and my regular teenage internet surfing was spent hopping from Bebo and MSN to Speedhunters, AutoLifers, PistonHeads and Freshfix. It was on those pages that I learned so much about the crazy depth of the automotive world, and hearing of an imminent relaunch, I chanced my arm at possibly getting an article or two published on the all new FF. On launch day, I got to see photos of mine published for the very first time, that of the Kouki Monster Nissan Silvia S14, shot in Oranmore in Galway.

Over the next few weekends, January was spent close to home, checking out some events that are a great way to ease into a new year. A local vintage run is something that happens in every corner of the country, pretty much all year round. While not everything on display may excite or interest me, it’s a great way to pass time in the company of some older car-nuts, who will happily impart wisdom and stories upon us youngers. January also got me to Watergrasshill for the first time, this time for a New Year’s sprint, bringing together all manner of goodies from race and rally, and I managed to take a look at Eric Calnan’s famous Peugeot 106. Speaking of rally though…..

Late January saw the first ‘big’ outing of the year, and the very first international coverage I brought to FreshFix, an abstract look at following Round 1 of the World Rally Championship, Monte Carlo. The Monte was an event long on my dream list, something I always wanted to experience. I am a gluten for the romance of icy French mountain roads, the Col de Turini and the allure of the fastest rally cars on Tarmac. This year was the one I vowed to take risks and welcome adventure, so with no more than a sleeping bag, a camera bag and a rucksack, I headed off.

Having overcome the trials and tribulations of my jaunt to the continent, next stop for me at least was anther opening round of a Rally series, this time Galway International kick-starting an all new Irish Tarmac season. Galway is pretty much always wet, muddy and cold. Would you believe that in 2017, it was exactly all those things!! The traditional launch pad to a year, Galway will be sadly missed from the 2018 calendar as the event simply didn’t have enough financial backing to run next year. This is a worrying trend in rallying, one not unique to Galway, and a lot of thinking is needed to try and figure out a sustainable future for the sport in Ireland.

Mid-February came with an icy chill in the air, but the second Sunday of the month brought my first visit to Cars & Coffee. The most informal of all car gatherings, C&C is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, a group of cars parked up while their owners drink coffee and talk about cars. Its such a great social side to the car scene, where everyone is there for the love of cars, and a great place to pass a few hours on a Sunday morning. Before the shortest month passed, I also got a chance to shoot one of the most unique cars seen in Ireland this past few years, a full-blown Kanjo EF Civic, fresh at that stage from the Far East.

March arrived in a whirlwind of rain and storms, and what better conditions to take a day out and drive to the top of a mountain. The Vee in Co. Waterford is a jewel of a piece of road, complete with hairpins, flowing bends and undulating straights. Away from civilisation, this ribbon of tarmac is a mecca for drivers, and the prospect of Tea at the Vee was enough to coax a few hardy souls out for an afternoon’s spin. The regular Cars & Coffee meet saw me for a second time as well, which wouldn’t be the case for much of the rest of the year!

Come St. Patricks weekend, the only place I ever intend to be found is in Clonakilty, home at that time to the West Cork Rally. The picturesque stretches of Cork coast surrounding the town come alive for the weekend to the sound and vibrations of the best the ITRC has to offer, as well as remaining the ultimate Clubman rally at the very same time. My West Cork was dominated by Time Keeping Duties, yet I still managed to take in the scenic treat that is the opening Ring stage. This would also sadly be the final time I would see the iconic Yellow Escort of Donal O’Brien flying past me stage side. Donal was known not only for his exploits on the rally stage, but for his involvement in local autocross and grass racing, and it was he who had run the New Years sprint in Watergrasshill. Donal sadly passed away in a traffic accident in May, yet his Ford Escort was there to guide his final journey having been rebuilt after a large off in Clon.

March ended for me with a visit to Ultimate Drift in WGH, seeing the month out with some local grassroots drifting, a part of the sport I have professed my love for on these very pages.

As another month got crossed off my calendar, April brought with it the single busiest period for me. Things kicked off with a few local shows, including Rob O’Riordan’s OldSkool Easter Show. Rob is one of those people that we need more of in the car scene, someone who just enjoys putting on show’s simply to enjoy what will turn up on the day. Originating from a Toyota show which has spiralled to an unprecedented scale, Rob now organises various indoor and outdoor gatherings for retro and JDM machinery, as well as a series of summer evening outings designed to simply bring car people together for the love of cars.

Mid-April saw the trip to Belfast, for what is to me the best Car show we have to offer on this Island, GTINI’s incredibly impressive Dubshed. Held over two days’ in the vast Eikon complex, the show has evolved from being a strictly German Stance show into a much more varied affair encompassing all that is cool in the Irish car scene. I speak of my affinity to event even though I am not a VAG guy, nor have intimate knowledge of the various rare and expensive parts on display, but as someone who enjoys being around well executed and imaginative builds.

On the floor of Dubshed I laid eyes on a car I knew so well, yet in a new guise. Seeing the Akai Livery for the first time on Hickey’s MK1 Golf, who would have known what lay in store for us both. Before April was out, I lay in a deserted paddock of Mondello Park shooting the car for arguably one of the biggest tuning magazines in the world, Performance VW. I suppose the phrase Go Big or Go Home comes to mind when I think that I would do a first print feature for such a title, but it’s made all that easier when it’s a car and owner combo that you know so well.

April ended in a flurry of sunshine and pouring rain, as Killarney’s Rally of The Lakes was ticked off the list for the year. I made a special effort this year to get to try new things, so destination of choice this year to take in the Saturday action was the stunning Healy Pass. A scouting trip a few days before the event in the mighty Puglet opened my eyes to this hidden jewel of a road, and come rally time it certainly did not disappoint. Driving home that evening, after the Killmickalogue stage, I vowed to never go to a rally ever again such was how soaked I had got. That mood lasted all of about 20 minutes!!

May started with another collaboration with a fellow automotive outlet. I met Maurice Malone by chance on a rally stage a few years ago, and copped pretty soon that he eclipsed everything I thought I ever knew about Car-Geekery. An encyclopaedic knowledge of all things rallying and a penchant for fast Renault Clio’s aside, Maurice is an absolutely gifted motoring journalist, one of those rare breeds who can leave you captivated in a moment through the careful use of words and phrasing, adding soo much oomph to a story that you think here’s a fella who must have been a whizz at creative writing in school. In 2016, we started a little project on the CompleteCar.ie site, called Irish Icons. Essentially an ode to some of the best cars ever built, here we were coming face to face with Godzilla in the Dublin mountains. The article is well worth a read here.

As the days grew longer and the sun began to peer into sight, I spent a wonderful afternoon chasing a string of retro cars through the mountains of Kerry as part of the Anne Casey Joy Run. A charity event, this has become a go-to event for me the past few years, not only for the variety of cars on show, but to take in the stunning scenery that seems to adorn that part of the world.

Of all the events I had the pleasure of getting to this year, the North West 200 is still hands down the single most exciting of all. Speed, raw and un-filtered speed, passing inches from your face. To hear a bike at full tilt is an experience, but to fell and witness the sight of a pack of the quickest racing Motorcycles on the roads whizzing by at about 200mph is next level. It’s guttural, as your body takes a pounding from the wave of noise and air rushing past while you’re head seems unable to swivel quick enough to take in the action. Anyone that hasn’t been is missing out!!

June started for me with another first, getting to an Irish Hillclimb event. I had always looked on from a distance at these Men and Women pitting themselves against some of the country’s most technical and steep stretches of road, but to hear and feel the buzz of a single seat race car bumping and scraping along a back road was something else. It felt raw and old-school, a reminder of days when regulations may not have been as lax and race cars on the road would have been less problematic. The Imokilly sprint would not be my only Hillclimb, nor my last encounter for the year with the Stone Motorsport Drift Taxi!!

The third weekend in June is a date so fixed in my calendar at this stage, it’s like my birthday and Christmas wrapped up in one. As the year races towards its mid-point, the rallying world descends upon Letterkenny, in anticipation of the Donegal International Rally. The last remaining 3-day rally in the country, and still boasting the largest entry of all events in the country, Donegal is an assault on the scenes. The whole town comes to life for a weekend, welcoming the influx of car hordes unlike possibly anywhere else in the country. Accommodation is booked out months in advance, petrol stations overflow with cars, clubs boast queues hundreds of metres long, yet in the middle of all that we get the best rally this country has to offer. The stages are legendary, the stories and history equally so. The ultimate weekend??

July came with an all new show on the scene, the much-anticipated debut affair from ILoveBass with Districts. With a glut of shows now emerging, mainly across Northern Ireland, it important to have a unique feature to draw the crowds, and having a collection of stunning shows cars under the roof of a former DIY store was definitely a reasonably strong USP!

As work commitments increased, outing across the rest of July were limited to say the least. I managed to take in yet another Ultimate Drift event in WGH, and come the end of the month I got a WhatsApp to say that a Dubshed 2018 build was about to begin, with Ronan, owner of the Akai Golf, had picked up an extremely rare Fire & Ice MK2 Golf, left in some cattle shed for nearly 10 years.

August began with a trip to Glenroe, not to meet Mily and Biddy, but to take in the Limerick Hillclimb, yet another round of the Irish Hillclimb championship, and my first time coming face to face with the infamous Simon McKinley MK2 Escort, one of the most famous race cars in the country.

The next few weeks were spent close to home, with Rob O’Riordan’s evening spins filling a mid-week gap before a trip to Fermoy for the VAGE annual show, my 5th straight year making this show. The weather chose not to play ball, but that didn’t discourage a large turnout of cars showcasing all the best of the German car scene.

To close off the month of August, I managed to take in opposing spectrums of the Motorbike racing world, the highest echelons of the Ulster GP through to the ultimate grassroots level Roberts Cove Hillclimb. The Ulster was spectacular as expected, but I came away somewhat less excited than I had at the North West. The racing was great, but I didn’t seem to enjoy the day, perhaps due to the unrivalled access available at the ‘200. Roberts Cove on the other hand was a refreshing chance to watch guys, some on road bikes, push themselves in a way many can’t do very often. I had not got to much motorbike racing before this year, but the plan is to correct that even more in 2018 with plenty of dates pencilled in already, and a trip to a small Island off the Irish coast!

September brought with it one of the most unique events I attended all year, the very first Festival of Drift held in the Hub in Kilkenny. Taking all the usual elements of a traditional drift event, throwing them out the window and bringing in Chris Forsberg and Ryan Tureck to play hosts for the weekend was a brave move, but I for one at least found it to be a fantastic concept, and one I sincerely hope returns bigger and better in 2018.

As the month rolled by, very little got done as I was kept busy in the office job that pays for all my travel and adventures, but a sunny Saturday afternoon was spent with some iconic Hot Hatches for another Irish Icons piece, while the final weekend of the month was spent yet again hanging off a ditch, this time for the Cork 20, final round of the Irish Tarmac Championship. It was a season of utter dominance from the Moffett Brothers Josh and Sam, but it is the latter who will back on 2017 as a historic treble winning campaign.

October brought with it plenty of rain and cold, so the natural environment to spend long periods of time in those conditions would be trackside in Mondello right? I was delighted when Rob King from Trackdays.ie offered the use of one of their rental Honda Civic track cars for a first blast around the hallowed International Loop, but it would be just my luck that it would develop into a full-blown monsoon!

On the way home that day, still drenched to the bone and camera gear dripping wet, I took the chance to call into Stone Motorsport for a look, and experience what may just be the most impressive workshop spaces anywhere in the country!

The last weekend in October is always the Cork Jazz festival. The city comes alive, the streets buzz and it’s a great time to go out and enjoy. I had the weekend free of all distractions, ready for some fun, until Thursday night happened. Listening to WRC Radio, a quick browse online and a small bit of coaxing had ferry tickets bought to go to Wales the following day for Rally GB. It was a great call in the end, as to experience a full-blown WRC car tearing through the wooded darkness is a real highlight of 2017!!

November was the year’s quietest, especially when it came to me photographing cars. At the start of the month, I caught up briefly with one of the nicest Subaru’s in Ireland at Cars & Coffee. Plans are most certainly in place for a more in-depth look into this Impreza, as well as a feature look at this incredibly striking AE86 Corolla found lurking in a shed while checking in on the progress of Hickey’s MK2 Golf, which is soon to become a home to a 3.2L V6 Audi powerplant.

The month finished in Watergrasshill for even more grass roots drifting with Ultimate Drift, in what would ultimately be the series’ final event. It was also here that I managed to take a quick look at a pair of impressive Nissan Silvias.

December has been naturally hectic with all that the festive season entails, yet it kicked off in flying form with the Killarney Historic Rally, an event I have professed to be right up there with Donegal in terms of my favourite Irish rallies. Taking all the excitement of old-school rallying, condense and make use of some of the most spectacular rally stages in the country and you have a sure-fire winner. As if that wasn’t enough, Killarney and District Motor Club would also provide my final outing of the year, their yearly Autocross held in Tralee. Autocross is a side of motorsport I have ignored for a long time, but spend a matter of minutes in the company of the mental Semog Buggies, and it’s incredibly addictive!

2017, as you may have copped at this stage, was quite an incredible year for me, and I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts bringing you my rambling thoughts throughout the year. This is a passion project, done not for money or recognition, but just as an expression of my true love of all things automotive. Before the new year rings in, I already have Autosport International, Rally Monte Carlo & Sweden, a number of feature shoots and some behind-the-scenes penciled in, and who knows what else I will manage to fit over the next 12 months. Thanks to each and every one of you for the support all year, and here’s to an even bigger 2018. Cian.

 

A Historic Feast in Killarney

A Historic Feast in Killarney

The first weekend of December tends to have a rather festive feel to it these days. With the shopping chaos now starting earlier and earlier each year, come the start of the twelfth month the decorations emerge at a rampant rate. The children beam with excitement as the idea of the Toy Show finally hitting the screen after what feels like ages waiting, and the parents can tuck into a cheeky bottle of wine as a kickstart to one of the most self-rewarding months of the year. It’s a time of warmth and comfort in theory, but I’m watching the Late Late on an ancient looking screen, perched above the door of a rustic pub somewhere in the mountainous wilds of Co. Kerry. To rally folk, Christmas comes at the start of December, and it’s in the form of the Killarney Historic!

Now, it’s fair to say that Killarney is a significant hot bed of the sport, as is Kerry as a whole, with four Tarmac events each year, but Killarney, May Bank Holiday Weekend and the Lakes is the biggest deal. Crowds flock south each year for one of the country’s largest rally events, often marking the start of the Summer season. To the more hardcore followers though, and particularly those who long for a return to the days of old, the first weekend of December is cleared of all distractions and calendar clashes.

The Historics grew from a brave idea by KDMC to run an event with a strictly enforced age limit set on car’s available to enter. Setting the bar at Pre-1985, the entry is rather expectably chock full of Rear Wheel Drive, often sideways rallying hero’s, and is designed as a throwback to a time gone by now only experienced through grainy YouTube video’s and historic archives. While the spectacle may look similar, the reality of the modern world means that we aren’t treated to the week-long feasts of action that was somewhat the norm when these cars were in their prime, but Killarney has condensed all the elements needed to feel spot on.

I made my way into Killarney on a crisp Friday afternoon, typical of a December day, yet basked in rather un-seasonable sunshine. Scrutiny was an obvious port of call, an opportunity to get up close and personal with the machinery destined to tackle the iconic Killarney stages early the next morning. I was barely in the gate as an iconic BMW M3 grumbled off into the night, but right into his spot rolled the car everyone was hoping to catch for the weekend, Rob Duggan and the iconic 2.5 Millington Escort of Colin Byrne.

As the sun began to set, it was an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the golden hour in the presence of some of my favourite rally cars of all time. It was a blissful mix of my photography and rallying perspectives, and a treat for the senses.

Home, thermal gear on and car packed, it was time to set off. Much of the Killarney Historic appeal is built on the iconic stages available right on the town’s doorstep, none more of a draw early on a crisp morning than Molls Gap. The twisty ribbon of tarmac rising out of the town boundaries towards the mountains is a glorious place to watch rally cars in full flow, but I felt I wanted something different this year. As the droves plotted their way for Ladies View and the like, I struck for the ‘Other Gap’, and possibly Irelands most stunning stretches of tarmac.

High in the mountains, quietness reigns. Darkness is experienced on a level almost unmatched, with few if any signs of life dotted on the landscape. A small, rural bar, surrounded on all sides but foreboding peaks, is a natural hub of a remote community. Glencar feels like it’s a million miles from anywhere, and is as ruggedly stunning because of its surrounding. In the dead of night, my drive feels eerie and lonely. 90 minutes I drive down lanes after lane, not crossing paths with another soul. A phone screen, and its warm glow, keeps me company. Guidance is necessary in these conditions, and my destination is Ballaghbeama Gap.

Situated right in the foothills of Carrantuohill, Ballaghbeama is an anomaly. As roads go, it seems to serve very little purpose. Barely more than a car wide for the most part, the smooth tarmac snakes its way through vast expanses of true wilderness. To both sides, the eye casts over desolate yet beautiful scenery. Its absolute pinnacle is in the tight and twisty section, barely more than 2 or 3km long, in the middle that weaves through sheer rock faces. It has all the feel of the iconic twisting roads of Rally Monte Carlo or Corsica, and the second I drove it myself, I knew I had to see, feel and experience the spectacle of a rally passing through. I could gush about Ballaghbeama for hours, and rightfully you should add it to the roads worthy of a drive when you get a chance!

Reversed into a gap between a rock face and a waterfall, barely a few metres from the racing line, I bedded down for the night, yet again checking into Hotel de Peugeot to bring you all some pictures of Rally Cars. The crackle of a Mk 2 Escort road car was my wake-up call, and it set the tone. I couldn’t tell you about who was quick, who was leading or who was having troubles, as I had been off the mobile grid for about 12 hours up in the mountains, but I could tell you how glorious a sound a BDA engine makes as it reverberates around its surroundings. It didn’t matter a jot though, as I had a venerable playground to work with, working as many angles as possible. I climbed hills, hung off rocks, fell into streams and ploughed through bogs, yet loved every minute. The scenery wasn’t half bad either.

Come the end of the day, as the sun set, it would be the Duggan’s, Rob and Tara, who would taste the victory, leading from the off in a dominant display. More impressive was the utter domination of Denis Moynihan and Ger Conway in their MK1 Escort, taking an impressive win in the ‘more historic’ section of the rally. See I forgot to mention that didn’t I, that the single best part of Killarney Historics is that it plays host to a specific rally within, for cars which not only elicit the sight of rallying of old, but adhere to strict rules making them as close as possible in spec and performance of the glory days. While the Modifieds are something we are more accustom to with screaming Millington’s and the raucous bang of Sequential gearboxes, the historic section is the preserve of proper RS1800 Escort, straight cut Gears and all that is truly right in the world!

EXTRA PICTURES

A Pair of Silvia’s

A Pair of Silvia’s

Anyone at all that has an interest in performance orientated, driver centred vehicles must surely look back at Japan in the 1990’s and smile. As greatest hit’s catalogues go, the sheer variety of automotive content created, most almost exclusively for, such a small island nation is just mind-blowing. I come from a generation that idolises these exotic beasts from the east thanks to Gran Turismo bringing never-before-seen knowledge straight to our living rooms, but now that I have matured, it’s almost crazier than I had ever thought. Manufactures were unleashing into the world everything from Turbocharged micro-Kei cars, through to V12 Executive Saloons. Car classes that would never have seemed even remotely cool or sporty were graced with behemoth’s like the 2JZ fed JZX’s in the large saloon class. We had Ford Scorpio’s in comparison, although there was a 24V Cosworth option, which highlights how performance mad Japan went in the 90’s. The world looked on as they offered domestic Supercar’s like the GT-R and the NSX, but one class in particular became a defining trademark.

If you were in a position to buy a reasonably priced, fun and reliable 2-Door Coupe in the 90’s, your choice was pretty varied. Ford would sell you a Cougar, Fiat it’s rather originally named Coupe, VW had the Corrado and Porsche had the ever present 911. There were plenty more aswell, but then you had an onslaught of Japanese competition for the European regulars. Taking a 10 year window, we saw an influx of MR2’s, Celica’s, Supra’s, Levin’s, Prelude’s, Integra’s, Starion’s, Colt’s, RX-7’s, Cosmo’s, Supra’s, Skyline’s and even Subaru got in on the act with the 2-Door Impreza. These were all great cars, some utterly brilliant, yet one particular coupe range was to unwittingly become the poster child of a whole new wave of interest in JDM metal. Its easy to argue, at least in the early days, that Drifting was the Nissan Silvia!

Across four generations, S12-S15, Nissan’s affordable sportscar platform became a global success. Originally designed as a JDM only goodie, much of the early cars gained a cult following having filtered down into the hands of young drivers, shaking off perhaps the air of a GT car that Nissan intended in the design stage. Soon, S13’s in particular became the weapon of choice alongside the AE86 Corolla for drivers exploring the limits of grip on mountain roads. When this thing became a sport, naturally the people there kept using their Silvia’s as normal, and thus Drifting and the Silvia became a match.

Later, Nissan began to feed cars out into the rest of the world, with us in Ireland getting the later S14 in the shape of the 200SX, but the link between sport and car grew. It seems rather fitting then, that the two Silvia’s here are soo intrinsically linked to drifting, and it was a drift event that I shot both rather quickly. The first of the pair, in complete Darth Vader-esq style, is a car built as a reflection of a man. Peden Nielsen is one of Irelands most prominent drift personalities, a pioneer of the sport and the absolute King of Branding. Having come to drifting late in the 00’s with his Nissan Skyline, competing in things like the Prodrift Super Series, I became more aware of Peden through his Evicted Clothing brand. After taking to the judging tower for a number of years though, it was through an iPhone and a selfie stick that Peden Nielsen became a star.

Keep Drifting Serious became pretty much the first behind-the-scenes look ever done in 10-odd years of Irish Pro Drifting. Naturally, these are a lot more entertaining in the delivery than a regular ‘this is what you’ve not seen before’ style of video, and this sense of wacky out there style and flair had to be translated into a car somehow. That’s where the KDS15 was born. Straight away, the most obvious additions are both the matt-black exterior, and the aggressive Rocket Bunny body kit giving this Silvia an incredible amount of presence. Up close though, the wrap work is at a level almost un-imaginable from a distance, with sponsor logo’s embedded and visible up-close. This is a testament to Moose Design, the same company behind the Akai Livery on Ronan’s MK1 Golf.

Under those massive arch extensions, a matching set of black XXR alloy’s in 18-Inch size resides, wrapped in Westlake RS tyres. Added to this is a combo of Mintex brakes and HKS coilover’s, making this surely a handling dream should the daily commute develop into a backroad blast, although the height the car is sitting at and the large swathes of lower aero and diffusers may encourage against that type of carry on.

While Peden has aimed to create the ultimate Street Silvia, another of the breed present may rightly claim to actually be the Ultimate Track Silvia, and it’s a car that need very little introduction. The man behind the wheel is a certain James Deane. You might have heard of him. He drifts cars, and is rather good at it. He wins quite often, and must surely have a room of his house rammed at this stage with trophies and memento’s. I could list off the achievements, but that deserves a proper article soon enough! Sat here in the gravel of Watergrasshill, this Silvia has defeated all comers both here in Ireland and across Europe, but today is here to put on a show and have a good time.

Seeing a drift car from a distance, it’s easy to spot the modifications that have been done to what was once a rather clean S14A. The iconic Falken teal & green livery covers the bolt-on overfenders, each housing a Japan Racing wheel within it’s arch. The suspension is Wisefab, evident by the obscene angles being thrown on track, while inside is pure race-car. Under the bonnet, a 2JZ engine does the necessary mechanical grunting, while an Owen Developments turbo adds the necessary boost. It’s in the flesh that you notice the differences.

The rear arches, in particular, fascinate me. In action, the design seems to sit flush with the car’s flanks, but up close you see a variety of different length screw providing a handy gap to allow the plumes of tyre smoke to be ejected. Battle scars pepper the surfaces, each a reminder of a battle or a run where limits were pushed to the maximum. It was interesting, when talking to another driver, to think just how much driving and competing this car has done. Each event entered, the expectation and often the reality is that it will see the podium or finals, and over time this accumulates to the point that James and the S14 may easily have twice or three times the driving done of a competitor in a year.

So that is a quick feature on two incredibly built examples of Nissan’s Silvia, a success story not even those in Japanese boardrooms may ever have imagined. These are very quick features, so apologies if we don’t have all the details or spec lists. We’ll leave that for when we eventually track more car’s down for in depth features in 2018!

Farewell Ultimate Drift

Farewell Ultimate Drift

My outlook, in an automotive sense, was to always push the envelope in terms of the events I get to, the experiences I encounter, the people I meet, the craftsmanship I witness and the enjoyment I get at the end. My calendar is like a military operation at times, planned to the nth degree so I can get the most out of whatever event I have pencilled in. Wherever I end up, I know it is by choice that Ive made the sometimes long or expensive journey to get there. Over the past year, thanks to this site, I’ve been able to chronicle my adventures, often accompanied by a rambling, deluded opinion piece, and bring to life the variety of events I get to. I always want to see more, have new experiences and gain more knowledge, but then some events, I just enjoy for just being themselves and not being unfamiliar to me. Ultimate Drift was definitely one of those!

I’ve talked at length before about my history with drifting, with my opinions gaining a rather split reception. Looking back, I saw drifting evolve from a grass roots sport to a global cultural icon, yet I couldn’t let go of the small-time nature that got me hooked. Over time, I fell out of love with the sport on a number of levels. I still maintained interest in the competition side of things, but I stopped attending events in the flesh.

That being said, we never had a steady stream of events to attend anyway. In the early days, D-Rift and Prodrift held proper competitive events in Watergrasshill and later in Fermoy, but then word spread that the noisy, sliding cars were no longer welcome in WGH. This wasn’t long after the closure of Rosegreen, so us down South were really left abandoned. Mondello naturally filled the void, and still does to a large extent, but it is still the bones of a three hour journey each way for me at least, meaning there wasn’t the same buzz to get to events.

Over the years, many attempts were made to get regular drifting back to Cork. Superdrift and Driftfest both tried, but in the midst of the Recession, the appetite and desire to make a success of either format just wasn’t there really, and so they slid into the history books in time. This was where Ultimate Drift fits into the picture, as finally we got a proper push to bring regular Drifting back down South.

Spearheaded by Darren Hickey, the series had a smart, passionate and determined person there to properly steer the ship forward. Co-Owner of the very successful D&D Detailing, Darren brought professional idea’s which have become a hallmark of modern drifting, and perhaps explain the shortcomings of so many other Drift ventures before. Suddenly, what was an open track day had sponsorship, branded vehicles, professional signage, a large online presence, live music and a big-event atmosphere. People turned up to enjoy themselves watching as much as drivers enjoyed testing themselves around what I still believe to be Irelands best Drift venue.

Darren will happily telly you that it was a team effort, and it most definitely was, but everyone involved was there for the love of the sport, not to win FB likes or make a fortune. The events were fun, small games were added long before anyone had heard of Drift Games and drivers continued to rather visibly improve, with definitely a few I can think of who started as UD Novices that now hold IADC or IDC competition licenses. Competition elements were tried, with a mini-series taking place last year, as well as novel approaches to drift events sampled with the floodlit Drift Nights becoming a regular fixture.

On a personal level, Ultimate Drift helped me fall back in love with Drifting. Grass roots, beat up cars is what got me into the sport, and in the world of sideways Drag-Cars, this felt old-school. The visuals may not be appealing to everyone, but each ripple and dent was a sign of someone pushing limits, learning the skills and trying out things in an environment that encouraged those very things. I was still very new to taking photos of cars when I took a mad notion to apply for media access to an event, but getting up close and personal was on a level I had never imagined all those years standing on the bank. I was able to try out techniques that I couldn’t possibly practice elsewhere and learn new skills. I met soo many people, enjoyed great laughs and had some heart in the mouth moments on track yet was able to witness so many personal high’s, from the wry smile of nailing a corner, through to some finally hitting the track in their dream build. I had the honour of providing the poster imagery to a number of events and this was something I never thought possible.

After 3 years of not only running but driving in Ultimate Drift, last weekends event is to be the last. A rumour had been in the air that the news was imminent, and a post on Darren’s Facebook spelled the end. Of all the ways to go, having a full entry of car’s, a beautiful Winter’s day and the surprise appearance of none other than James Deane is not too shabby at all, and entirely fitting of a series that was so well run from the start. A void has now emerged in Irish drifting again, that leaves many question of what happens now. Grass roots drifting will continue at tracks like Tynagh, but down South we are left with nothing. A new track is in development in Cobh that has the potential to be a strong asset to the area, but it’s going to need strong support to get off the ground. From a driver stand point, the demise of Ultimate Drift also spells the end of potential entry-level competitive drifting, with the only series now offering this are IADC and IDC, which many may believe is too high of a step up to be of interest. Whatever comes along in 2018 though, we have to be thankful for what we had and the memories made. From ourselves here in Freshfix, and I’m sure countless others, we’d like to say a massive thanks to the whole Ultimate Drift crew for the work done over the last few years. Thank you for the wonderful events, the wonderful atmosphere and the craic. Thank You.

Darren Hickey’s post on the end of Ultimate Drift:

“If you’re going to finish something, finish it on a high” And what a high Drift Nights was. Going in to this event, I knew it was going to be the last event I would be being running this year. We gave it our all (even managed to get the two S14’s ready) and the results were unreal. A full grid of drivers all looking to enjoy an evening season in the dark, highlighted by the man himself James Deane putting on a master class and smoking the place out. Everyone had the same goal, finish off the year in style and have fun with our friends. After three years of running the Ultimate Drift Series, Drift Nights was the last event as we know it. Due to other business and family commitments I have made the decision to step back from running drift event’s full time. Next year my aim is to enjoy the sport for what it is from the driver’s seat. I ran the Ultimate Drift Series as a driver and always kept that in mind when making decisions on how we ran each event, always keeping in mind would I enjoy driving that track, is it a new challenge.

From my past experience of running drift events I know that what can go wrong, will go wrong. All you can do is make sure you have the equipment to sort any issues that might arise. True luck comes in to place with the one variable that every event organizer has no control over, the WEATHER. Out of 30 events we only had one washout, seems the weather man was looking out for us.

To the UD Team: The Ultimate Drift Series was never a one man show, it was a team of great people, and for that I count myself lucky enough to have been able to call on my friends & family to make sure each event was the best it could be. I would like to give the biggest thanks to the whole UD team both past and present and to all those that helped UD grow over the years.

 

Signing off Darren H (see ye in the pit lane next year lads)