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Every person who’s life revolves heavily around a hobby generally has a key date in mind when planning their year. No matter the interest, we all have that single point in time where we know exactly where exactly we wish to be, and I’m no different. For myself, and countless motorsport or simply car enthusiasts, the third weekend in June is special. For me, it’s pretty much my summer holiday, a chance to unwind and enjoy one of the nicest corners of our Island while taking in some stunning action. It can only be Donegal Weekend!!
This year, for the first time in a long time, I have made the trip North on the Thursday. As this remains the countries only 3-day rally, action kicks off on Friday afternoon, yet the necessary side events begin from early in the week. While the crews have done their recce at this stage, today was mainly the formality of getting cars through scrutiny and parked up ahead of a long weekend of challenging stages. Safety items checked and documents cleared, the crews must now sit anxiously waiting for the mornings alarm.
The way that Letterkenny welcomes the rally is like a breath of fresh air, with hundreds of people out watching tech inspections and countless adverts for ‘Rally Weekend’ social activities. Its an attitude like that which keeps people coming back year on year, and over 50,000 people are expected to visit over the weekend.
In terms of the runners and riders, last years winner Manus Kelly leads the pack away in his Subaru Impreza WRC. An oft dwindling sight of late, Donegal and its allure have attracted a plethora of WRC machinery back out, including similar Subaru’s of Gary Jennings & PJ McDermott, while the Ford corner is stacked with Donagh Kelly in the Focus and crowd-favorite Declan Boyle in the Fiesta.
Donegal has the name of the Modified grand Prix, and the line up of top class modified machinery is clear to see, with a venerable who’s who of star drivers. The same can also be said for the R5 category, with all the regular championship protagonists in attendance, ready to go to war over 20 tricky tests.
Donegal is a temptress that attracts some special entries, and I for one cannot wait to hear John Coyne getting to grips with the Tuthill’s built Porsche 911 RGT car down some twisting country lanes.
The action kicks off tomorrow with 3 stages repeated twice west of Letterkenny. The weather today has been showery, but having driven the stages the surfaces seem incredibly prepared and in great shape. Stay tuned all weekend for more updates and pictures. Cian.
It’s the sound that hits you. That guttural, demonic roar that descends into an ear splitting crescendo of speed and disappears off into the distance with haste. It’s intoxicating and intriguing in equal measures. Your heart races to see more, while your head struggle to comprehend. As a chase helicopter glides overhead, what can only be compared to the buzz of a low flying Jet fighter filters into a now anticipatory silence. Eyes dart from face to face, each home to a similar expression of utter amazement. Jaws are dropped and mouths hang open. But there was no visuals involved here! Each of us, all seasoned motorsport followers and competitors, were rendered speechless by a noise. When I say the head struggled, here we were standing at the boot of a Seat Toledo, parked up against a grassy ditch on a mud strewn rural lane on a damp Saturday morning, we had not seen a single motorbike but that noise, oh that noise, it stirred the soul. “Welcome to the Northwest 200 son” whispered a passer-by obviously aware our facial expression, and if that was the opening shots, boy oh boy were we excited for what lay ahead.
Backtracking slightly, as we’ve discussed here before, we as a nation are masters of holding extraordinary events that happen in the shadows of mainstream media. While back pages and sports bulletins are chock full of GAA or soccer stories, us motorsport and car fans are sure to be found out taking in top level competition, enjoying a scenic drive or attending all manner of shows. We do our motoring activities in a wonderfully low key manner. Motorcycle road racing is one such avenue of auto-addiction, with a true hard core of competitors and supporters keen to maintain one of the final past times that has remained almost un-sanitised by political correctness and necessary safety advances. In the Republic, many large events like Skerries, HalfWay Drags and Kells happen without causing the slightest ripple in the public consciousness unless something disastrous happens. Up North though, these Motorcycle wielding titans live god like status.
During the dark days of the Troubles, Northern Ireland became almost a no go place for many, and sport suffered massively as many feared competing or spectating at events north of the border. Through all this though, the renegade anti-establishment nature of motorcycle racing shone as a beacon of national pride. The Ulster GP, Tandragee and Armoy provided a competitive breeding ground for a succession of local talent, but it was the North West that became the jewel in the Irish calendar. The Dunlop brothers, Joey and Robert, became sporting icons, while others like Phillip McCallen and his famous 5-in-a-day in 1992 provided shining light on dark days. The Norths love affair with Road Racing remains as strong as ever, and after countless years of talking about it, time had come to experience exactly how nutty this thing is in person.
For a second though, consider the sheer lunacy of this sport, if you can. Imagine your drive home from work, and consider any stretches of road you might encounter that are two lanes wide and borders by grass verges and barbed wire. Down here, seeing any more than an 80hm/h speed limit would be uncommon, and truth by told the likelihood of being stuck behind a tractor means we’d be lucky to hit 60. Now also consider that unless your car of choice is of the hyper variety, most everyday vehicles, on a flat out, perfectly conditioned test facility would likely top out at about 200km/h or roughly 120 mph. On the same road, in the damp, these guys pass at 200+ mph. It silly speeds, and while similar speeds are seen on the Isle of Man, here the riders are released in packs and so a train of up to 10 bikes are likely to pass in the blink of an eye. Its crazy!!
Our particular adventure kicked off just shy of 4am, but even the prospect of nearly a 1100km round trip did nothing to dampen enthusiasm. We were all Road Racing virgins, and as I said at the top it took merely seconds to get us hooked.
Track-side, the action is soo frantic that it is almost impossible to keep track of how races are going, but the excellent speaker and online coverage available was at a level I’d never seen before. People could watch the race live on all manner of devices merely meters away than the ongoing battles.
Access to the action is so lax in regards to what you would see elsewhere in the motorsport world. Run-Off areas, barriers and the like just don’t exist, as all that separates you from the high speed action is about a foot of grass and a barbed wire fence. This is the true beauty of the grass roots nature of the sport, where those on the ditches respect the danger of the event and there is upmost respect of the measures put in place to make the event as safe as possible for everyone.
I had never been to a proper road race before, nor photographed bikes or anything at that speed, but the trip to the NorthWest has lit a fire under me to get out and experience much more of this spectacular action. Other events have wormed their way into my calendar for the summer, while as of this morning it would look as if my 2018 summer holidays may revolve around a certain island in the middle of the Irish Sea.
As a car fan, I find my tastes in what I believe to be cool or interesting to be a constantly changing experience. I constantly have eureka moments, when something I may have derided or ignored all my life just hits me. Over the past few months, German produced cars have really become a lot more appealing in a way I never believed to be possible. Growing up in a JDM obsessed country, well engineered Deutsch vehicles seemed en-mass to be dull and boring, but, and perhaps its my transition into sensibility, more and more I look to our European comrade and see cars that just tick boxes, and tick them well!
Case most certainly in point I feel is my growing admiration for all things BMW. For year, they just did nothing for me. As my friends played around with E36’s, I didn’t get it. Granted, while halo cars synonymous with Motorsport dominance could turn my head, run of the mill Bavarian’s just seemed dull and sadly boring. God how wrong was I.
I first laid eyes on Conor’s pristine E34 BMW 5 Series in the halls of Dubshed, and the timeless 90’s look sucked me in. For a car edging towards 25 years old, the E34 shape has proven to be somewhat timeless. Clean, sharp lines were all the rage at the time, and even now its a design ethos that simply works. While doing some other work in Mondello recently, hearing the grumble of the 6 Cylinder saloon cruising into sight got me very excited, but with a lot else on it meant I really needed to get a very quick feature done.
The M-Sport divising of BMW are well known for creating a variety of high speed monsters, but I have become increasingly aware of how well their back catalogue of styling kits have transformed the look of countless BMW models. Here, a factory style needs no adjustment to look spot on, while a subtle bolt on boot spoiler, very akin to the E30 M3 Evo, and lip splitter just set the car apart from the run-of-the-mill 5 Series fare.
Sitting under each corner are an immaculate set of AC Schnitzer split wheels, with the grey centers contrasting with the polished lip. Obviously, as much as the aggressive stance is spot on, its a little too hardcore for driving, and so a full Air Lift Performance setup is on hand to provide the perfect balance of show and go!
Inside, and everything is all very retro-business-chic. Black leather is match with some very cool white piping, and as a pure geek I was transfixed with the center console mounted telephone. Never has such a pointless device seemed soo damn cool!! While all may seem refined, slap bang in the middle sits a rather potent looking CAE shifter, an obvious motorsport touch for a car certainly more of a driver than a show queen!
Am I right in saying I saw Freshfix before?
Yes, you are correct, Freshfix did live before way back in 2010 but let me fill you in what happened and why we went off the map for a short time.
Back in 2010 while in college the likes of Juiceboxforyou was the only real Irish blog showcasing the Irish scene. I was fascinated and wanted to start my own blog but try to focus on the VAG scene. At the time I was a member on Vagdrivers.net,I pitched my idea’s to its members and the name Freshfix was created. For a start, I didn’t have a clue how to create a blog,Thankfully my cousin came to the rescue and a basic site was built and created. A few weeks went by and I received an email from Paul Gallagher who was a graphic designer from Donegal and the “real” Freshfix was born.
Looking back now I didn’t have a clue what to do and what to post. We had a number of people who helped contribute to the site from the beginning to the….well eh resting period. We were trying to keep with the times of what was cool and also start some merchandise the facebook page was starting to grow and people started to talk about the site. Of course not everything said was positive but you have to take that when starting to voice your opinion on the interwebs.
I will happily admit now that when I was writing about an event or subject it was just me trying to be the next Juiceboxforyou or Paddy McGrath from Speedhunters, or say what the cool kids wanted to hear. It was a lesson learned and going forward I plan to make the adjustments required to improve the content. Another thing I also learned is that I cannot write for S**T ( you may have already noticed already from this post) but again it’s time to learn and improve.
I received a message from David Egan asking would we do something with his new drift team ( DealtWidth) along with WKD Imports. He liked the style of photography and we both had the same image in our head of where it was going to go. We did some work together but trying to cover a weekend for Freshfix along with a video for WKD & Dealtwidth was tough to do, with the work of the team we got it done but maybe not to the best of our ability. Sadly this didn’t continue on but was an experience nonetheless.
So how did it die?
College was finished and a career was pursued in the motor trade. The issue with that is I had to work 6 days a week along with wanting to start racing at Mondello Park. The exchange for racing was to sell off all of my camera equipment to fund the car,racing suit and trailer. At this point, all my focus went to racing.
Conor & Adam kept updating our facebook page but the domain expired and basically, everything was gone, all that was left was our 4000 likes on the facebook page. Hats off to the guys who helped out because no one received a penny from Freshfix, without them it simply would not be what it was or is going to be again.
Cool,so what can we look forward to?
Motorsport is still a massive focus of mine but along with the racing, I started to do some vlogs with a friend. It started off as a facebook page called JustForFun Motorsport and we documented the build of the cars and some weekends. Again this didn’t really work out but I thought of how can I combine this and Freshfix back together.Rob King advised me I should start it again and when I turned to the guys who helped me before they all agreed. With the help of Rob, I also designed parts of the website which is all new to me.
What’s going to be on the site?
The site will have 4 main compartments-Blog Posts,Vlogs,Image Gallery,Shop.The blog posts will be a combination or random ramblings along with features and event reviews. The vlog will mainly consist of motorsport diaries and possibly some car reviews. The image gallery can be your one stop shop if you were at a recent event and looking for a photo of your car. The shop will allow you buy the most recent Freshfix merchandise
I do hope you will tune back in and give us some feedback where possible. To celebrate our comeback we are giving away free lanyards. All you need to do is subscribe to us here