EVENT | Irish Drift Championship | Mondello Round 5

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I’ve a confession to make. I’m a total fraud. I abandoned Irish Drifting many years ago after a brief and pleasurable flirtation in the mid noughties. Like every other Japanese car fan, I went along to see Nomura and co, skate round Mondello pulling angles and speeds that seemed beyond plausibility, but somehow or other, the early embers of that promising love affair burnt out. Believe you me, Irish Drifting, it definitely wasn’t you, it was me. After months, if not years of badgering from friends, I’ve rekindled that love affair and boy, do I really know now, what I’ve been missing!

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Saturday passed in a blur. Even the miserable weather could dampen my spirits, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat and it was all because of the unimaginable pleasure of seeing ordinary, but dedicated and passionate guys squeeze everything they could get out of cars that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. In IDC speak, these guys are called the semi-pros. But I can tell you they showed exquisite car control that would, I’m sure, gained nods of approval from Nomura-san, in weather that would have made Noah think twice about going for a paddle.

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The qualifying conditions for the top 32 were less than perfect, but thankfully, by the time the battles commenced, there was dry tarmac and a decent level of grip. After a series of closely fought tusios, numerous one more times and no end of drama, David Garvey collected a win from Martin Tyrrell, with Gary Dunne coming third and Chris Doyle. All four earned the right to move on to Sunday and mix it with the Pros.

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So the Pros, then. I knew that the Pros were due to have a free practice session before the concluding semi-pro battles. I had genuinely no idea what to expect. I probably expected something similar to the semi-pro qualification I had just witnessed. Wrong. A string of cars launched themselves at the track to symphony of furious external wastegates, chirping blow off valves and the staccato of rev limiters. This was serious stuff. In beautiful, fluid movements, each driver carried breathtaking speed into the Mondello corners, leaving massive plumes of smoke in their wake. Nomura-san, its about time you came back to see how Irish Drifting has grown up.

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Such was the draw of Japfest, the Irish Drifting Championship attracted competitors from the UK in the shape of Steve ‘Stiggy’ Evans and his awesome Cosworth powered Starlet, James Fuller in his S13 and home comings for Shane Lynch and Ireland’s biggest drifting ambassador, Darren ‘Dmac’ McNamara. A truly top quality field.

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But just when you thing you can’t be anymore blown away, enter the titan; you heard it before you saw it. Actually, you felt it before you saw it, such was the noise and vibration emitted by the beast that is the Low Brain Drifters PS13, driven by Martin Ffrench. A deep, wild, tortured, howling V8, which just ripped the world around Mondello to shreds. I’m surprised there wasn’t an earthquake. Sunday and the Top 16 couldn’t come quick enough.

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Pro qualifying saw some remarkable scores. James ‘the Machine’ Deane pulled off a near perfect qualifying run. DMAC lived up to his reputation with a big run and Shane O’Sullivan and Brian Egan were amongst the best of the rest.

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The battles lived up to the billing – they were definitely hard fought. None more so that Duane McKeever’s run with Martin Ffrench. In an epic first run, Duane chased hard in an effort to show the mighty PS13 that it wouldn’t get its own way. Alas, he charged a little too hard and collected some of Martin Ffrench’s bodywork, handing him the advantage, which ultimately led to progression to the next round. Duane can count himself unlucky; the sheer audacity and fearless nature of his two runs deserved more.

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Likewise the same could be said of Kevin O’Connell. In a battle where he was always the underdog, he collected Darren McNamara and ran to the line with a piece of bodywork from the Corolla jammed in the BMW’s front wing. Both drivers appeared to have plenty to say to the stewards about the incident, neither seemed to agree with each other’s views and McNamara won through to the next round.

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Alan ‘Chubby’ McCord had the unenviable task of trying to bring the unflappable and unstoppable James Deane to heel. And he nearly succeeded. Again, yet another valiant and massive hard charging run from McCord probably deserved more, but Deane showed why he is the current champion by pulling off the perfect line when it mattered.

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The semi-final conjured up the hotly anticipated grudge match of Ffrench versus Deane. At this point Ffrench had already dispatched a hard charging Mike Fitz in the Hankook FC RX7 and Deane had taken out the Hachi Roku of Team DealtWidth’s Brian Egan. Lingering scores to settle from the season’s first round meant that this was about more than qualification for the final.

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Ffrench wanted to prove he could beat Deane when it mattered. Ffrench tried a huge entry to the first corner, but appeared to have way too much speed and spiralled heavily into the barriers. Deane’s progression to the final was pretty much assured on that first run. Barry Leonard of WKD Imports overcame DMAC to book his place in his first Pro final and the stage was set for the showdown with Deane.

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The third and fourth place battle went down to Ffrench and Darren McNamara. It was great to see the DMAC’86 going well as it has been plagued with gremlins for a long time and I am sure Darren was delighted with taking third after another eventful weekend at Mondello Park.

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Leonard dropped a wheel off the track on the chase run, letting Deane pull out a gap and a unanimous judge’s decision followed. It was a strong showing from Leonard, but Deane always had the ability to step it up when it counted. He seems totally immovable and must have ice in his veins, because nothing seems to faze him.

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Irish Drifting, it’s was epic and hell, it’s been too long. When’s the 2014 season start, cos I think I love ya!

 
Words: Chris Andrews
Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
 

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