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Hearty Pushes Harder Than Ever Before…..

The long winter break is over and the 2015 Auto Care Formula Sheane Championship is now in full swing after Rounds 1 & 2 took place at Mondello Park over the weekend. The championship has gone through a bit of facelift over the twilight months with the introduction of a new sponsor for the year in the form of Auto Care Motor Parts and Accessories. A brand new Formula Sheane Northern Irish Championship which will be held at the 5 Rounds of the series when it travels north of the border to the 2 super fast circuits of Bishopscourt and Kirkistown Race circuits. A new revised rear wing has also been introduced to the cars themselves and a whole heap of new and old talent joining the grid for 2015.

The drivers arrived down to the Co. Kildare circuit to a dry but windy track, of those who made it out in the early sessions, they were greeted to a very slippery surface when they emerged from the pit lane, and times were up and down with no one able to make any clear progress. Keith Hogg and Robbie Allen chased electrical problems for most of the early sessions and were never truly able to show their full potential and Gary Corcoran’s newly rebuilt machine succumbed to engine woes which seen him switch to the spare car for the rest of the weekends encounter. With a packed schedule of racing at Mondello, this meant that qualifying was to be held on the Saturday evening as opposed to the traditional Sunday Morning hustle for grid positions. By the time qualifying came about the sun was out and the track had gotten considerably quicker and all the drivers where getting itchy to see what they could do after the long break. Everybody took their positions on the pit wall to give the drivers their signals and qualifying was on, unfortunately for Hogg, his woes continued and he never completed a lap which left him starting from the back of the grid for both races, not that he stayed there for long but we will get to that soon enough. Sheane managed only 2 laps before returning to the pits with a broken front Anti-roll bar which seen his team make some quick thinking changes to his step up which would allow him to return to the battle. O’Connor set the pace early on with Hearty, Kearney and McLoughlin hot on his heels, lap after lap the foursome got quicker and quicker with both O’Connor and Hearty punching in times under the lap record. The midfield battle was hotting up also with only hundreds of seconds from 4th place down to 9th which just goes to show how ultra-competitive the series is. A lap before the flag came out seen Dave Parks blast his way from 8th position to 4th just before suspension failure removed him from the battle. Grid positions for race 1 finished as follows, O’Connor, Hearty, McLoughlin, Parks, Kearney, Allen, Sheane, McCabe, Linnane and newbie to the grid Niall O’Flynn rounding out the top 10 in his first ever qualifying session. It was great to see last year’s newbies McLoughlin and Kearney mixing it with the class regulars, we thought they would be challenging for top spots but not from the word go. The drivers now set about getting their cars ready and set for the first race at midday on Sunday, albeit some had a good deal more than others, but true to dedication of the teams and the drivers they cracked on until they made the grid.

Sunday morning was beautiful, sunny and dry which meant we had all the ingredients to add to a brilliant day at the Co. Kildare circuit. Race 1 was at midday and with some of the teams just managing to get their cars back together and in to assembly before the cars was released onto the grid. A quick green flag saw a strong grid form up on the grid, and in the glistening sun, we were ready to go racing for the first time in 2015. The 5 second board was lifted and with that the revs grew along with the hopes of the drivers and crews who have worked so hard to get the cars to this moment. The atmosphere was electric in the pit lane as everyone awaited the lights to go out and when they did they were in for a treat! O’Connor, Hearty and McLoughlin seemed to achieve a lot of wheel spin off the line when they dumped their clutches which allowed 4th place man Dave Parks to scurry across the track and draw level with O’Connor going into turn one. O’Connor put the squeeze on Parks and as we all know 2 doesn’t go into 1. Parks locked up all 4 wheels in a vain effort to avoid contact with O’Connor and as he turned in he collided with Parks who was on the grass by this point, contact was made which produced a concertina affect for the rest of the grid following behind them, Parks was spun around from the contact with O’Connor and a whole gaggle of cars clumped together which seen the red flag be brought out. The cars returned to the grid for a re set and the marshals sorted out the jumble of cars at turn 1. Unfortunately for some their damage was terminal and they wouldn’t be making it back to the grid, for others the news was a lot more positive and they harried themselves back to the grid for the restart.

Just as the cars set off on their second green flag lap, Kevin Sheane’s triple championship winning car emerged at the top of the pit-lane being towed to the garage, his team rushed to assess the damage and quickly set about getting him back in contention for the race, a broken track was the only damage. The cars re took their grid positions and awaited the 5 second board, joined by Parks and McLoughlin who had collected themselves from the first corner event. The Rev’s grew for the second time and the lights went out, O’Connor and Hearty made a much better get away and O’Connor lead into turn one, all the cars giving each other enough space to ensure they all made it through this time. In the pit lane, Sheane’s car was nearing completion, a quick check by the scrutineer and it was go, Sheane harried himself to the end of the pit lane and set about chasing the pack down. Around the cars came in a steady line, O’Connor from Hearty, Mcloughlin, Parks, Allen and the ever charging Keith Hogg who was making a second blistering start from the back of the grid to be running with the lead pack. Further down the pack McCabe, Linnane and first time competitor Niall (pronounced Neil) O’Flynn were having an epic battle. Hearty was trying everything to get himself in a position to attach O’Connor but a few qualifying paced laps seen him maintain a gap. Just behind the lead two, positions for 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th swapped and changed in nearly every corner, partly due to monumental charge that Hogg was on, just behind him was Allen from McLoughlin and then from Parks. Just over the ¾ race distance point O’Connor emerged from the last corner freewheeling, this was the break Hearty was looking for, a broken throttle cable seen the former champion pull in on the pit straight and would take no further part. As O’Connor had just taken his seat on the bank, the cars rushed through the final corner, a little wave from Hearty on the way past to rub salt in O’Connor’s wounds. O’Connor’s demise seen everyone bumped up a position and again, the ever charging MAD Motorsport machine of Hogg, had carved his way through the entire field and was now hunting down Hearty. Allen was now sitting in 3rd fighting off his team mate Parks and Mcloughlin was sitting on his gearbox. Just behind them the battle was still raging on between Linnane, McCabe and O’Flynn, Linnane ultimately winning that battle with O’Flynn taking a 1st place in the Sheane Cars Scholarship Championship in his first ever race. And that’s how everyone finished up, Hearty delighted to be gifted the top step of the podium but the happiest man on that podium was Hogg, who was grinning from ear to ear and rightly so, it’s not every day a driver comes from the back of the grid to take a 2nd place.

Race 2 of the day came about quickly and with all the cars repaired from the earlier antics at turn 1 we were ready to go again. O’Connor lined up on Pole again with Hearty right beside him; the second row looked a little different with Former Fiat Champion Richard Kearney and Multiple Champion Sheane ready to pounce. The lights went out and like a bullet out of a gun Kearney got the Jump on everyone and was first into turn 1 unchallenged, O’Connor held off Hearty’s pressure and Sheane maintained 4th place. Last place grid starter Hogg was already slicing his way through the midfield pack and charging towards the front of the grid again. At the Front Kearney was beginning to feel the pressure from O’Connor and Hearty as his slight gap was reduced in every corner, Sheane, Allen, McLoughlin and Parks where all squabbling for 4th place with not a hairs breath between them. John Linnane and Gary Corcoran where putting their 2014 woes behind them in style and were having a tremendous battle between them. Chris McCabe and Ex-Fiesta Driver Daniel Clarkin had the lightest of comings together as Clarkin took avoiding action from McCabe which resulted in a broken track-rod for him which seen the CityJet backed car removed from the rest of the day’s action. Kearney eventually made a mistake running wide at Turn 1 which allowed O’Connor through and Hearty was also going to take advantage as he got a better drive out of the turn and got the move made before Turn 4. O’Connor got the head down and set about making a gap from the ever present Hearty who now had been joined by Sheane after dispensing with Kearney. Kearney wasn’t to be counted out yet as he put the pressure on Sheane by sitting on his rear wing for the next few laps. Linnane and Corcoran’s battle was still raging on as Linnane held his own against his Co. Wicklow counterpart, coming into the last lap though, Corcoran prevailed. Now we get into possible the most exciting and yet slowest end to a race many have seen in long long time. As all the cars entered the last lap the fierce battle for 2nd,3rd and 4th raged on but coming into Turn 3 Hearty suffered driveshaft failure and began to slow, allowing Sheane and Kearney through followed by a chasing Robbie Allen who had Hogg hot on his heels. O’Connor rounded the last corner and took his first win of the season and became the second driver from 2 races to take a win, Sheane took a hard fought 2nd from Kearney in 3rd. Just as everyone thought it was over and all the cars had crossed the line, Hearty appeared in the top corner, freewheeling his way towards the line at possible the slowest pace his have ever approached the start finish line during a race. The Chequered flag was still being hung out to guide him home and with that just as the car hit the incline before the line Hearty popped his belts and leaped out of the car and started pushing it. The pit lane, grandstand, paddock, commentators, marshals and officials all erupted into cheers of support for the most successful clubman racer to get his car across the line and cross the line he did! On hand to take the car off him were crews from different teams all happy to lend a hand after his herculean effort. That finish gained him 6 points in championship and moved him 6th to 2nd, all of which mightn’t look like a lot but who knows where those points could come into play at the season decider in September.

And that was it, we had 2 different winners from the opening race and amazingly, neither are leading the championship, Keith Hogg’s epic charges from the back of the grid in both races rewarded him with the top spot going into Rounds 3 & 4 and proves consistency is a good thing! We know it’s a bit early to be talking about championship positions after only 2 races but it’s great to see a new name at the top of the leader board and well deserved also. We now move on to Rounds 3 & 4 of the Auto Care Formula Sheane Championship where it travels North of the border to the Bishopscourt Race Circuit, where, for the first time ever in Formula Sheane the drivers will compete also for the Formula Sheane Northern Irish Championship. The Championship, which was launched at the start of the year, will run at all event’s held in the North of the Country with the only real difference from the All Ireland one being that drop scores don’t count, so it’s an all-out, no hole’s barred battle to be the victor. The Championship will conclude at the end of August at its last trip to Kirkistown for the year and promises to be action packed. Onwards to the next rounds where we hope there will be another 2 different drivers gracing the top step of the podium.

Fancy joining the action?? Get in touch with us, we can offer arrive and drive, lease to buy or even point you in the direction of buying a car. Visit our website www.formulasheane.ie or give the man who builds the cars, David, a call on 0404 67189.

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Formula Sheane featured on Nationwide back in 2003. Andrew Murphy who has been involved for a number of years approached me to take the segment off DVD to make available for all to view and enjoy.

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