Wednesday, 23 June 2021

Mr Tin Top or Mr Single Seater?

Richard with his newly lived car ahead of the opening round of the 2021 Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Many race drivers are often pigeon holed for being a 'Single Seater' or 'Tin Top' drivers. They are usually judged on their performances in the category they have had most success, even if they have had tried both forms. Therefore they usually are not regarded as an all rounder. 

This is far from the case. Going back in time from the 1950's to the 1970's many Grand Prix drivers raced in F1, sportscars, touring cars or even the odd rally when time allowed it. Of course those times are very different than today and F1 and other top level motorsports are a world away from club racing that most of us only truly know the ins and outs of. That said the principal is the same. If a driver is an all rounder it means that they could be quick in any type of car. 

Here in Ireland in recent years Barry Rabbitt switched from years of Uno, Punto and ITCC racing to single seater and winning the Leinster Trophy twice in doing so. Kevin O'Hara is as quick in a Formula Ford as he is in a sportscar. 

Richard with his newly lived car ahead of the opening round of the 2021 Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Another to follow in these similar steps in Carlow man Richard Kearney. The Leighlinbridge native has put in a long stint on the tracks of Ireland and even across the water at times. Originally known for being a 'Tin Top' man he has now earned the same reputation as a 'Single Seater' man after taking the Formula Sheane championship in 2019 ( No Championship in 2020 due to Covid-19). 

As many youngsters first taste of racing comes by start out in karting it wasn't the case for Richard. " I first got into motorsport really through following my dad Dick around as a toddler when he raced hotrods, I never really did any karting and it wasn't until I came of age I began racing saloon cars in Mondello Park." 

Fast forward twenty years and Richard is still as keen on the sport today as he was when as young seventeen year old, who set out in his Fiat Uno to see if he could get good at this racing lark. Good he did get as the move into the MKI Fiat Punto class brought him his first championship glory. He came close to matching that in the new Abarth class in 2005 but the highest he got in the championship was third. No mean feat as competition was high in that class. Richard also got several Phoenix Park wins to his name where some would swap a title for the prestige of a park win.

Richard with his newly lived car ahead of the opening round of the 2021 Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

" I went from Uno's then to Punto's and Abarth's but took a break for a four or five years before coming back to racing in the Formula Sheane class. I wanted a new challenge and that is why I really went for the single seater class." The transition from closed wheel to open might sound appealing but not as easy as going from open to closed wheel as Richard found out. " I found it difficult at the beginning but I just stuck at it and practiced and tested, but there were many points where I thought did I do the right thing? It worked out in the end but I got there quicker than I thought and what others thought too." 

Richard leads the field into turn one during the Punto race at the 2012 Phoenix Park Motor Races. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Richard on his way to winning the Punto race at the 2012 Phoenix Park Motor Races. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Richard on his way to winning the Punto race at the 2012 Phoenix Park Motor Races. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Why the go for the Sheane class? " I tried a wide range of cars but for me the best bang for your buck was the Formula Sheane class and they are not too expensive to run and I enjoy them." Retired for now class stalwart Brian Hearty also helped Richard in his thinking of staying with the Formula Sheane class as many a battle on track converted into help and advice off it. " Brian Hearty couldn't have been more supportive to me from the moment I went into the class until he finished up in it. A serious competitor on track and take your life in your hands when battling with him but off track you couldn't find anyone that could help you more." 

Richard leading Brian Hearty in one of their many battles on track. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Now that Richard is the current champion and the one who they all want to beat, that in itself sure is motivation to go for the title again but who does he think will the opposition come from? " Oh there are plenty of lads out there still and as quick. Young Philip Sheane is very quick and will be a thorn. Paul McLoughlin, Derek Roddy are also there, any of the top five really, its very close out there." 

Richard on his way to taking pole position for the opening round of the 2021 Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

The Covid pandemic has hit racing hard again this year with a later start than the normal month of March when racing usually begins with. The launch of the new ICCR series has it added to the race day for the competitor? "You don't realise how much you miss it when you can't do it. Just to be able to go and do a practice session is great to settle you down. The new ICCR seems to have given racing the shot it needed and the changes made are heading in the right way and hopefully when spectators come back they come in large numbers." Richard also plans to do a few races in his Legend this year so the ties to 'Tin Tops' hasn't completely gone. 

Richard in action while in the lead which he was to loose due a faulty rose joint during the opening race of the 2021 season. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Like all competitors the racing is only part of the weekend and never fully tells the whole story of how things went overall on each event. While down in the program to compete in Mondello one weekend, there was no sign of Richard or any of his crew at the track. While the rest of his competition were busy testing, qualifying and fettling theirs chariots before race time approached poor Richard and his band of merry men were stuck in their truck at the infamous narrow bridge that crosses the River Liffey coming into Carragh village. When freed and at the track they found that qualifying had gone by but they had a chance still of salvaging something from the weekend by at least starting from the back of the grid. Their efforts didn't go in vain as Richard bagged a couple of podiums that weekend which at least softened the blow to repairing the damage to the truck. 

So will 2020 bring more of the same as 2019 did? " I hope so it will be hard but I will be trying and I'll see after the opening weekend goes as I'll know where I am then." The opening round brought a mixed bag for the Carlow man who was quickest in qualifying but bad luck and a bad front rose joint dropped him from the lead to third in race one and a bad start in race two lost him the chance to get a win but a second place to add to his third in the opening race have gave him a good haul of points from the first two rounds of the Formula Sheane championship.


Monday, 21 June 2021

Philip Sheane Wins on debut race weekend in Formula Sheane

Philip Sheane holds up his trophy after winning round two of the Formula Sheane Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

After the drama of the opening round of the Formula Sheane Championship onlookers wondered would they get more of the same in round two. Well they certainly did and not only that a debut win for newcomer to the class Philip Sheane. Philip who comes from Balinroe just outside Wicklow Town, graduated from the Formula Vee Championship  last season where he showed impressive pace and a race victory in his first year in single seater racing. 

Richard Kearney in action during qualifying on his way to pole position. Photo: Barry Cregg. 

His cousin David started both the Formula Vee and Formula Sheane series in the 1970's and the latter at the start of the new millennium. His recent illness has kept him away from the paddock in recent times but thankfully he is on the mend and is keen to get back to the tracks to see how his younger cousin is doing. 

Philip Sheane leads, Paul McLoughlin and Richard Kearney during round two of the Formula Sheane Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Current champion Richard Kearney lined up on pole position with Philip alongside in second. Showing strong pace in round one only for his rear shock problem it would be foolish to rule his out of contention for a result in round two. As the lights went out it was Sheane who got into the lead the field out of turn one. Kearney dropped to third place behind Paul McLoughlin after making a poor start. Now all eyes were on Sheane to see if he could handle the pressure from his more experienced competitors. 

Philip Sheane leads Paul McLoughlin on his way to winning round two of the Formula Sheane Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

It wasn't for the faint hearted in the opening laps as Sheane defended for his life in the tight infield section of the Mondello Park circuit. It was interesting to see where each of the front three gained and lost time to each other. Sheane was quickest between the final corner and turn three but then lost it again as McLoughlin gained time from there to exit of the Esses.

Paul McLoughlin leads Richard Kearney and Mark Keenan during round two of the Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Kearney had no option to bide his time as there was just no way through. However after several laps Sheane got into a rhythm and began to pull away from the second and third placed men as they began to battle between themselves. By lap eleven Kearney had got by McLoughlin and began to chase after Sheane setting fastest time on lap sixteen with a 58.927 second lap.

Philip Sheane on his way to his first victory in Formula Sheane during round two. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Garrett McKenna on his way to taking the Scholarship Class at round two. Photo: Barry Cregg.

It was to no avail as the laps ran out for him to apply any real pressure. If he had it may not have had any effect as Sheane drove superbly and took his maiden win in the series and proved that he is already a title contender for this year.


National Championship

1st Philip Sheane

2nd Richard Kearney

3rd Paul McLoughlin

Scholarship Class

1st Gareth McKenna

2nd Richie Adams

3rd Chris Dunne

Monday, 14 June 2021

Polley Pockets First Win Of 2021 - Round 2 Of The Formula Vee Championship

Dan Polley hold up his trophy after winning round two of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

As the drivers lined up on the grid for the second round of the Formula Vee Championship, they had already now got the nerves of the opening race of the year behind them and set out to put right any wrongs occurred in round one. Mark Reade put his Leastone on pole with Dan Polley in his Sheane joining him on the front row. The ever improving Tim Murray out qualified current champion Anthony Cross To start third with Cross fourth. There was no concern about the weather although slightly cloudy it was warm and dry. 

Mark Reade put his Leastone on Pole for round two of the Formual Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg. 

Polley had to make his front row position count and use it to get into the lead if he had any hopes to take a win. A win he needed as a DNF in round one left him already behind in points to his rivals. First was getting to turn one first, which he did with a great start off the line jumping ahead of Reade well before turn one. Reade immediately on the defence after his start had to keep Anthony Cross who got ahead of Tim Murray with Jack Byrne behind. 

Dan Polley, Sheane, leads Mark Reade, Leastone, and Anthony Cross, Sheane, into turn one during round two of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg. 

Now with a clear road ahead of him Polley put the head down and began to put in the times his fastest of the race coming on lap two with a 1.02.441. This gave him a gap to Reade and Cross as they battle each other. By lap six the gaps between the top four began to open up. That said Byrne had began to make inroads to Cross ahead of him and was right on his tail by lap 8. Within a couple of laps it was now a twelve wheeler for second place with Tim Murray closing in also in fifth place. All this played into the hands of race leader Polley who just had to keep his concentration and reel off the laps. 

Mark Reade, Leastone, defends from  Anthony Cross, Sheane, going into turn one during round two of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg. 

Then the move of the race came from Jack Byrne as he made a move around the outside of both Cross and Reade at the final corner to leap from fourth to second. The chance to catch Polley was now gone for Byrne who had to now keep Cross, Reade, Murray and now Jordan Kelly behind as second place was anyone of the five car group. 

Jack Byrne, Sheane, defends from  Anthony Cross, Sheane, going into turn one during round two of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg. 

Tim Murray Sheane, defends from  Jack Byrne, Sheane, going into turn one during round two of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg. 

By now the back markers were being caught and it came into play as Cross went down the inside of Byrne into the final corner. Byrne got hit by one of the tail enders which damaged his steering dropping him to 8th place. This allowed Reade into second as Cross ran wide but Cross had better straight line speed and retook him down the main straight two laps later. Reade now had to try and keep Kelly at bay who lost his nosecone in his efforts in trying to get by Reade, but it was to no avail as he had to settle for third. Still a great result for his 'B' Championship as he took home another maximum score as in round one.

Dan Polley,Sheane, on his way to winning round two of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

While the battles went on behind Polley kept his cool to have a commanding drive and take his first win of the year and put himself back in the points for the championship.

Owen Kelly,Sheane, leads brother Jordan, Sheane, on his way to taking first place in the Rookie Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg

Results: Formula Vee Championship

1st Dan Polley

2nd Anthony Cross

3rd Mark Reade

VW Spares 'B' Championship

1st Mark Reade

2nd Jordan Kelly

3rd Tim Murray Rookie Championship

1st Owen Kelly

2nd Michael O'Callaghan

3rd Mark Sheppard 


Sunday, 13 June 2021

Paul O'Loughlin win opening round of the Formula Sheane Championship 2021

Paul O'Loughlin on his way to taking an unexpected Formula Sheane championship round one win at Mondello Park. Photo: Barry Cregg,

Mondello Park in county Kildare was the host for the opening round of the new Formula Sheane championship season. Richard Kearney who won the title last year has to be favourite again for this year but the Carlow man has stiff opposition in the form of Paul O'Loughlin and Formula Vee graduate Philip Sheane. It is the 20th year of Formula Sheane and like all classes has suffered in numbers in recent years but a solid grid of ten cars turned out for the opening round and if qualifying was anything to go by it is going to be close as the top four were covered by just over a second. 

Richard Kearney got pole position but lost the lead with a lap to go when his rose joint failed. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Richard Kearney started where he left off last year by taking first blood by claiming pole position but by only 0.167 of a second. A front row position is important at Mondello as the circuit is hard to overtake on. Sadly for Derek Roddy after a good performance in qualifying engine problems prevented the Louth man for taking his spot of the grid. It would not get better for the Climote backed man for round two as his clutch gave way in pitlane ahead of race two. Lets hope that is his bad luck done with for the year and by the next round he will be back out. 

Philip Sheane leads Paul O'Loughlin during the opening round of the Formula Sheane championship and looked set to get a podium until mechanical problems put him out. Photo: Barry Cregg.

As the light went out it was Kearney who lead into turn one with Sheane behind and McLoughlin in third and Gerrett McKenna in fourth. Kearney got the head down and began to open up a gap over the second and third placed men. All drivers want to get a good finish in the opening round of a season to settle themselves and all was going to plan for Kearney in the lead. Behind however the great debut for Sheane was already hitting trouble three laps into the race when his left rear shock broke. Despite this he still managed to keep Paul O'Loughlin at bay with some hairy oversteering moments especially out of turn two. This all played to the advantage of Kearney who extended his lead further. 

Richard Kearney in action during the opening round of the Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Then as Sheane entered turn two he took a bit more inside curb which put him wide on the exit as the rear shock completely gave way ending his great drive in his debut race. O'Loughlin did well not to run into the back of Sheane when his shock gave way. Even though he got by it was too late to catch Kearney although he did try and put in the fastest lap of the race in doing so. All looked like that was it in terms of results as the gaps between first second and third were to big to change. 

Paul O'Loughlin on his way to victory in the opening Formula Sheane round of 2021. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Unexpectedly though while braking for turn one the bottom rose joint on Kearney's gave way with a lap to go! Now all he could do was try and bring it home and save as much points as he could, if he could. Lady luck did shine on him as although O'Loughlin and Mark Keenan got by he had enough of a gap over Richie Adams to hold on to third place. 

So the first round went in dramatic fashion to Paul O'Loughlin but a win is a win and you take them whatever way you can as O'Loughlin agreed after the race." Luck is sometimes with you sometimes its not. Philip had problems with his rear shock at the start and I was afraid of getting caught up in an accident if something went wrong, but I'm happy to get the win for my friend Benny Taglenti who passed away recently". 

Richie Adams on his way to victory in the Scholarship class during th eopening round of the Formula Sheane championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Third place man Kearney was not so happy " I could'nt believe it I had the race in the bag and wasn't pushing just wanted to bring the car home and get the win and maximum points. I'm just sick but at the same time I still got third so it wasn't a total disaster."  

Mark Keenan on his way to second place in the opening round of the Formula Vee championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

Philip Sheane was left to ponder what could have been. " I new something was wrong at the rear from lap three on and then I tried to manage it but it finally broke exiting turn two." 


National Championship

1st Paul McLoughlin

2nd Mark Keenan

3rd Richard Kearney

Scholarship Class

1st Richie Adams

2nd Gareth McKenna

3rd Chris Dunne

Anthony Cross wins opening Round of the 2021 Formula Vee Championship

Anthony Cross hold up his winning trophy after victory in the first round of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg

When the paddock packed up for the final time after the Leinster Trophy race meeting in Mondello Park last October, little did anyone think that a wheel wouldn't be turned in anger for another eight months. Even though the season has actually started six weeks earlier than last year, the long winter and even longer lockdowns put in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, tried all competitors patience to the very limit this time round. 

Thankfully the country as a whole is in a better position this year with vaccines been rolled out each day, which was only a mere hope this time twelve months ago. Every cloud has a silver lining though and the Formula Vee paddock had been very busy over the long lay off. Renewed sponsorships, new faces, new liveries and bigger grids have come to the fore once again thanks to the hard work of the Formula Vee committee. Just to add to the party the summer weather finally arrived for the opening round which were held at Mondello Park in Co. Kildare. 

Dan Polley, Sheane, on his way to pole position in qualifying for the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg

 As usual for the tight confined nature of Mondello meant qualifying was crucial if a chance at victory was to had. Reigning champion Anthony Cross was again the favorite going into the new season but he knew he had a big target on his back. 

"It's not going to be easy for sure this year as there is quite a few guys capable of winning but I'll be trying my best to be home first again although we are lucky to be here at all after an off in practice after a trailing arm broke on the main straight which caused the brakes to fail sending me into the gravel at turn one!"

Twentysix cars lined up in pitlane for qualifying, a testament to the class promotion in getting such high numbers out for round one of the championship, eight of which never raced at all before. As always in was a close run affair with the first eight cars cover by less than a second. It was Dan Polley who got pole position by 0.010 of a second ahead of Mark Reade with Tim Murray and Anthony Cross third and fourth. Drama began even before car made it to the grid as Eamon Thornton's car caught fire in paddock assembly but thankfully nobody was hurt and the car will live to see another day.

As the lights went out it was Mark Reade who got the best start holding off Dan Polley and taking the lead into turn one. Thankfully all came through unscathed and as the field went out in the country for the first time it was Mark Reade, Dan Polley, Tim Murray, Anthony Cross and Jack Byrne all nose to tail. Murray got out of shape exiting the final turn which nearly ended with Byrne and Cross coming together but luckily both kept their car in a straight line.

Mark Reade, Leastone, leads Dan Polley, Sheane, Anthony Cross, Sheane, and Jack Byrne, Sheane, during the first round of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg

The safety car was brought out on lap three to clear cars from the final turn which bunched the whole field together again. Reade was clever however on the restart and got a good run up to the final corner as the safety car peeled off and gave himself the chance to hold his lead. He absorbed the pressure put on by Polley, Cross and Byrne and held firm. In his efforts to get by Reade, Polley let Cross go round his outside at turn one which then left himself on the outside for turn two and thus both Cross and Byrne got through. 

Polley briefly got back past Byrne at turn two on the following lap but slipped back to Tim Murray and going into turn three both collided and Polley ended up in the gravel and out of the race. A disaster for the pole sitter. Murray got going again but had to pull off shortly afterwards with mechanical trouble. At the end of this eventful lap Cross made his move down Reade's inside at the final corner to take the lead. Byrne now also closed up in third aiming for second at turn one and pulled off a great move around the outside to move up to second place. 

Mark Reade, Leastone, leads Anthony Cross, Sheane, Jack Byrne, Sheane, and Tim Murray Sheane, during the first round of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg

Gavin Buckley was also now up to fourth and right in the mix to get a podium spot. Byrne tried as hard as ever to get by Cross renewing their battle from last year and providing excellent racing for the onlookers. To add to this already exciting race Donal Downey had a lockup into the Esses and took to the gravel trap bringing out the yellow flags. This then meant the leaders could not pass in that area or anywhere until the next green flag. While coming upon a back marker on the exit of the Esses, Cross hesitated slightly with the back marker as there no flag out where a green one should been, causing Byrne to hit him and Reade to run wide and allow Buckley up to third. Try as he might on the final lap Reade ran out of time to get his podium spot back. Cross yet again took the chequered flag with Byrne right behind in second. 

Anthony Cross, Sheane, leads Jack Byrne, Sheane, Mark Reade, Leastone, and Gavin Buckley, Sheane, during the first round of the Formula Vee Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg

The current champion took another win but it was far from straight forward which he agreed with afterwards 

" I'm happy with that but I was lucky also as after Jack hit me, I felt the engine move going down the straight and it was only when I got into Parc Ferme I saw the gearbox casing had broke and also an engine mount." 

Owen Kelly, Sheane, took first place in the rookie Championship. Photo: Barry Cregg.

It was not all bad news for Reade though as he claim maximum points in the VW Spares 'B' Championship. Another great drive came from Owen Kelly, the Donegal man finishing fifth overall and taking maximum  points in the Rookie championship. 

Results: National Championship

1st Anthony Cross

2nd Jack Byrne

3rd Gavin Buckley

VW Spares 'B' Championship

1st Mark Reade

2nd Jordan Kelly

3rd Rob Fleming 'Rookie' Championship

1st Owen Kelly

2nd Michael O'Callaghan

3rd Mark Sheppard

Friday, 11 June 2021

2021 Formula Vee Championship is GO!!!

Enjoy this season preview video ahead of the 2021 Formula Vee Championship which gets underway this weekend at Mondello Park. 

Review the weekends races in the coming days with race reports and images from both races.