Photos: Reinis Babrovskis
Text: Christopher Andrews for www.reinisb.com
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Likewise the same could be said of Kevin O’Connell. In a battle where he was always the underdog, he collected a 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. 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.
The semi-final conjured up the hotly anticipated grudge match of French versus Deane. Lingering scores to settle from the season’s first round meant that this was about more than qualification for the final. Ffrech 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.
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.