Having experienced drifting first hand in the Middle East, I’ve always wanted to see what Europe has to offer. I’ve followed both the IDC and BDC via live streams for the last two seasons, so had a good idea of the gap between Europe and the Middle East when it comes to driving skill. But I still wasn’t quite prepared for what I experienced at IDC Global Warfare 4, Mondello Park in Ireland.
The Irish Drift Championship has been getting attention from all around the world over the past few years. And even more so recently since Irish born and multiple IDC Champion, James Deane’s recent success in Formula D (the supposed pinnacle of the sport).
Global Warfare makes up round three of the IDC season. It is now in its fourth year, and is almost a stand alone round, one that is eagerly awaited and well supported by fans and competitors. So why is it so special?
Well, the Irish are very protective of their 13 year unbeaten streak on home soil. And for the previous three years some of the world’s best internationals such as Ryan Tuerck, Diego Siato and Luke Fink, have tired and fail to beat the Irish, with the latter two ending up in Mondello Park’s savage walls.
Even our local hero Ahmad Daham has braved the trip to Ireland, and came away empty handed failing to qualify for the top 32. Showing just how competitive the Irish can be in their back yard. This year they were aiming to extend the unbeaten streak to 14 years.
So, how does a country with around roughly the same population as Oman have such a competitive scene? Well over the weekend this would all become clearer.
Upon arrival in Dublin I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mondello Park, the home of Irish drifting. When it comes to drifting Yas Marina Circuit has become our most favoured venue in the UAE, with UAQ Motorplex being our staple skid pan yet it sits at the other end of the scale when it comes to facilities. But how would Mondello Park compare?
A track that was first built in 1968 it was full of character and natural greenery. Yes it lacks the vast grandstands of Yas but over the two days, Mondello saw a crowd that would more than match Yas’ dull ‘all show and no go’ F1 crowd. Mondello is a circuit that is full of drifting history, its seen the best the world has to offer and more importantly its seen the growth of the Irish drifting scene to what it is today.
The configuration was an entirely new layout to ensure level playing field among the drivers. A 144+ km/h clutch kick initiation kicked off this technical layout. A layout which included three wall runs, which collected many victims during the three days. It was a balls to the walls layout which started from the very first initiation. There really was no holding back.
The so-called amateurs
Friday was reserved for practice and the track was closed to the media so I spent most it sat at the temporary grandstand. Whilst sat in the stands my first comment to one of the spotters I was sat with was “these boys go in hard” to which I got the reply “wait until you see the pros!”. Then it dawned on me that I had been sat watching the Pro/Ams, many who looked as if they could challenge for a podium in the UAE.
The following day more than 50 entries made up the Pro/Amateur grid. That’s more entries that I’ve have ever seen at an Middle Eastern event over the past two years. And remember this was just the warm up to the main event.
Amongst the top 32 that qualified on the Saturday there were a few stand out drivers, Allen Hines, Conor Shanahan (who had just turned 14) and Tom Murphy looked some of the strongest. But drifting isn’t always straight forward with Allen Hines and Conor Shanahan both dropping their outside wheels on the grass down at the Mobile One turn in their respective battles, meaning they were unable to make the Semi-Finals.
From here on it, it looked a given for Murphy in his minty fresh blue S14, but as the rain came down it turned the Semi-Finals on its head and he eventually bowed out in fourth. Derek Newsome in his newly built S13 did enough to overcome Danny O’Callaghan. The battle for third went to Stuart Gilmour who managed to Tom Murphy off the podium.
The main event took place on the Sunday, with both grandstands and the bank that surrounded half of the circuit full, almost everyone in Ireland had shown up to watch the locals to defend their streak.
Jack Shanan, Tomás Kiely (previous Global Warfare winner), Dywane Mckeveer (current IDC Champion) were probably favorites to do so since the legend James Deane had decided to step down this season and focus on Formula D.
The internationals arrived in good numbers and they brought along with them high spirits. And the below four didn’t seem to have any issues getting to grip with the layout.
Oilver Evans made the short trip over from England has had great success in this year’s BDC. Having already beaten Jack Shanahan in the BDC this season he was ready and waiting for what the Irish had to throw at him.
Juha Pöytälaakso brought his Westlake sponsored E90 BMW all the way from Finland. Auras Vaskelis looked lit during practice in his E30 BMW which travelled in from Lithuanian. Enver Haskasap choose to use his Silvia over his 350z as it favored the technical layout which he brought all the way from Cyprus. He was another international that looked to threaten the Irish streak.
After putting out the familiar Nigel Colfer (someone we have seen a lot of in the UAE since being given the task of managing the Lunatics By Nature) Evans was the first of the big internationals to fall, after he met Mckeaver in the top 16. Evans who has made a name for himself with his lack of fear when chasing, would this time overstep the mark. Pushing just a little too hard in his chase run, he colided with the current Irish champion off the circuit handing him the win.
Both Pöytälaakso and Vaskalcus met each other in the top 16. During one of the strongest chase runs of the day it was Vaskalcus’s car though that let him down. No one had quite shown as much aggression at the first initiation as Vaskalcus and it was a shame seeing him bow out before a shot at the podium. If his driveshaft hadn’t given up who knows how the afternoon would have panned out.
Haskasap was the only other international to make it into the great 8 where he met McKeaver. It was always going to be a tough call for Haskasap, and McKeaver looked the much stronger chase driver as he moved forward to the Semi-Finals.
17 year old Kiely was not afraid of having the pressure piled on him, and he was set with the daunting task of extending the Irish streak to 14 years. Even at this tender age, Kiely can say he has nearly all the experience he needs. And he made light work of current Finish champion Pöytälaakso progressing to an Irish Semi-Final.
Shanahan and McKeaver were first up in the Semi-Final, the same two drivers who took last years championship to the final round. Once again it was McKeaver who came out on top after an intense battle which saw both drivers go door to door in both runs.
In the other semi final O’Sullivan was no match for Kiely, meaning Kiely and McKeaver would battle it out for that all important crown of Global Warfare 4. All that separated the two was a miss shift from Kiely a mistake which handed the top step of the podium to McKeaver.
In the battle for third Shanahan was too strong for O’Sullivan, taking third and completing the podium. Its worth mentioning that the three successful drivers are not even old enough to legally buy a pint of Guinness in the UAE.
Outside of the action there were more than a few cars that caught my eye in the car parks. This S13 sat perfectly on a set of two piece Work Emotion CRs. Possible the best road legal Silvia Ive seen to date.
Undoubtedly the majority of the interesting cars were Japanese, but there were a few well stanced VAGs which reminded me of the scene I grew up around.
What makes the Irish so successful?
After the weekends results it would be easy to put it down to age, and getting behind the wheel as early as possible. But after spending three days at Mondello Park it became clear that its something much deeper. In this part of the world for many drifting is a way of life, a passion that does not stop in the off season. And a championship which the preparation for the following year begins the day after Jap Fest, the final round in the IDC calendar.
In Ireland, there doesn’t seem to be an off season. With the organizers of the IDC and Mondello Park holding regular practice days throughout the year. Something that we lack.
Building and running such a successful series requires a lot of hard work, organisation and time. To get the IDC where it is today has taken a good few years and a solid team that has been working tirelessly in the background. And from my short dealings with them, they really do put our standards to shame. So surely some of this has to rub off on the drivers?
The IADC (the Irish Amateur Drift Championship) also falls under the IDC management and is ran in the off season and acts as a feeder to the main series.
Another breath of fresh air is that not all of the competitors get caught up in high horsepower builds, something which is awash within the Middle East. Take Charlie Geary in his low budget and power BMW estate. He managed to power his sub 300HP (on road tires) into the top 8 taking down a Formula D driver in the process. Or David Hobbs and his 180HP AE86 which still made its way into the top 32. Proof that power isn’t always everything.
My time in Ireland wouldn’t have been had I not been accommodated by these guys. A tight group of friends, dedicated to drifting but not short of a bit of banter.
Every evening as the sunset behind Mondello’s start finish straight the stories would come out and the drinks would flow throughout the paddock, and none more so than at the Dealtwidth tent. A place which over the three days I spent more time in than my hotel room.
Come morning though it was a very different story, with every member of the team taking up their role for the day.
Brian Egan their Pro driver was denied a sure shot at the podium when his tie rod end broke during his battle in the top 16. I missed the drama which followed (I was stuck in the infield), with no spare tire rod available and the 5 minute rule called the team, with the help of John Shanahan (Jack’s father), were able to re-weld it within the allotted 5 minutes.
Brian faced an uphill battle though, already losing the first run 10-0, but he still drove to the start finish line with an alignment which Steve Wonder with the correct tools, could have eyeballed better. This didn’t stop him from putting down an almost flawless run in his Skyline but it was not enough to advance to the great 8. The podium could have looked very different if it wasn’t for this as Brian brought the best chasing game to the table.
On Saturday it was Pro/Am driver Danny Waldron in his AE86 who narrowly missed out on a place in the top 8. After a tight battle it was Allen Hines who took a marginal victory.
The early exits didn’t dampen spirits though which were carried through to a late night in Coppers, which included a bit of rickshaw racing that left me literally scarred for life!
Whilst sat at Dublin airport trying to get my head around a very late night in Dublin, I was left thinking what could we learn from the Irish?
Regular practice days would be a start. Then a venue which is willing to invest in the long run before it reaps the benefits. Instead of one which thinks about the short term with its greedy track rental fees. Also a regular and well organised championship wouldn’t go a miss.
Though things could already be on the up with talks of a new championship on the horizon. One which rumor has it, may have a slight Irish influence.