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Sweeney Racing - Race Team News

2003 Race Reports here
2002 Race Reports here

2004 US National Formula Vee Championship

Sep 19-26 - 2004 SCCA Runoffs

A little less than a week later we were back in Ohio for the big race. The runoffs are so much fun on many fronts – you get to challenge yourself on a very technical track, you get to spend a week at a race track and you get to hang out with other folks who understand your addiction!

On Sunday the focus was on tidying up the engine installation and prepping the new nose that I carried out with me from California – many strange looks in the airport! Monday morning was first practice and things were looking good with Brian McCarthy (engine builder and CRB member) crewing for the session. After scrubbing the tires we came in and Brian took tyre measurements. First flying lap back out Ian was confident enough to take turn 1 flat…..the car didn’t stick and ian took a roller coaster ride sideways across the track at about 70mph. The car was fine except for the nose….of course! The next day we opened the “body shop” to do a little glass work. We’re not great at glass work so the body shop stayed open most of the week! The times were fine and about what we expected for tire scrubbing.

Tuesday was first qualifying and we had a good session but no drafts. Drove ok but felt there was more time in the car. Interestingly our time equaled our qualifying time for the year before….looking good! With a draft and driving a little smoother we’ll be right on the money

Wednesday was supposed to be the best session as it was later in the day and the track and air would be cooler. Ian got some reasonable drafts, drove quite smoothly and felt his times should be good. They weren’t! Studying the in car video it was becoming apparent we couldn’t use the draft – brakes rubbing? Not getting full throttle? Motor? Tires?

For Thursday we changed quite a few things in the hope of finding the answer. No luck however as we could see others were noticeably quicker getting out of the corners even with Ian in their draft. 35th on the grid! We won the last race we were in before coming back east….We were pretty despondent on Thursday night and went to the hotel to watch the video again.

A good night’s sleep led us to the secret of motor racing….its all about hard work! So we got stuck in again, and started another motor change (thanks Ronnie!). We also went through the car and made some minor body changes to decrease the drag. All of this took most of Friday and Saturday. Saturday night we went out for a nice dinner, got to bed early and convinced ourselves as best we could that things would be better.

Practice on Sunday morning went well and Ian could tell straight off the bat that he had the power he needed. Looking good for the race….

We lined up for the race and everything was looking good. A nice draft down the straight and Ian popped up a couple of places. Turn 7 and a couple of people went off and Ian squeezed through and kept his momentum to pick up another couple of spots. No change through the back section and onto the start finish straight and there’s a full course yellow and Gavin on the radio letting Ian know somebody’s off at turn 7 and that we’re up to 27th.

Four laps behind the pace car and the race goes green again. Ian starts to get into a rhythm again and pops off a couple more places. 7 laps of the race complete (3 under green) and we’re already up to 24th but something doesn’t feel right. Initially it felt like the throttle return spring had fallen off and then as Ian went through turn 1 flat easily we knew there was a problem. Cars began to zoom by and we knew it was over. With enough throttle to get back to the pits Ian rolled back to end our 04 runoffs.

We worked so hard all week for nothing – it’s the runoffs everybody warned us about. After a couple of days thinking, its just made us more determined and if we can pay off all the bills we’ll be at phoenix in January. We’re going to make some significant changes in an attempt to stay at the front, not just make fleeting appearances.

Thanks to all our sponsors that make this thing happen - Crusader Racecars, American Racer Tires, Dogbrain Studios, SIStech and Tracey Commercials. As mentioned earlier one of the good things guaranteed with the runoffs is that you'll meet like minded racers and this year was no exception - we managed to catch up with legends of vee racing like Bill and Lisa Noble, Jim Kearney, Andres Serrano and many others.

Sep 10-12 - Double Regional at Mid Ohio

Thanks to Stan and friends the car was ready and waiting for us when we arrived at the track on Saturday morning. I should mention that at about 1am Saturday morning on the way to the hotel the road we wanted to take was closed and we had to take a 15mile roundtrip. At about 2am when we finally arrived we were met by 4 fire engines preparing to put out a fire in our hotel!! They figured out there was no fire and we finally got to bed at 3am and up at 7! This was pretty much how our runoffs attempt continued for the month of September

Continuing in the same vane, qualifying was a cluster f**k with 60 formula cars on track. We got a total of 4 laps, one of which wasn’t an out or in lap. The result was that we started 24th. Not the end of the world as it’s always good to practice dealing with traffic. We got a good start (See the video) and were scything through the field just behind ‘91 runoffs winner Skip Streets. Heading into turn 1 for the first time at full speed we had a misunderstanding with a slower vee and we attempted to put two vees in the apex usually occupied by just one – check the video for the result! After loosing all the spaces Ian got going again, regained the spots and got back into the groove. A couple of laps later more bad luck appeared in the form of a broken shifter! Ian managed to get the car into gear and tootle back to the pits…..end of day 1.

Because of the way our flights worked out we knew we wouldn’t be able to actually do the race – only qualify. The good news was that the car kept going; the not so good news was that the times weren’t good. We did manage to get the loaner motor out of the car and the race motor in before we left which was a bonus.

On the plus side it was nice to meet some folks in person; Dion, Butch, Bill and Barbara amongst others!

Aug 1st - Regional at Laguna Seca

Traditionally the SF Region's regional races are highly competitive and we decided to take the opportunity to get some track and competition time prior to the runoffs. Qualifying was held in greasy conditions early on Saturday morning. Not being a stranger to these conditions Ian continuously bettered his time to clock a time good enough for 2nd on the grid behind Colin Cross (running Hoosier non-spec tire).

A slickly run morning schedule by the SF region actually caught us out and the other cars were on track in the midst of their warm up lap before we got to pre-grid. Not to worry, this will make it more interesting! Catching up to the back of the grid in time for the start was not an issue and fellow national drivers Colin Cross and Marj Lundberg were planning on the same scyth through the pack.

July 31st - National at Laguna Seca

RainWith support from American Racer (aka McCreary Tire) Sweeney Racing arrived at Laguna with high hopes. MCCreary had made available a new National Tire which promised to provide improved performance and offer a better chance against the Hoosier and Goodyear National rubber.

The first session went off perfectly and Ian enjoyed getting back to one of the best tracks in the country. With tires scrubbed hopes were high for qualifying. IT started well with Ian running comfortably with Colin and Skip. As teh sessions progressed and times were coming down. AT turn 3 BRian McCarthy, shaking out the bugs of his new car, spun causing the group to break up. Losing the tow Ian had to settle for 3rd place for the starting Grid.

The race was quite a boring affair for spectators but a little dangerous for drivers as the FVs were on the track with the SPec Racer Fords - close wheel sportsracer approx 600lbs heavier than a vee. Despite a drivers meeting with both groups there were some incidents and most were happy to finish the race unscathed. We wouldnt have run if we didnt need the finish. An over-eager move by Quinn Posner broke himself and Ian off the lead pack early and despite their best efforts it wasnt possible to catch up. Late in the race a safety car period bunched up the field only for the race to black-flagged and Ian finished 5th. Again not a prefect result but the chance to try the new compounds and our new radios for the first time was useful.

June 12th - National at Portland International Raceway

RainThe drive from San Francisco to Portland is about 12 hours non stop with the trailer. Due to some other commitments Sweeney Racing left San Francisco at 7pm on Thursday evening. Mnay hours of driving and a couple of hours of sleep had us arriving at Portland 10am on Friday morning. At 11am we were on track!

The first session was damp and the track was extremely greasy - not the best way to learn a track for the first time! Ian settled into the track pretty quickly and was pleased with the rhythm he built up on this fast track. Qualifying was a little drier and with very few laps on the track, Ian was very happy with a 4th place.

The Office!The race on Saturday morning was set to run in the morning with the Formula Continentals and Mazda's. As soon as the flag was waved a train of vees including Brian McCarthy, Marj Lundberg, Quinn and Bob Posner drafted around the fast Portland Circuit. Ian struggled a little with grip as his tires were from the March THunderhill Double National! Sticking at the back of the draft he hung comfortably. Laury Lundberg slowly caught the train and joined at the back. Laury drafted passed Ian on the main straight. Unknown to the train of vees a Formula Mazda had spun in the Festival Chicane. THis resulted with cars dodging left and right. Unfortunately for Ian he was unsighted and slammed straight into the stricken Formula Mazda. That was the end of the run although he did get running again to at least finish, albeit a lap down. NOt exactly the result we were looking for at least we registered another finish to get us qualified for the Runoffs.

March 20-21st - Double National at Thunderhill

Bench RacingFor March, the weather was suprisingly hot for this double header. We had hoped to test on the Firday morning but due to a busy week we didnt get the car fully prepared before we got to the track. We spent the morning tidying up the car, getting a Tech Annual and trying to locate our missing tires! At one stage it looked like we would be racing on the tires from the Runoffs last year! First practice went off ok and it was good to be on the track again for the first time since November of last year. After the practice session we went through the car again and made some minor adjustments. The weatehr stayed warm enough that we were able to sleep outside the trailer that night.

Mike Bagnell in actionSaturday was more of the same weather with lashings of sun cream for all Sweeney Racing members on the freckly irish skin!A draft is absolutely critical for a good qualifying time at Thunderhill. Unfortunately with all the traffic Blake and Ian were not successful in putting together a decent lap. Ian languished back in 9th and Blake in 7th...not a great start to the year. Some more changes to the car for the race inspired some confidence and Ian made a flyer of a start to get up to 5th by turn 2. Pretty soon it became clear that the Hoosier and Goodyear runners had an advantage in the hot weather with their extra grip. Ian battled with Mark Edwards a little back from 3rd and 4th placed Marjorie Lundberg and Dennis Andrade. Mark and Ian slowly reeled Dennis in and at about hte halfway mark Marj had engine problems which allowed Ian to pass. Heading in to the last couple of laps Ian was battling with Mark for 3rd place when 2nd place Skip Streets had to drop out with mechanical probs. All of a sudden we were in with a chance for 2nd place.....having started 9th! It wasnt to be however when the lead FFords lapped Ian and Mark allowing Mark to draft passed Ian at the line on what should have been the penultimate lap. Still 3rd wasnt too bad and we were the 1st Northern Pacific driver.

Bench RacingQualifying for race 2 didnt go much better with Ian and Blake having a get together with a Ford and Blake suffering from a bad case of LTFT (less than full throttle!). This time Ian qualified 7th and Blake 9th. Ian had another good start moving up a place and tagging onto the back of the 6 car lead pack. Pacing himself a little better this race Ian moved through the pack over the course of the race to the point that he was in 4th with 2 to go. Colin Cross has made a break and Ian was battling with Skip, Mark and Dennis for 2nd. With 1 to go Marks engine lost power and allowed Skip a bit of breathing room before Ian could get by Mark. Dennis got a good run on Ian then and passed him for second going into turn 10. Knowing he could bide his time and draft passed Dennis on the start finish line Ian was content to follow into the last corner. Unfrotunately a slower Ford locked up in front of Dennis necessitating Ian to check up just enough for Dennis to break the tow. And thats how it finished Colin, Skip, Dennis and then Ian.

Next race is the Double National in Buttonwillow at the end of April. We are considering some major changes to our package for the next race to give us the extra couple of tenths we need to win.....stay tuned!

2003 US National Formula Vee Championship

Oct 7-9th - Western State Shoutout/40th Anniversary Vee Race

As expected the weather was pretty bad when we arrived at Thunderhill. We set up our camp and did a little work on the car in the trailer out of the wet an cold. Friday morning dawned wet and cold again and we mounted the wets for the first session. It went off with no major mis-hap and it felt good to be back at one of our favorite tracks. First qualifying session was again very wet and exciting with 35+ cars on the track and with some highly acclaimed drivers to boot. All went well in the session and we managed to get a couple of relatively clear laps to take provisional pole by half a second from returning pilot Skip Streets.

The last qualifying session was held on Saturday morning and although the track was damp it wasnt raining. Taking Blake's advice we decided to run slicks. With everyone else running wets or intermediates it was risky but we reasoned a dry line would quickly develop leaving us on the right tires. Our gamble almost paid off! with 10 minutes left in the session a dry line was emerging. At the same time I was running out of petrol and someone went off to cause a black flag. The black flag meant no one got the opportunity to go out again and we dropped back to third on the inside of the second row (Brent Milner took pole).

After qualifying we received another downpour necessitating a switch back to full wets for the race. The start went off ok with the Crusader holding place through turn 1. Brent Milner had a lurid spin in turn 2 which meant Ian had to back off to find a way through. Skip Streets and Blake had made lightening starts and were heading off into the sunset (it was actually a monsoon!). With 3 laps down Ian caught and passed Blake for second place. Meanwhile Skip had laid down some lightening laps and had a 10 second lead. The lead went down to about 5 seconds before Ian caught traffic and thats the way it stayed for the rest of the race. The second place finish gave us 2 points to Skip's 1 point (the lowest points being the winner overall).

At the Vee dinner on Saturday everone expressed the wish for a dry race and thats what we got on Sunday. Although it was still slightly damp the majority of the field went for slicks. when the green flag dropped it was a straight out drag between Chip and Ian with Ian edging into the lead before turn 2. Putting his head down Ian built up a comfortable lead over the next few laps. As the laps went by Ian encountered traffic which he dealt with relatively easlily. Chasing behind were Blake and Brent who were eager to take away the win. With about 4 laps to go Ian encountered a very slow backmarker entering the almost flat out turn 1. Ian got completely baulked which allowed Blake and Brent to catch him. Brent took the lead with Ian slotting in behind him. For the next few laps the lead swapped many times until Brent got together with Blake and spun out. This left Ian and Blake to battle for the finish. Going onto the last lap Ian led, followed right behind by Blake. It stayed liked that all the way to the last corner where Blake overcooked it slightly. This allowed Ian a clear run to the flag to take the win and the overall Championship!


21st September: ALL THAT HARD WORK....got us to the green flag at 10:55am, in the middle of a pack of 40 Formula Vees. Ian made a decent start into the first corner and surprisingly all 40 cars made it through without incident. By the end of the first lap Ian had already taken three places to claim 21st spot. Meanwhile at the front Steve Oseth, Brad Stout and Roger Siebenaler began the hard fought battle that would eventually decide the race. Ian was in a group of about seven cars dicing for 15th to 21st place. Gradually Ian got quicker and started to move towards the front of the group. By the halfway stage he was holding 18th place and still wasn't done yet. Coming down the back straight towards turn four, the two cars in front went side by side when Ian got the draft and dove down the inside to take both cars and move up to 16th place.

Up at the front, Brad Stout had a small off that left him in third and unfortunately gave Steve Oseth in 1st a chance to pull out a small gap on Roger Siebenaler, after all three had once held the lead. Ian was battling hard with Michael Vrchota for 14th place. Ian took the place but couldn't hold it for long. After going very hard in the early stages of the race, Ian had overcooked his tires and couldn't keep the same pace. On the final lap, Ian crossed the line in 15th place to bring it home with his fastest time of the week, setting a 1min41.818. Steve Oseth won his first National Championship with two-time winner Siebenaler in second and last year's winner Brad Stout taking the last spot on the podium. Colin Cross took 10th place as the highest ranked west coast driver.

We achieved our goal of finishing in the top 20 in our first runoffs at the difficult Mid-Ohio track. None of this would have been possible without the help of some very special people. Our thanks goes out to Blake and Chuck from Crusader Racecars, Marty and everyone at DogBrain Studios/Team Elf, Ron Chuck Engineering, Larry at Fiber Dynamics, the folks at Formula Car magazine and Speed Channel and American Racer for some very competitive tires. A special thanks to Sue at home and my crew(and brothers!) for all their hard work. The race will be aired on Speed Channel next month, so check back for the exact time and date, this one is well worth watching.

Things will be quiet till November when we head out again for the Western States Shootout(formerly Pacific Coast Roadrace Championsip, PCRRC), which is also the 40th anniversary of Formula Vee for the west coast....we're out to win this one. On the road already to stop in Chicago tonight before we go our separate ways tomorrow. Conor flies back to Ireland to resume college, Gavin goes back to work in Chicago and Ian begins the drive back to California. Well done to all the other drivers and goodbye to all the people we met(till next year), we look forward to seeing some of you at the Shootout.

18th September: FINAL QUAL....was not quite the success we had hoped for. A slightly windier day meant a lot of runners slowed. However those who had problems previously also ran better. At the head of the field times slowed by 6 tenths of a second. Ian's fastest time was 1 tenth slower than he achieved previously but resulted in him dropping back to 25th. On a positive note we had a busy day on the PR side of things - We started the day with a TV interview and finished the day with a photo shoot! The star of the shoot was the Crusader - keep an eye out for a the F-STOP feature in Formula Car Magazine - thanks to Rob Howden and Curtis Boggs!

17th September: FASTER AGAIN....: 5.15pm was the rather late starting time for today's second qualifying. After extensive work done aligning the car as well as some large adjustments to the rear suspension, we were expecting some improvement in our time. Ian didn't disappoint. He took 1.7 seconds off his time moving up to 23rd place with a time of 1min42.3.Tomorrow's 11.40am session should see yet more improvement. The track is quickest during the morning and our set up has been corrected after some errors in today's session. Check in tomorrow to get the final qualifying results and don't forget to sign the Guestbook.

16th September: FIRST QUALIFYING....: 3.15pm local time 41 Vees rolled onto the mid-ohio racetrack. With just over 15 dry laps of the track under our belts we set ourselves a modest goal of breaking the 1m44 mark. The order we went onto the track was decided by lottery and Ian lined up 6th behind a couple of fast guys. The session was a clean one with no red flags but lots of traffic. Ian lost out a little in the drafting battle and managed a best time of 1min43.9 (Not quite representative of our outright speed but satisfactory) The time is good enough for 30th place but we are confident we can improve.

Tomorrows session is at 5.15pm Eastern time and you can watch the times live at www.scca.org . We line up third for the session so are sure to have a clean track. Wish us luck!

15th September: FIRST TIMED SESSION....: So finally we are able to give you the news after a couple of very busy days at the track. We arrived into the circuit at about midnight on Friday. We found a site in the dark and set up so we could keep our spot and relax a little the next morning. The next morning we unloaded the car and realised there was still alot of work to be done before we could hit the track for testing the next day. We cleaned things up over the course of the day but the car still didn't quite look the part. This was fixed up the next day when we received our numbers and stickers courtesy of Dogbrain Studios(thanks Marty!), and the car is now looking better than ever.

The 3rd generation Crusader, in its first appearance at the runoffs, has received many compliments from fellow competitors and spectators alike.

The test day allowed Ian to familiarise himself with the track and get back into racing mode after a long layoff. The only mishap we had was when we lost a session due to a loose throttle cable. Much to our delight, the first timed session was in extremely wet conditions. Ian performed well taking 16th place from the 32 cars that chose to run the session. Although he was 6 seconds off the pace, we aren't too worried. Ian was running an overweight car, with 10 year old tires and wasn't pushing too hard because of the wet conditions. Tomorrow's session will be on brand new American Racer tires so we hope to climb up a few places. P.S. Don't forget to call into the Guestbook and leave us you messages.

11th September: DAY 2....: Conor here again and after a less than comfortable sleep in the back of the pickup we are back on the road again. After a minor set back going through Salt Lake City where our exit ramp was closed, we are making good progress. Through the rest of Utah as well as Wyoming today and Omaha, Nebraska is tonight's target. From my interpretation of the map, I think that we may roll into Mid-Ohio Raceway tomorrow evening but only time will tell. Check in tomorrow when our journey hopefully ends!

Sept 10th: Conor here and I'm delighted to say that at last we're on our way and our first day of driving is nearly over. We're through California, nearly through Nevada and hope to be well into Utah, around Salt Lake City by late tonight. As the sun sets we can feel the day slowly catching up with us but have a few hours to go yet.

Sept 9th: The car is finally finished thanks to hard work from so many people - Blake and Chuck Tatum of Crusader cars especially (and Blakes family for putting up with us for so long!). Special thanks to Mike Bagnell, Marty of Dogbrain Studios, Larry of Fibre Dynamics, Blake's neighbor Larry and of course Sue and Conor.

We'll hit the road tomorrow morning for the challenging drive out to our first runoffs. We hope to be rolling in to Mid Ohio late on Friday / early on Saturday. Saturday will be spent putting the finishing touches to the car - we'll take some pics and post them! All going well we'll be able to update the website ont he road so check the site! Thanks again to everyone for their help....

Aug 2nd - Round 7, Laguna Seca Raceway

4 CrusadersThis was our last race weekend before the runoffs and we decided to make the most of it by entering the regional race as well. The weather was pretty good and there were 4 fast Crusader Drivers present all vying for the win - Blake Tatum, Kevin Malkin, Brian McCarthy and Ian. Unfortunately due to budget constraints we had to run older tires and we really suffered as a result. The first qualifying session was for the national and Ian qualified 4th within a couple of tenths of 2nd placed Ron Wake and 3rd placed Brian McCarthy. Pole man Colin Cross was a second clear though and showing us all up.

CampThe second qualifying session was for the regional which was a lot more hotly contested and even though Ian went faster he only qualified 8th. Blake took pole with Kevin qualifying 3rd. After the session we went through the car to see if we could find the problem. Everything checked out fine so we made some fine tuning adjustments to the suspension to see if we could find some more grip.

National RaceSaturday afternoon was hot and the track had gotten quite greasy as the temps went up for the National Race. We got a good start to take 3rd place going into the first corner with a big field of cars including F500s. Throughout the race we had multiple safety car periods and after each restart both Colin and Brian pulled away from Ian who was really struggling with lack of grip. Although he battled with Ron Wake and Marjorie Lundberg he prevailed to take 3rd place at the flag - somewhat back from Colin and Brian who won the race.

LagunaThe regional race proved to be a barn stormer with some great action. Starting from pole was Blake who has had a lot of bad luck lately losing two motors in the last two events. Ian got a great start and got up to 4th by the first corner. Unfortunately Rick Schick, Jim Petrek and Kevin Malkin got together in the first corner and Kevin and Rick spun in front of Ian who had came to a halt in avoidance. This dropped Ian to the back of the field along with Rick Schick. THe rest of the race was spent battling with Randy Harris and Marjorie Lundberg for 6th position. Going into the last lap Ian was in 7th behind Marjorie when they came across Scott Shelley (who had been battling with Blake for the lead) travelling very slowly. The four car battle then caught a slow formula ford and got bunched up heading into the last corner. This slowed Ian's exit and allowed Randy through to take the place and left Ian in 8th at the line! Brian took the win (#2!).

A disappointing weekend for us but it seems we may have diagnosed the problem and will be making some changes before the runoffs. Next Race is the big one!!

July 12th - Round 4, Sears Point Raceway

New TrailerIt was over 6 weeks since the last race and we were eager to get back on track. As usual we spent the break doing the routine maintenance and making sure the brakes were in good shape for the rigours of Sears Point. This weekend was also the debut of our new Trailer and awning. It was quite a novelty to go home from the track on Sunday without sun burn! The race weekend also marked the return of Conor to US racing with his College exams finished...and passed! (another novelty!!)

The first practice session as no encouraging with Ian struggling to break into the top ten and setting his fastest times in the first few laps. The lack of speed was found to be binding brakes which were heating up as time went by and slowing laps accordingly. Unfortunately the was not the only problem - the throttle cable had slipped off roller with the result that we werent getting full throttle. We didnt discover this till after qulaifying with the result that Ian managed only 9th place.

Ready to Race!Confidence was high for the race. With some shock adjustments made for the bumpy track Ian made good headway getting into sixth place and reeling in the lead group. He was momentarily in fifth place when the lead balast on the floor broke loose. 5lbs of lead floating around the floor of the car does not inspire confidence so Ian backed off at that point and settled for 6th!

July 13th - Regional, Sears Point Raceway

With a good run in the national behind him Ian decided to enter the regional race also on the Sunday. Not having qualified Ian would start last. He was in good company though! Blakes motor blew in practice which meant he missed qualifying and start 23rd.

Work Shy ConorAs soon as the flag dropped the "Crusader Freight Train" (as one competitor called it!) got going. At one stage Blake was sideways in the pit lane exit passing a car! Ian and Blake worked through the traffic up to the top ten sometimes passing two cars at a time. At just the right moment the safety car came out to allow them bunch up with lead group of seven cars. At the restart fellow Crusader driver Kevin malkin spun out with a broken droop limiter moving the duo up another spot onto Jim Petrek. A great battle ensued with Ian, Blake and Jim all leading the group at one stage. Unfortunately for Jim he made a mistake at the last corner and allowed Blake and Ian through to finish a commendable 5th and 6th respectively - not bad form the last row!!

May 26-28th - Round 3, Pacific Raceway, Wa

Mount ShastaIt is a quite a trip between San Francisco and Seattle - it took us 17 hours in total including a couple of stops here and there. The scenery is beautiful and it is interesting to see the landscape change over the duration of the journey. At one point we climbed over 4000ft - not a whole lot of fun with the weight we were carrying! Nonetheless it was an enjoyable trip and we did get to see snow topped Mount Shasta for the first time.

Pacific Raceways PaddockThe first session on Friday for us was a 45 minute practice session which we shared with many other cars. We hit the track at 9am running the same settings as Buttonwillow. The first reaction was that the track was very exciting, fast with little runoff area in the back section of the track which is tree lined. Running on old tires and without pushing hard or making any changes Ian was running consistent 1min 44s.

Pacific Raceways PaddockPreparation for the first qualifying session consisted of completely stripping down the rear shock and rods and rebuilding with some different adjustments. Thanks to Crisco Kid Racing for helping out with all the work! We also mounted a new set of American Racer Tires which we decided to revert to after not being able to tune the car for the Hoosiers in previous events. We joined the pre grid full of local racers and Instinct Racing's Colin Cross who had also made the journey north.

Running with others for the first time on the track we experienced some serious drafting. With up to 8 cars running in a pack qualifying was more like a race! It was possible to get two and sometimes even three drafts going on the long main straight. Unfortunately, not wanting to damage the car Ian was a little conservative when it came to claiming the corners and qualified in 9th.

Pacific Raceways PaddockGoing into race 1 Ian knew he needed to make a good start in order to have a chance of running with the lead pack. A good start got him up to 7th place battling with Leroy Coppedge and Quinn Posner for 7th position. Ian managed to make a break and close the gap to the next pack of racers fighting for 5th position. Leroy managed a monster draft on Ian and helped further close the gap on the next pack. For the last few laps of the race Ian fought for position and the final draft to the line resulted in Ian claiming 5th position by a fraction from local driver Mike Thomas in his Mysterion.

With some more adustments made for the second qualifying session, Ian worked with Race 1 winner Dennis Andrade to set a qualifying time good enough for 3rd position on the grid behind Dennis and Colin Cross.

Pacific Raceways PaddockRace 2 was shaping up to be a real battle with everyone getting their cars tuned in. Ian made a blazing start when the lights went green to take the lead going into turn 2. It stayed that way for the first lap until the pack got back onto the main straight. With no one to draft Ian was swamped and dropped back to 4th but still with the lead pack. An errant F500 broke the pack up and Colin drove away in the lead to eventually take the win. Ian battled with Dennis Andrade, Quinn Posner and Mike Thomas throughout the race for podium positions. About midway through the race Dennis spun out having over compensated when adjusting for a push he'd had earlier. The battle went down to the wire for the podium positions on the last lap and Quinn took second with a good draft with Ian finishing on the last step of the podium.

Although we didnt win, we led the race and also cured a long term problem we've had with the car which will really help in the last two qualifying races of the season in Sears Point and Lagina Seca.

May 17-18th - Regional, Thunderhill Raceway

Crusader Racecars had kindly provided their backup car for Ian to race this weekend in the SF Regional event at Thunderhill. The entry list read like a whos who of West Coast Vee racing with 5 past Champions present by our count. The first practice session went off ok for Ian with enough track time to decide what changes would need to be made. Unfortunately the session didnt go as well for Blake in the lead car. An e-clip came off the rocker shaft, made its way into the sump and into the oil pump damaging it and the cam beyond repair. Ian naturally vacated the spare car for Blake who is running for the Championship.

Immediately after the qualifying session Ian headed back to Stockton to pick up spare car number 2, Which incidentally had been sold on Friday! The car arrived at the track late on Saturday night and was teched and checked out on Sunday morning. Ian managed a hardship lap to get a feel for the car and rolled out on to the track in last place for the race.

A soon as the flag dropped Ian made a lightning start passing a group of cars by turn 2. Knuckling down to the job Ian passed cars on each lap until he made it up to 10th place. We were delighted when a full course yellow then came out due to stranded cars and it allowed Ian to catch up to the lead group. However, due to the amount of stranded cars we ran out of time and the race finished under yellow.

We certainly had a lot fun and worked hard too! COngrats to Colin Cross who won a hard fought battle.

April 26-27th - Round 2, Buttonwillow Raceway

After slogging through the rain and wind of the San Francisco bay area we arrived in glorious evening sunshine in Buttonwillow located about an hours outside LA. After registering we ran through the car quickly and went to bed early for the first days racing.

As expected the weather was great Saturday morning and a quick practice allowed Ian to get about 10 laps of the track. I good qualifying run a little later in the day resulted in a place on the front row alongside local Mark Edwards who took the pole.

Unbeknown to us a front rim got bent in qualifying. Not enough to not hold air, but enough to go flat once racing. Within a lap Ian dropped back with a slowly deflating tire and left him a struggle to hang onto sixth place at the finish with a completely flat tire!

Qualifying number 2 did not go so well. As the American Racer tires were slightly worse for wear (running multiple laps with a flat tire doesnt help!) we reverted to the Hoosier tires. We couldnt get the fronts to work resulting in terrible understeer and Ian qualifying in 7th.

During the break before the race we worked on the setup to dial out the understeer. It improved marginally and allowed Ian to make a good start taking 4th place going around the outside of turn 1. Half way through the lap the leaders, Colin Cross and Mark Edwards, spun out leaving Ian in 2nd place by the end of lap 1! Colin managed to get going again and managed to reel in both Ian and the leading Charlie Turner. Meanwhile the understeer was getting progressively worse and Ian spent hte rest of the race battling with Mark Fischer for 3rd. Going into the last corner Ian made a succesful pass around the outside of Mark to take 3rd and the last step on the podium.

It was another tough weekend but as usual we learnt something and are looking forward to the next round in Seattle, about 12 hours north of San Francisco.

April 17-20th - Regional, Sears Point Raceway

CrusadersTo stem the boredom we decided to enter the SF regional race to keep race ready by cometing against some of the best racers in the country like Blake Tatum, Rick Schick, Ron Wake and Randy Harris. It was also the first race for three rookie Crusader drivers Russ Meagher, Nick Schweizer and Kevin. All in all, 7 crusaders were entered.

CrusadersUnfortnately we lost two in the first session as John Lease blew his motor and Kevin spun into the wall on John's oil. Kevin was lucky to escape injury but was back in action the next day in Blake's Lynx. Qualifying went well for the Crusaders with blake taking second and Ian sixth. Unfortunately the race didnt last too long for Ian with a wheel losing air due to a leaking valve - three laps in and the tire rolled off the bead. Blake however went on to win from Ron Wake in a great battle.

Race 2 was a better showing for Ian with a good start he was in the fifth car in the leading group of seven cars all battling nose to tail. Halfway through the race a safety car came out to remove a stricken car and bunched the cars together again. At the restart Ian lost the rear end in turn 2 and went off course, gathered it back up again and got back on track. The very same thing happened on the next corner. Suspecting another flat Ian retired only to find there was no problem.

January 17-20th - Round 1, Phoenix International Raceway

First MorningWe were under pressure from the get go, arriving with a freshly rebuilt car at a new track at national level competition. Throughout the first day we worked through oil leaks, binding suspension and bad brakes. By Saturday afternoon we entered the race with a setup that we felt would get the best from our not quite fresh American Racer tires.

Qualifying had gone reasonably well and with the Crusader gridded in 13th position. The start was reasonable with no places lost. As planned the setup worked well for the team with Ian settling into his groove early and making some headway through the field. The 30 lap race finished with the car in 8th place, setting a fastest lap of 1min 12.7seconds and Ian receiving the race hard charger award.

Race 2For race 2 the team had to use a new set of tires - we chose Hoosiers. Unfortunately they did not suit the setup of the car used for the American Racers. Ian had to scrub the tires for qualifying so this did not become apparant until the race. The car developed a bad push (understeer) which meant Ian found it extremely hard to get the car turned in and hit the apexes. Starting 14th he still made good progress to finish a respectable 11th place after surviving a lurid spin in turn 1 coming off the oval.

All in all we learnt a huge amount and have plans for many more improvements before the next race which is likely to be Willow Springs next month.

2002 SF Region Formula Vee Championship

November 8th-10th - Thunderhill,Round 14

First MorningDriving up to Thunderhill we were afraid we'd get blown away, but miraculously the weather cleared up as we neared the track. We just made it out in time for the first session and were able to do some installation laps for the new engine. WE had no problems and worked a little on setup for the first qualifying session in the afternoon.

After the rain there was very little grip on the track and the times were considerably slower than earlier in the year. Ian's 2 minute 11.4 seconds was still good enough for third place on the grid, just a second off the pole time of Rick Schick. The second qualifying session of the weekend was held in lashing rain. Although we knew the times wouldnt get any faster we decided to go out on track to check our wet setup as the race was just 90 minutes later.

Amazingly the track was bone dry by the time we hit the track for the race. As the flag dropped Ian got a poor start and was swamped by the fourth and fifth place cars of Brent Milner and team mate Blake Tatum. Ian was able to get a better run through turn1 and dived up the inside to take second place from Milner. Ian stayed glued to the back of the leader Rick Schick until an error on Ian's part at turn 14 meant he went wide and dropped back to 5th.

Luckily for Ian the safety car then came out to allow the rescue teams to pickup some stranded cars. With jst one lap left the safety car pulled in and the mad dash for the finish began. By the first turn the leading pack of cars had passed 2 backmarkers and were bearing down on more. Coming out of the crows nest the four cars were nose to tail in a long line of FFords and Fvees. Unkown to the FVees a Ford spun and stopped dead on the track at the exit of turn 6 which is a fourth gear turn. The leader Rick Schick was launched over the Ford with Blake and Ron Wake able to take evasive action in time. Ian was completely unsighted and ploughed straight into the Ford followed by the equally unsighted Milner. The car was badly damaged but luckily everyone was able to walk away with little more than bruises. Meanwhile the race raged on and the 6th place car of Pete Law went through to take the win with Blake finishing second.

First MorningThe damage to the car is quite comprehensive with a lot of exterior damage. We will be stripping the car down this week to inspect it. The beam is bent, shcok broken, transmission case is broken, rocker cover broken, spindle bent.....Hopefully the chassis is salvageable. Regardless we will be racing next year and the speed is definetly in the car as we showed throughout the weekend.

October 5th-6th - Sears Point,Round 14

Blown Motor - Did not attend

September 14th-15th - Thunderhill,Round 13

This proved to be one of our toughest weekends by far! We arrived Saturday morning with high hopes with some more improvements made to both the motor and the chassis itself. as soon as Ian went out he knew there was a problem, the motor seemed down on power and then he noticed oil pressure dropping. He pulled into the pits and crew immediately spotted an oil leak.

The team retired to the pits and began their investigation. They soon found a couple of issues - loose spark plugs and a leaking valve cover. With confidence renewed the car hit the track for qualifying! Again, Ian new he had a problem as soon as he entered the track. The motor was seriously down on power meaning Ian couldnt take advantage of the draft. The motor deteriorated to the extent that it let go completely on lap 6. Pulling off the track we thought the weekend was over for the team. With no spare engine the team packed up and headed for home on Saturday evening.

On the way back home we called Crusader Team Owner Blake Tatum to break the bad news. His response was simple...come down to Stockton and pick up another crusader car! So, we diverted to Stockton, swapped cars and returned to Thunderhill early the next morning - to the surprise of some of our competitors!

Backup Car!As we changed cars we were obliged to start from the back of the grid unfortunately. One of the nice things about starting from the back of the grid is that you have nothing to lose. Also, if you're at the back of a field of vees there is a big hole in the air which makes for some great drafting! Ian showed this in spectacular style by drafting up to 7th place by the first corner. By the end of the second lap he was up to 4th place and closing on 3rd place. Just a lap later Ian took 3rd place and was closing on Colin Cross and Rick Schick. Unfortunately the oil pressure gauge on the backup car was not working so Ian decided to backoff and hang onto his third place.

A tough weekend but a pretty succesful result all things considered!

August 24th-25th - Infineon Raceway, Round 12

For some strange reason we had two practice sessions rather than one this weekend. When we noticed this we thought we might not even run both sessions in order to save wear 'n tear. It turned out that we really needed them both!

Marty spins!It became apparent staight away that our brake problem was back to haunt us. Ian had virtually no brakes in the first session and a sticking throttle. Marty Cameron got it a little wrong in turn 2 (see pic) about the same time Ian's throttle decided to stick which made for some exciting times! After the session we managed to find the throttle problem and located a bad wheel cylinder which we replaced with the help of Rick Shick before the next session. We also noted that intake manifold stud had taken the threads out of the head and was leaking fuel all over the head (rather than into the motor!). We came up with a McGyver style fix and hoped it would hold out till the weekend was over.

Driving down to the dummy grid for the second session Ian knew already that the brakes were still bad. He decided to run anyway to make sure the throttle wasnt sticking and to try to settle into the track again. He finished with a time of 1min 58sec which wasnt bad considering the state of the brakes.

Between the second session and qualifying Brian McCarthy went through the brakes from the pedal all the way to the wheels and found some minor issues that all added up to enough to make the brakes a lot better. Thus, Ian went out to qualiying with a lot more confidence and was able to lay down a time of 1min 55.6 which was a full second faster than last time at the track and just a tenth of the lap record. The problem was everyone was quicker! Ian lined up 5th on the grid

Turn 2For the race we made a couple of minor setup changes in the rear and were confident of a good performance. Colin Cross was on pole and he kept us all on our feet with his erratic start procedure resulting in a poor start for Ian with Americo Cabal taking 5th from Ian into turn 2. Next time around Ian carried more speed into turn 2 and went around the outside of Americo and they exited side by side. Americo decided that there wasnt enough room for Ian and edged him onto the dirt, resulting in Ian losing 3 places.

Ian then reeled off some nice passes to catch up with Americo once again, this time making a clean pass into turn 2. He then put his head down and broke away form Americo but at this late stage the lead pack had broken away and were drafting away. The race ended with Ian in 5th and Rick Schick taking his maiden win for the year - Congrats Rick!

The weekend as a whole was a tough one with all the problems so I suppose we should be happy with 5th! Thanks again to Nick, Rick Shick, Crisco Racing and Brian McCarthy for the working Brakes!!

Special Thanks to the Crusader and Crisco Racing Teams (Mike, Blake, Pat, Dave and John) for the wedding present!!

August 2nd-4th - Laguna Seca, Round 10,11

First MorningAs usual the weather in Monterey was overcast and dreary when we arrived. Practise went off perfectly and the car seemed more steady with the new shock. We did make one mistake though! we never dropped the air pressures which resulted in some odd handling as we got some heat into the tires!!

Qualifying day dawned overcast and wet. We were pretty excited at the thought of driving in the wet again! It would our my first time on slicks though and it almost proved Ian's undoing in the very first corner... As Ian settled in he managed some spectacular times and was having a lot of fun hanging onto the Crusader Fvee through the likes of crusader and the high speed turn 6. Ian finished the session in third place behind championship leader Colin Cross and team mate Blake Tatum who put the Crusader on pole.

The VictorWe were pretty excited about our chances and spent the rest of the day tweaking the car and helping Blake prepare for the National Race in which he had qualified 5th. The National was a great race and Blake romped home with a 17 second victory from his nearest rival...Blake's first National Win and the first for the Marque this year!

Race Day dawned clear and dry which meant we reverted to our dry setup. As the flag waved Blake fluffed his gear change which resulted in both Crusaders dropping back a couple of places at the start. Both Ian and Blake got the bit between their teeth and repassed visitor Dennis Andrade and second place man Rudy Torres. At that point the Instinct Racing pair of Colin Cross and Rich Keenan had made a break and were putting in consistent times. Ian drafted Blake heading into turn 6 and began closing the gap to the leaders. Unfortunately the damage was done and there wasnt sufficient time to close the gap. Nonetheless we were happy with a third place and our lap times were right up there.

Race two was almost exactly the same as race one with the Instinct Racing Duo making a lightning start and make an immediate break. Again Ian passed Blake and begin to chase down the leaders. With five laps to go Ian got very wide coming out of turn 3 and nearly lost it all. At that point he decided to ease off and take another well deserved 3rd place.

The Team All in all, we had a brilliant weekend with excellent performances with all three Crusaders finishing in the top 10! Special Congrats to Mike Bagnell and Crisco Racing who are ironing out the bugs of their new Crusader chassis and are improving greatly every race. Roll on Sears Point in three weeks!

July 19th-21st - Infineon Raceway, Round 9

Its been a busy couple of weeks. This is our 4th race in 4 weekends! We were pretty confident having run so well at out first attempt here just two weeks ago. It became apparent our confidence was misplaced as soon as Ian hit the track for the first session. Ian complained of lack of brakes which is a real issue with the track having three particularly heavy braking zones. New suspension parts had been fitted to the rear to bring the chassis up to 2002 spec. In order to take advantage it became apparent that a softer spring was requried. This was changed before qualifying and the brakes were re-adjusted for qualifying.

Ian at SearsUnfortunately the brake changes didnt work and Ian was only able to manage a 1min57.7 which meant he languished back in 14th place for the race. Overnight we fitted fresh brakes and managed a hardship lap to bed them in. They seemed ok but one lap was insuffucient to really tell. At the start, rolling up the main straight Ian was excited with it looking like the brakes were better and knowing he would be faster than the guys in front. It wasnt to be however, as it became apparent immediately that the brakes were better, but not much better.

Ian at SearsIan made a reasonable start and managed to make up a place or two on the first lap. Although the car was handling signifiganlty better than previous sessions Ian couldnt outbrake anyone to make the vital passed to move up the field. Halfway through the race Don Manthe and a visiting National driver collided bringing out the safery car. The group bunched up again which allowed Ian to get a run on Bill Dean. Bill got the place back at turn 11 under brakes on the second last lap. Ian managed to retake Bill heading into the caracel and stayed there to finish the race in 9th.

All in all a pretty disappointing race for the team after all the hard work. We have two weeks off to try to find the cause of our brake problem. Next race is Laguna...

July 6th-7th - Infineon Raceway, Round 8

We had long been excited about going to Sears Point for many reason but mainly because its a cool track! The track has recently been renamed Infineon Raceway and has undergone a redesign in order to offer more to the visiting Nascar, AMA Superbike and ALMS races. The results is a highly technical track where local knowledge helps. It is very reminiscent of our home track in Ireland - Mondello, although a lot faster.

crusader campThe team arrived at the track on Friday evening and set up camp alongside fellow Crusader Team Crisco Racing and the works team Crusader Racing who are providing support to Sweeney-Racing this season. After setting up the first thing on the agenda was to walk the track. Conor, Ian and Crisco driver Mike Bagnell, commandeered some bicycles and set off! We returned an hour later with lots of valuable knowledge, not least the fact that we all agreed "those hills are f**kin steep!"

Blake TatumSaturday morning dawned clear and warm and we went out for our first practice session at 10am. Everything went well and Ian was able to comfortably set 1min48 times with under ten laps on the circuit. The fastest guys were setting 1min46s. With some minor changes to the car and some more familiarity Ian was able to run with team mate Blake and they got straight down to low 1min 46s. Rolling out for qualifying with a new set of tyres Ian was quietly confident of a good showing. Unfortunatley it wasnt to be, with a brake problem restricting Ian's ability to go deep into turns 7 and 11. His fastest time was a 1 min 46.5 placing him sixth on the grid and 1 second off pole.

IanThe race was at 1.50pm on Sunday and again the weather was good except for a strong head wind that we would hit heading up to turn 9. The rolling start went off trouble free and the leading pack including Ian immediately made a break from the rest of the group. With the race lasting 30 minutes Ian was content to sit at the back of the pack and watch the other drivers lines and work out where they were slower. About 15 minutes into the race Ian was preparing to start moving up the order when all hell broke loose. As the six car train headed off the front straight towards turn2 the Mysterion of Rudy Torres clipped the right rear of Colin Cross. Colin was spun into the oncoming traffic with Rudy getting airborne immediately. As soon as he landed Rudy hit the back and came to a halt after multiple rolls. Luckily Rudy was ok but the race was stopped. In the melee after the incident Ian was seperated from the front group by some backmarkers. This meant that when the race was restarted under the safety car and with Ian struggling to get past the backmarkers to stay with the lead group. As the race progressed the brakes were getting increasingly worse so Ian decided to back off and keep his well deserved 4th place.

The team went home happy with a 4th place finish at a track we had never been on before this weekend! The good news is we come back to Sears on July 20th with new brakes! and some modifications to bring the chassis up to 2002 spec. See you soon!

June 28th-30th - Laguna Seca Rounds 6 and 7

Day 1 report: We arrived bright an early to overcast skies. Our hopes for rain disappeared though as we hit the track for practise at noon. THe sun came up and temperatures began to rise. Having completed a lot of maintenance we were eager to shake the car down. The session went off trouble free with Ian setting times in the 1 min 48 range.

Qualifying took place late afternoon with the sun still shining. Ian ran with Rick Shick for most of the session and despite some traffic set consistent time througout the session. Towards the end of the session Colin Cross also joined the party (see photo). The session finished with Ian in an excellent 3rd postion. The first race of the weekend is at noon tomorrow followed by qualifying for race 2 at 3.30pm. Check out the video footage from the Corskscrew...>>Video 1 and Video 2

Day 2 report: Day 2 started hot! There wasnt much to do on the car prior to the race as the crew has done most of the preparation the night before. We rolled onto the dummy grid at midday with 20 cars making the start. Ian was lucky to stay out of trouble at the start selecting 4th instead of second for the rolling start. He managed to grab 3rd before the pack got up to speed, only losing one position to Rudy Torres. Within one lap the first four guys had make a break from the rest of the pack with Ian in 4th position.

As the lead group settled into a rhythm Ian set about reeling Rudy in. He set Rudy up for the pass at the fast turn 5 right hander. He got by pretty smoothly (watch the video here!). Unfortunately he couldnt make it stick and Rudy repassed before the next corner. Some lapped traffic meant Rudy got a break and thats where it finished - Ian in 4th.

Qualifying for Sunday's race took place just 2 hours later. With just routine maintenance to do the team werent under too much pressure. Suffering from understeer Ian managed a best of 1min48.3 which places him 6th on the grid. A bit of a disapointment but there's always the race!!

Day 3 report: Day 3 was the hottest we had experienced so far and without a breeze it felt even hotter. Over dinner on Saturday night we discussed some ideas on setup to try to remove the bad understeer Ian experienced in qualifying. We spent Sunday morning measuring, remeasuring and adjusting to see could we fix the problem. We never got the chance to find out did it work!

Rudy Torres made a bad start allowing Ian to go around the outside of him as they passed the start-finish line. Rick Schick and Jim Petrek went the other side of Rudy and they headed into Turn 1 together. Jim carried a little too much speed into the corner and got a little loose. He managed to bump Rick around. With Rick rolling across Ian's path Ian chose to go around the outside of him. Unfortunatley the rear of Rick's car tagged Ian's back wheel spinning him around and stalling the engine. Ian tried to start the motor but there wasnt enough "juice" in the battery and that was the end of the day.Pretty disappoining. Colin Cross won the race with Rudy Torres second and Rick Schick finishing a valiant 3rd place. Next Race is Sears Point ths weekend.

May 25th-28th - Thunderhill Rounds 4 and 5

For the first time this season we arrived at a track where we had raced before - Thunderhill. Hopes were high of a good showing for the double header with considerable work having gone into the car between races.

A steady qualifying run with team mate Blake resulted in a 7th position for Ian and 5th for Blake. Somewhat disappointed the team spent Saturday evening focussed on preparing the cars for the first race of the weekend.

Sunday dawned with temperatures slightly lower than the blistering heat of Saturday. Ian had a poor start dropping back three places into the first corner while Blake made a blinder moving up to third. Ian quickly set about passing those ahead to move into 5th. At this point however the lead group, including blake, had broken away. Ian settled down for a fifth place finish with Colin Cross taking the win.

With qualifying scheduled for 8am Monday morning it was with some shock that we found a leaking brake hose at 7am. A replacement was found, installed and bled in time to let Ian hit the track on time. Ian returned the favor of the crews hard work to put the car on the second row in 4th place.

At 2pm the second race of the weekend commenced with both Ian and Blake making good starts to head into turn 2 in 4th and 5th place respectively. Running nose to tail the lead group of six cars were drafting each other all the way up the front and back straights. By lap three, Ian had worked his way up to 2nd place behind the Mysterion of Rudy Torres. Entering turn 9 (a 4th gear blind crest) Ian ran wide. It proved to be a costly mistake as he dropped right back to 7th place. The lead group broke away at this point leaving Ian to battle with Ron Wake's Caracal to take 5th place...AGAIN!

A tough weekend with plenty of midnight oil burnt to get both cars on track. We've got the speed we just need a dash of consistency!

April 28th - Laguna Seca Rounds 2 and 3

We arrived at Laguna to lashing rain and puddles in the paddock. Luckily it dried out for our first practice session and the track was completly dry. Over the break we stripped down the rear suspension and had made some modifications that we hoped would eliminate the unpredicatable snap oversteer we experienced during round 1. It worked! Even on old tires the handling proved significantly better. The first session was spent getting to know which way the track goes and it is some track! The legendary track is made for vees with plenty of "balls out" corners.

Qualifying took place after lunch on a busy track. Quickly getting into a rhythm Ian posted a 1 minute 48.1 which was good enough to secure sixth place on the grid behind team mate Blake.

Sunday morning dawned again with bright sunshine and a brisk breeze. The morning was spent preparing the cars and working together with Blake to optimize the setup. Race 1 took place after lunch with a full field filing onto the legendary track at 1pm. A lack of brakes on Ian's car made for an interesting first corner and an immediately put Ian at a disadvantage. Sitting outside of the top ten Ian thought about pulling in but decided to keep racing and try to adjust to the lack of brakes. The nature of Laguna Seca is such that brakes are only used heavily in four places - taking advantage of thisit was possible for Ian to regain four places before the finish. Team mate Blake finished an excellent 3rd place. Due to a post race protest in the leading pack, final results were not released as off Monday morning.

With just one hour between race 1 and race 2 some quick spanner work was required to fix the brake problem and replace a flat battery. The same qualifying positions were used to start race 2 (lucky for us!). When the lights went green we tagged onto the back of the lead pack making a six car train. For the first four laps all six cars stayed together with a break to the seventh place Bill Dean. Overtaking team mate Blake into fifth Ian got a run to take 4th placed Rich Keenan. With the leaders just inches ahead Ian was sitting comfortably behind race 1 winner Rudy Torres when an early entry into the fast turn 9 resulted in Ian going off track. He held it together to rejoin three places back in 7th. With just three laps left Ian set about regaining the lost positions picking off Bill Dean and then team mate Blake (suffering from blistered tire) before crossing the finish line.

A very successful and very enjoyable weekend for the team with Blake sorting out the new car's teething problems and taking a podium finsish and Ian getting his first chance to run with the big boys! Roll on Thunderhill

April 7th - Thunderhill Round 1

Having only received our car on Monday evening a hectic week was spent by JP and Ian burning the midnight oil to prep the car and load up on Thursday night.We arrived at Thunderhil on Friday to glorious sunshine and lots of excited racers all set for a new season.

We unloaded the car and completed some final checks before fueling up the car and hitting the track late in the afternoon for a shakedown run. Being the first run for the team in this car every thing ran well with nothing falling off or breaking! Turn in was extremely good, the engine was strong. However the car was suffering from mid corner over steer quite badly through the high speed corners. This proved to be a problem that persisted through-out the weekend. Saturday morning's warm up session was spent trying to dial the car in to remove the oversteer. We only succeeded in reducing the oversteer somewhat through shock adjustment

Qualifying took place late on Saturday afternoon as track temperature dropped. Ian got down to respectable times but failed to hook up with team mate Blake Tatum to take advantage of the draft required to put in good times at Thunderhills long straights. Ian ended up in sixth place on row three, alongside team mate Blake in 5th.

The cars lined up in the paddock at 1pm in blazing heat in the 90's (30C+) - a bit of a shock to the system for Ian who was designed for gray skies and rain! Belting up in the paddock the team discussed the process of a rolling start one last time (we did standing starts in Ireland). The cars were then sent out on the track for the warm up lap. Coming down the back straight the pace car slowed the field down and the cars lined up side by side in their qualifying positions. At the last second the pace car pulled in to the pits and the field idled up the start finish straight waiting for the starter to wave the green flag. As soon as the flag appeared the field started racing!

Ian made a good start and made a run around the outside of team mate Blake through turn 1. Heading into to turn 2 the Crusader oversteered (surprise!) opening the door for Blake to run up the inside. As things settled down and we got some temperature into the slick tires it became apparent that the oversteer problem was really hampering Ian's progress in the fast corners. Ian managed to hold on to Blake and competitor Bill Dean for a couple of laps. Getting into Bills draft he over took him coming into the 4th gear turn 1, only for the car to oversteeer in turn 2 and allow Bill to re-take the position. This happened again on several laps until Ian decided to save his tires and stay behind Bill until closer to the end of the race.

Coming onto the main straight starting the last lap Ian elected to stay in Bill's draft rather than overtake him into turn 1. Being as smooth as possible throught turn 2 Ian stayed with Bill and hung onto his tail all the way to the start of the back straight. Ian launched onto the back straight within feet of Bill's car allowing him to catch Bill at the end of the straight. Diving in on the inside Ian took the place from Bill, exited the corner smoothly and took the checkered flag in 5th position! and Russ got it on video here >>video (left click and it should come up on your screen. If not, right click and save to your hard drive and view from there)

All in all, we learnt a lot about the car and overcame some teething problems with the setup. Armed with this information we should be in good position to run even better at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway at the end of the month!

March 8th - Thunderhill Testing

After being out of a racecar for more than six months the aim of the test was to acclimatize to the car and track and to gain some track time to sharpen the skills. Arriving at the track at 8am the weather was perfect with clear skies, virtually no breeze and cool air and track temperatures. After a quick belt and seating position check the car was fired up and we hit the track for first session.

The immediate feedback was that the US Vee Motor power comes up somewhere short of the Irish and UK race engines previously experienced - making momentum even more key to a quick lap time. The full track itself proved to be very exciting with a every imaginable type of corner from (almost!) flat in 4th white knuckle ride to a four wheel drift 180 degree sweeper to a completly blind crest reminiscent of the corkscrew at Laguna Seca

Everthing stayed in the right place and and the car stayed on the black stuff during the first session. Some changes were made to experiment with pedal position and tyre pressures were checked to insure even distribution of temperature before the second session. The second session allowed us to attack the track a little and to gain some understanding of the pace of the track.

The break for lunch was spent checking the car, modifying the pedal position again and making some minor modifications to the handling. The first session after lunch proved to be the fastest of the day with consistent 2min 12 second laps. The track began to slow down as the day wore on and we concentrated on track familiarization and fine-tuning of the car.

All in all the day proved to be an excellent exercise and provided useful data to work on before the firs race at the start of april where the car is expected to have fresh brakes, tyres and engine. Roll on April 6th!

For the 2002 season Ian will have backing from loyal Sweeney Racing sponsors ,Tracey Commercials and SWEENdesign Web Development.

Stay tuned to Sweeney-Racing.com for more details as they are announced

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