I have, for as long as I can remember been a true petrol head, when my mates would be down the pub or playing sport I would much prefer being elbow deep, under the bonnet of a car. Whether that be modifying a road car or building something a bit different. I've built an Escort cossie replica with an rs turbo engine, a mk3 Fiesta with a mk5 Zetec engine in it, among other things, but for my latest project I decided to try and build a reasonably competitive track car for under 2 grand which is how my Ford Ka came about.
My mates girlfriend had this little Ford Ka, a 2 owner 49,000 mile mint condition car which she used to go to work every day, until one frosty morning she had a coming together with a ditch. She decided that she didn't want it any more and gave it to me free of charge! Next up was a doner car as the Ka's little 1.3 pushrod was just not going to cut it, I decided on a 1.7 vct engine from a Puma. I found a crashed one for €250 and married them both together. All the work was done by myself and my mate David Nolan, you can read the full build thread here
With it's new Puma heart the Ka was re-Christened the PuKa!
Anyway the car was finished and used in anger around Mondello at trackdays for 2-3 years surprising some machinery that it shouldn't have! Then my mate Adrian Dunne who himself competes in the MicksGarage Future Classics Championship started getting on my case to go racing, saying it was the best thrill ever! Finally he convinced me to do a demo race with the guys at the Mondello classic car and bike live show on June 19th.
Now while the PuKa is a very capable track car it was not a race car and needed some prep for the race, In particular its appearance was that of a road car not a race car and this, it seems had attracted the critical eye of a certain Mr Darran O'Hara. The week before classic car live I delivered the PuKa to Darran to work his magic. The deal was though that I could have no input into the design, not even in the colour scheme! I agreed and gave him carte-blanche to do as he saw fit! While I waited for my PuKa to return I needed to get some parts for the car. 4 new tyres and some poly-carbonate to replace the windows, again Adrian stepped in and collected the parts from Murray Motorsport for me. He then took time out of his own schedule to collect the car from Darran. When I saw it for the first time I was amazed, it looked completely different and I love the look of it! Darran completely nailed it .
A late night in the garage ensued to get the six point harness and the poly-carbonate window kit fitted, we finished at 1 am
and loaded the car on to the trailer, ready for an early start in the morning. We were on the road to Mondello at 7am
, It was lashing rain and to be honest I was apprehensive to say the least! The thought of being on track with 22 other lunatics was overwhelming but the lads from Future Classics are a very friendly bunch and all made me feel very welcome which settled my nerves completely.
First practice was at 10.50 am
and the rain was still falling out on track. The brand new Nankang ns2r tyres were very poor initially as they had never been used, they settled in though and I started to get more comfortable as I had never driven the national circuit this was another unknown for me but I quickly got to grips with the layout.
As this was just a demo race the lads in charge decided to draw numbers for grid positions I drew p7, right in the thick of it! At 12.45 pm
we lined up on the grid with the rain still coming down heavily.
The lights went out and we went for it, the feeling of excitement, fear, and the thrill of the grid start was amazing. As we headed into turn 1 all I could see was a wall of water and some faint rain lights in front of me, out of turn one I had survived and I relaxed into my driving. Over the course of the race I worked my way up to 5th place but then my exhaust broke! I wasn't aware of how badly it was broken so I carried on for another lap but then i got shown the dreaded black flag and was waved into the pits. We carried out a quick temporary repair and got going again.
Race 2 was at 2.30pm
and for this race I drew p4. I laughed at this because I knew there were a lot quicker and more experienced drivers behind me. Not one to shy away from a challenge I headed out to line up on the grid, it was raining even harder than the first race. As the lights went out and we headed off into the first corner I was over taken by two cars which left me 6th so I knew if I didn't get the head down and go for it I would be passed by more drivers.
I was unable to keep with the leading group as they pulled away but what I did notice was I had pulled a gap on the following group which left me in the enviable position of having some clear track, this made it easier to see and to have nice clean laps all the way to the end. I crossed the line 6th in my first race in a torrent of rain and in a field of 17 cars. I was as pleased as the man in 1st as I had built my own car on a shoe string-budget and raced it and it didn't let me down! What more could a man ask for!!
As with everything in life, things would not be possible without friends helping and pushing you in the direction you need to go in. I would like to thank Adrian Dunne for his amazing help with prepping the car and loaning me safety gear and transport. He was pivotal in my decision to take part. To David Nolan for all his help building the car and a massive thanks has to go to Darran O'Hara for the wrap on the PuKa, its amazing! My final thanks have to go the lads in the MicksGarage Future Classics Championship for allowing me to race with them and for the warm welcome. I will certainly be out again, hopefully I get a dry race next time.
Images with thanks to David Mc Lachlan