Through My Lens: The Scene At Mondello

My favorite thing about being a Speedhunter is that I get to meet so many cool people from all over the world, whether it be drivers, mechanics, journalists or fans of car culture.

Often times I hang out with people outside of the racetrack, most likely in pub or in a restaurant. I force myself to steer conversations away from racing or drifting, in fear of boring these people that I’ve just met. But no matter how hard I try, our conversation always ends up with quotes like ‘did you see the battle between so and so’, or ‘what do you think about this project car I’m planning on building’… insert other car-related jargon.

Some people don’t believe me when I say this – and I say this quite a bit – but I would be doing the exact same thing if I was not with Speedhunters. I just love car culture and if you guys are reading this site you are probably the same way. I know all of us at Speedhunters think like that.

That is why I understand drivers like Darren McNamara. He is having his toughest year in his motorsports career. When it rains it pours – and in his case it’s been pouring cats and dogs for a year straight.

But you know what? That is racing and it would not be very exciting if everyone was a winner year after year.

That victory champagne is going to taste just that much sweeter, and when it gets in his eyes it probably won’t sting one bit. Until then he will just have to keep on fighting and claw his way to a podium.

Which brings us to the final round of ProDrift at Mondello Motorsports Park in Ireland.

Mondello is the only permanent race-track in a country of just 4.6 million inhabitants.

I’ve shot drifting in North America, China, Japan, South Africa, Norway and recently England. I have to say – and Daijiro Yoshihara will agree with me on this one – the drift scene in Ireland is second to none.

The dedication and the love for the sport makes me feel all fuzzy and warm inside. As Fredric would say, it’s Ireland’s NASCAR. I thought about it for a second… I don’t know if that is entirely accurate as oval racing is very popular in Ireland, but the Irish oval racing scene has not gained international attention.

Drivers like Dmac…

…James Deane…

…and Dean Kearny have come up from the ranks as amateurs and have competed in the spotlight all the way across the world.

There’s something about this tiny island that produces naturally talented drivers. Maybe there is something in the water.

Then again it could be the more obvious reasons: the crazy Irish roads and the competitive nature of the inhabitants.

Mondello Motorsports Park is not a goliath of a race track. There is only one bridge that crosses over the race track.

In fact it is pretty tiny. The stands hold just a few hundred people.

But it is one of the most unique tracks I’ve ever been to.

For the drifting they run the road-course backwards and the coolest part is the 130kph entry.

It requires some serious guts to throw your pride and joy into the off-camber corner.

There is also a crazy drop in elevation.

Oh yeah, and if that is not enough for you it is completely blind!

It’s definitely not for the faint of heart.

It’s very easy to go off and lose body parts in the process

Over the course of a competition there must have been dozens of bumpers gathered on the side of the track.

Dean Kearny mentioned to me that during his Top 16 battle he just threw his car in with his eyes closed, hoping it would stick.

He is practically driving a street car, as his buddy was driving it to get groceries just a week earlier in the same exact configuration. To get Top 8 in such a car was a great feat.

The driver with the craziest, almost-backwards entry was none other than the almost 7-foot tall James Deane. At least it feels that way when I am standing next to him…

He is driving an SR20-powered Mazda FD RX-7 pushing out 450bhp. He probably has had the most seat-time around this track as well. I bet he knows every nook and cranny.

The scene is very grassroots. But it is kind of interesting to me, as in Formula Drift there are still some mid- to low-ranking drivers who actually make a full-time living as a professional driver from sponsorships, etc…

But no drifters in Ireland except for Dmac make a full 100% living on driving only.

Even then Dmac runs a full-time shop which also does R&D for speciality drift parts – which I will go into more detail on in my next article

He is very lucky to have the help of his friends.

His crew chief Darren ‘Happy’ Bulter spends countless nights working on the Dmac 86. Just before the main competition day he swapped out the entire rear end and rebuilt the braking system.

Unfortunately, despite this effort it was not enough for Darren to qualify.

The hits kept coming as he had to eat track food. Poor guy just can’t get a break.

The one thing that I don’t think I will ever get used to is the cold and unpredictable weather.

Although, I did come prepared will full rain gear from head to toe.

This was Dai’s second time to Ireland. He came to last year’s Japfest as well and it was his first time in Europe.

He mentioned to me that the grassroots scene in Ireland reminds him of the level of drifting you would see in Japan.

He came here thinking he could just own everyone, but some kid totally showed him up. It was super embarrassing.

This was also Fredric Aasbø’s second time at Japfest.

Although this time he had a newly built car which has lots of room for development.

He had to call for roadside assistance as his tire de-beaded off the wheel due to a slow leak.

Luckily he has been running this motor for a while in his Supra so it was already proven, but he is planning on putting in a stroker motor very soon.

I thought it was funny that his car would leave droppings of used tire bits whenever it was jacked up. Like a true Angry Bird pig.

Fredric may not have had the best result after getting knocked out in the Top 16, but it is only his second event and there is just so much more to learn about the new GT-86 chassis.

The fans are very hardcore and are not afraid of getting rowdy for their favorite drivers.

I was surprised how many people came to watch the amateur competitions. There is usually not much of a crowd for Pro-am competitions in North America.

It was very refreshing to see so many nice-looking Corollas out there.

On top of that they were very competitive.

This prime example was driven by Adrian Walsh. He got into the Top 4 bracket in the Semi-pro competition on Saturday which allowed him to qualify for the Pro class on Sunday.

The track was a great equalizer, so cars like this could actually keep up with the bigger-budget cars due to their light weight.

It would be great to see more cars like this in North America. There were many more back in the day, but now there is just one remaining.

Make sure you guys keep an eye out for a feature on this black ’86 driven by Brian Egan. This car used to belong to Eric O’ Sullivan.

It was also a novelty for me to see these BMWs in competition.

It is common fare over in Europe, but I’ve only seen one in tandem competition in Formula Drift, which was Chelsea Denofa’s E36 M3.

It’s interesting to see the little differences between professional drift series. For example there is no pace cone. Instead the starter decides if the run needs to be restarted. With a wave of the red flag the drivers have to return to the starting line once again.

It seems to work as there was rarely a drag race to the first corner.

Everyone wants a fair fight and most of the drivers obey the rules. After all, it is all for the show and there is no point if you can’t have close proximity.

After one tandem run the drivers go back up to the starting line with very little delay.

It’s pretty cool to see how they can pack so much into just a single day of competition. Practice, qualifying, Super Lap, then Top 16 competition.

This was my first ProDrift event, but I see why the Irish fans go crazy for the relativity new sport. There is just so much to see and it is always fun to root for your home-town hero. The island is so tiny that chances are one of your neighbors could be competing in ProDrift. There were a couple from within a few miles of Dmac’s place.

I know I need to come back to Ireland as there is just so much more to explore. That is it for now, but stay tuned for an in-depth tour of Darren McNamara’s shop.

Larry

larry@dev.speedhunters.com

More coverage from Japfest on Speedhunters

More stories from Larry Chen on Speedhunters


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26 comments
knoxee
knoxee

Wow, your photos are absolutely amazing!

luvlsd
luvlsd

SR20...best thing ever to happen to a mazda

maxproof
maxproof

I've just once been to Ireland. There i've seen my first tuned up S15 ('cause we don't have it here in Germany) racing an EVO in the streets of Dublin. I knew immediatly that this place was special in terms of car culture ..

 

Michael Swan having a smoke at the gravel ... epic! For me this sums up a great deal of drifting  .. The combination of a relaxed athmosphere, far from modern F1 with all it's sterile perfection and competition, and professionalism is just great. Love this documentary!

Haakon
Haakon

Love the pictures you are snapping, and aswell how good you are to describe atmospheres, from all over the world.And by the way i suppose u have seen Mike Essa with his BWM ? :D 

Clare Keating
Clare Keating

Unreal post Larry,loved every piece of it... you are a genius with a camera and how you captured the whole weekend at Mondello was just perfect.

Pddan
Pddan

Amazing stuff as always.. Yourself and Paddy make the place look even better then it is. I dont know if the world actually realises the level of drifting in our small country. No doubt we'll be feeding Fd for years to come. Cant wait to have you back here... Maybe Punchestown next year. A favourite for most drivers, high speeds and massive wall runs.

PatrickShanahan
PatrickShanahan

There wouldn't be any chance of getting the pic of Dai & the kid on the flicker's ? Thats my Nephew Conor he's Jack Shanahan's brother :-)

 

Leo Daly
Leo Daly

Absolutely fantastic blog and the photos are unreal! I like to think of myself as a bit of an amateur photographer, but I can only dream of ever reaching your level. The quality of the shots is second to non and you have a way of seeing things in such a fresh way. Kudos to you. 

Make sure to come back to our little auld Island, there'll alway be a "cead mile failte" (a hundred thousand welcomes) here for you.

mark666
mark666

Damn dude. Everything you have posted from Ireland has been amazing. Thank you. Make sure to come back next year.

hashtagfatlaceillestlifestyleryO
hashtagfatlaceillestlifestyleryO

You should try to make it over to Round of Idc next year Larry. Passible at Tullyroan Oval as you are used of shooting at banks. 

Great write up and its really nice to see Ireland getting some coverage.

Looking foward to seeing the feature on MCNSport too.

Richie_teamnocturnal
Richie_teamnocturnal

thanks for coming to ireland and showing the rest of the world the level of drifting here through your photos, as always i enjoyed every shot, please come back larry we love you xxx but not in a gay way ;) 

Brian Egan
Brian Egan

This is art....not just pictures of drifting! You manage to make Mondello not look just like Mondello too.....if that makes any sense? Genuinely next level picturage as always!! Michael Swan laying down having a smoke, in the vintage Nissan racesuit is just quality, and sums up the man perfectly ha!!!

Mike Fitz
Mike Fitz

Great feature again Larry, loving your coverage from over here! 

thecaptain23
thecaptain23

@SPEEDHUNTERS amazing stuff by @Driftfotos - great pics and write up!

Curlytop
Curlytop

Awesome post larry, love you but not in a gay way!

DomoKun
DomoKun

It was great to see the speedhunters crew here cheers for the awesome write ups 

ConorLuddy
ConorLuddy

Unreal post dude, glad you enjoyed our island! :)

stikitnowcom
stikitnowcom

your photos always rock!! love the ones from the chase car.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

 @Haakon Sorry I meant E36, there are two in FD, but only one qualifies for the top 32.

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

 @Brian Egan Awesome. I tried my best to do that track justice. It really is an awesome place and thanks for sharing this post!

Larry Chen
Larry Chen

Great, finish your car so we can feature it. 


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