Motorsport, like many sports has been hit hard over the past few years with depleting grids as a result of fewer competitors racing. Racing is a leisure sport and therefore a discretionary spend, when budgets are tightened due to recessionary times, people’s hobbies are generally the first activity to be cut. Thankfully the worst is behind us and people’s wallets are being loosened. Grid sizes across all race classes are encouraging for this season’s racing, with most in the mid-teens.
One class that’s continued to compete is the Irish Stryker Championship, for 2015 the class has attracted title sponsorship from Baker Automotive. The Stryker Class originated in 1998, the cars are loosely based on the Lotus 7 design and are easily recognisable to the famous Caterham kit cars. They are powered by a 1.8-litre Ford Zetec engine that produces 170hp, this combined with a weight of approximately 640 kilograms including driver, results in a powerful race car. The front-engined rear-wheel-drive setup makes for entertaining driving.
Last season I competed in some races in the Fiesta Championship, subsequently when the opportunity arose to try my hand racing a Stryker, needless to say I didn’t have to think long and hard to accept the invitation. Prior to our two races on Sunday I drove the Baker Automotive Stryker for a few test sessions the day before around Mondello Park’s National Circuit. In short they’re a lively car that takes some practice to master their handling traits. They would benefit greatly from the fitment of a limited-slip differential and some anti-roll bars, although some competitors will argue that the live rear axle adds to the excitement of racing a Stryker. The combination of the noise of the Zetec engine, complete with twin carburetors and the open cockpit adds to the driving sensation. The cars are equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, for Mondello Park’s National Circuit only second, third and fourth gear are utilised. After a few test sessions and some suspension adjustments I improved steadily on my laptimes, although still some way off the front runners. The car’s engine was strong, however I struggled to transfer its power to the tarmac without inducing a handful of wheel spin on exiting most corners.
Due to technical problems with the timing system, grids were decided on championship status basis. As this was the first round of the 2015 Baker Automotive Stryker Championship our grids were formed on Championship positions from the 2014 championship. Myself and one other competitor Darren Griffin tossed a coin for the final two grid positions, I would start eight and Darren ninth. My race start was initially ideal, accelerating off the line with little or no wheelspin, this was soon ruined by missing second gear which lost valuable time. I resumed pace soon after and passed some cars before settling in behind Darren Griffin who took advantage of my missed gear changed earlier. I kept pace with Darren for a good few laps before he ran wide exiting turn one, here was my invitation to pass, and instead of seizing the moment I got lost in the ecstasy of the race and followed Darren onto the grass. We both re-joined and continued to race, with a sixth place finish behind Darren.
Mercifully my start in race two was much-improved with second gear selected tentatively. Roger Waleratne was to become my main competitor for this race, we battled hard and fair for numerous laps with some overtaking moves almost executed. I made my move going into the final corner after a brief Safety Car period, moving up to sixth place, where I would remain to the chequered flag. Both races were filled with drama and excitement throughout, the Stryker’s are a physically demanding car to drive fast, but so rewarding. The competition is fierce yet fair, there’s not many race classes that you can trust any driver around you when attempting an overtaking move at speed just inches apart, respect to all the competitors in this class.
The sportsmanship shown on track is replicated in the paddock, with a friendly atmosphere engulfing the Stryker hospitality marquee. The banter over breakfast after Sunday morning’s early practice was to set the tone for the day, competitive fun. The cars are relatively inexpensive to purchase and run, thanks to a set of fixed technical regulations. Second hand cars can be purchased from approximately €4,000. If you’re thinking of going racing and aren’t sure where to start the Stryker class is well worth some investigation. All the information you need is available on their website www.irishstrykers.ie
A special thanks must go to Mark Baker, Baker Automotive, John Burke, Team DG Racing and all the Stryker competitors for their friendliness and assistance over the whole weekend. I’ve no doubt I’ll be back for more.
(Photos credited to James Foley and Keith Alford.)