My third year of running a FF1600 and it’s my 3rd Mondiale! I’ve just been off to Ireland to test the new car. It’s good or will be with a few little things ironed out. I was testing and racing at Kirkistown. It’s another world over there compared to the mainland UK. Very easy going and the track is a lot like an old style track where it’s all about the racing with no fancy paddock. I met some really intesting characters over there and learned a lot about Mondiale the company.
Sadly for Mondiale and Leslie Drysdale (the designer who previously designed Crossles), car building ended in the early 90s when the company turned to general engineering work to keep going and beat the recession. They built a large number of different cars for the American market which was their biggest. There was also a surprising parallel with the demise of an earlier Northern Ireland car building company you may just have heard of called DeLorean in that one of the directors, Colin Lees turned to drug money to pay his debts! A quick Google of the name Colin Lees turns up quite a few interesting stories. This rather ruined the reputation of the company and I got the impression this made Leslie want to turn his back on building cars and concentrate on other things to bring in the cash.
The engineering company continues to this day but they don’t build cars. There was a new car partially built for 93/94 but Leslie refused to finish it. There are still people all these years later hoping they can peruade Leslie to finish it off the way he wanted as it was a nice design from the looks of it with pull-rod rear suspension as well as pull-rod front suspension. About the only thing besides the driver which can be located low down to keep the centre of gravity low is the suspension. The engine position is fixed and a chassis has to be as safe and as rigid as the next one. This car had both front and rear suspension mounted horizontally very low on the floor which reduces the weight transfer in a corner and allows the inside tyres to do more of the work and not overload the outer tyres. Additionally pull rods can be lighter than push rods as they operate in tension and not compression.
Beyond the talk of cars I found the guys who race at Kirkistown have a very lively social scene! After testing much beer is consumed well into the night and even the next day. The restaurant and bar at the track is buzzing throughout the night and often features live music. Not the greatest race prep but it doesn’t seem to slow the guys down very much; these guys are quick! I have to thank Hugh Reid in particular for making me feel very welcome during the weekend.
On track the conditions were poor but the car set up by John Harris handled beautifully. It was so placid I did not make the most of it given my recent experience of Mondiales set up by the less skillful spanner, me! Where my other cars would bite this was forgiving. The only issue I had to live with was a seized up spherical bearing which was taking away any feel from the steering. The car has not been used in 20 years so this kind of issue was to be expected. The American Loynings engine, rebuilt by Scholar, is a bit of a stonker although I nearly managed to blow it up already when the gear linkage broke and I got 1st instead of 3rd. This cut short my qualifying session which were my only dry laps. Given it was very wet and for me the race was just testing (I couldn’t score points or win a trophy having not filled in a tyre sheet) I just allowed a gap to develop to the quick boys up front through the dauting Debtors Dip corner knowing I could pick them back up through the rest of the lap. It has decent pace that car. I look forward to seeing what it can do when driven in anger!