If you don’t know who Dean Kearney is, he drives the V-Leds Dodge Viper for Team SHR in the Formula Drift series. Dean was kind enough to give us a nice quick wrap-up and break down of his first entry to ProDrift in a while by attending the ProDrift Finals as well as some insight on the upcoming Formula Drift Finals and trying to become a resident in the states for the upcoming new year. Check out what we got from our man Mr. Karnage!
EverythingDrift: So how was it returning to ProDrift for their final event and Qualifying 6th overall in a car you have never driven? How do you feel you placed overall through out the competition?
Dean “Karnage” Kearney: Returning to Prodrift was awesome! I have had the idea of returning to Prodrift on my mind for quite some time, even to do the odd event or maybe a full season but to return for what was the best European drift event ever staged to date was incredible. The Prodrift finals had the normal huge domestic entry in excess of 50 cars split into 2 classes over two days while the large number of international champions meant that even qualifying for Top16 was going to be tough and leave a lot of competitors upset! Lets not forget, this was not an exhibition event and there was still a 2011 Prodrift championship to be decided away from the glitz and glamour of all the International names competing. The crowd may have been in favour of all these top drivers competing but there was some drivers who were hoping to wrap up a season strong and could have done without all these FD and current champions from other series. I made a last minute decision to enter after seeing the hype built up around what is called “Japfest” which is held annually at Mondello Park and where Prodrift have used Japfest to stage their finals each year. A large crowd is guaranteed especially with the likes of Dai Yoshihara and Team Need for Speed who are all seasoned Formula Drift competitors so after a few phone calls to try and track down a car capable of being competitive my entry was confirmed on Thursday evening.
All was not smooth sailing unfortunately as it was a competitors car which was used on Saturday morning in the non seeded class before the Pro seeded class got time to practice. The SR20 powered S14 had suffered a damaged exhaust meaning it was not boosting at all and was extremely down on power compared to everyone else – Que frustration and panic!! We wrapped up our Saturday practice session as torrential rain flooded us out and left us with a decision to withdraw from the event as the car was a non runner unless all night work was carried out getting parts etc…..Very upsetting, the weekend was over before it even began! Then out of nowhere Richie O’Neill who also competed in the Non seeded or ‘pro-am’ class whom I had spoke to earlier about Formula Drift approached me and asked if I would like to drive his car? I took a look around it in the pounding rain and made the decision to try it out Sunday morning in practice as we needed to inform Prodrift of our official car ASAP. Sunday morning practice came and it was still damp from the heavy rain so we took to the track for a one hour practice session before the 1 hour break which leads straight into the Top 16 qualification. The car had anti lag and a host of goodies which made the car actually quite fun to drive on my way out to the start line….however, upon following Alan Sinnott (who is now the 2011 Prodrift Champion in his red AE86 – Well done bro!) I realised the anti-lag was creating a vacuum lock in the intake plenum meaning the brake pedal was like a ROCK as it doesn’t have an independent racing pedal box!! I pulled the ebrake so hard to avoid hitting Alan I actually pulled the level smooth off and snapped the fittings!! Scary start to say the least….So while we got around to fix the handbrake one of the crew tracked down Robbie from Trackday Performance (TDP) who mapped the car and was luckily on hand to remove the anti lag from the ECU mapping and we re-joined the practice session with 5 minutes remaining. The track had dramatically dried up and I was simply too slow and conservative so I made a complete mess of my second and last practice lap before qualifying – NOT HOW I EXPECTED TO ENJOY MY PRODRIFT RETURN.
We had 1 hour to re-group and make some basic adjustments to the car keeping in mind that the rain clouds looked threatening at all times but we gambled on a dry fast setup – ‘SHIT OF BUST’ as we say. Qualifying came around a lot faster than expected which is generally the case when you have your back to the wall so we just went for it 100% attack on a track which was continuing to evolve as the weather changed. Run1 was my first run in the dry in this car and with an entry speed of 101kph I scored a 80.5 which left me 9th overall after the first qualifying runs complete. I found the car to actually have more grip than expected so on run 2 I went as hard as I could with a 108kph entry speed and finished up my run with a score of 89.3 putting me 6th overall and only beaten by fellow FD drivers and other drift champions in their own cars….DELIGHTED!! This was to be the highlight as Superlap in Prodrift which is a 1 lap showdown to pair up for your top 16 battle I went for an ambitious, wild entry to showboat for the crowd which was awesome but I sacrificed my line for clipping zones 2 and 3 so the run tailed off after the gung-ho entry. If I had an extra 100bhp it would have worked out but hey – I hope the fans enjoyed my attempt! My Top16 pairing was Dai Yoshihara of all people would you believe and it was fair to say that each battle from Top16 to the final was worthy of being a final itself – EVERYONE WAS PUMPED! Run1 following I made a silly error while following too close an over rotated and spun out, I actually was expecting Dai to be a lot faster so I caught myself out with nowhere to go but spin or hit him which was a shame – Run2 leading was a clean pass but Dai is a seasoned Veteran potentially on his way to the 2011 Formula Drift championship so I knew he wouldn’t attack and was wise to hold back and progress to the Top8. Overall my return was a usual Prodrift affair upon reflection – Last minute changes, drama and heroics all rolled into one!! Awesome event and as much as I was gutted not to make the podium im still delighted to have been part of a huge event that will go down in Irish and European drifting history – Roll on Japfest 2012 maybe? 😉
ED: Finals are a few weeks away, how are you getting mentally prepared and are you ready to bring it?
DK: Irwindale is my next port of call for another finals in a few weeks and its one that matters most for me – Formula Drift. Its fair to say I have not had the desired results in FD since joining the series and there isn’t a person harder or more critical on myself than me! I have learned an awful lot and developed as a driver both mentally and physically dramatically since joining SHR with the V-LEDS crew and we are pushing hard to wrap up 2011 on a positive note then immediately shift focus to planning 2012. Irwindale hasn’t been good to me at my last two attempts for mechanical issues but we at SHR have found a turn in form since Seattle with constant hard work and development within the team and we want to carry this to Irwindale to finish up strong. We have a test day at Irwindale a week beforehand and hopefully have Eibach on site with us to extract as much performance from the car and its setup as possible as everyone notoriously goes 110% attack at the last round of the season. I’m excited and looking forward to the final round of 2011 but I would be lying if I didn’t say I was already looking forward to 2012! Before you ask, We are already discussing our initial 2012 plans with SHR and yes they are exciting not only for me but also for the whole team as it shows growth and direction in all the right areas to make SHR a top team within Formula Drift.
ED: State side, EOS has made the transition. Are you next, if so when and what coast are you planning to stay on? Also Birthday! Let us know how you spent it and if you got all your wishes… hahaha… 🙂
DK: Moving to the US is the long-term goal. Not only does it suit us to be based in the US for travel costs but it shows a level of commitment to the team, sponsors and myself personally at making a career out of this. We work very hard from both sides of the Atlantic on two different time zones and sometimes three to stay in constant touch with everyone so it would make things that bit easier to be located from LA and in close proximity to the team, sponsors and testing. At the moment im working a day job in Ireland with limited time off allocated for my drifting so im jumping between two country’s, two lifestyles, jobs, time zones and two characters! Dean Kearney works all year in Ireland while Dean Karnage only works for 7 weeks of the year at Formula Drift events at the moment. I would love to be located from LA and working on the car, team, sponsors a lot more – something that is in the “to-do” list for 2012 so fingers crossed we make it happen and we can get a Visa to move out asap. As for my birthday – well maybe Dean Karnage works the odd weekend throughout the year in Ireland and at selected events such as my birthday! Haha….Ironically my birthday was on Sunday the day of Japfest so Saturday night consisted of some light celebrations with all my Prodrift / FD friends & family – I actually think there was a plan for each driver to buy me a drink before competing!!! For anyone who ever attends a Prodrift event….ITS A LOT!! My birthday wish would have ideally been a podium at Japfest but no sooner had that wish left the building I got a mail from Nicole from V-LEDS saying “Happy birthday, we will celebrate at Irwindale” – I would certainly pass the podium in Mondello for a post dated present at Irwindale – Yes please! See you all at Irwindale and thanks for reading and your continued support. DK #43.