As Dean “Karnage” Kearney ends his 2011 Formula Drift season on an up note. He was kind enough to give us some time to tell us about how he and Team SHR ended the season as well as some insight on 2012, SEMA and moving to the states…
EverythingDrift: How was it to make it into the Top 16 after the struggles of the season with the Viper having several issues, causing a lower ranking and making yourself and the team struggle?
Dean “Karnage” Kearney: “Irwindale was my second Top16 of the season. My first came at V-LEDS home event in Evergreen Speedway at round 4, the event that I eventually breathed a sign of relief and was also a major turning point for me, the team and all involved. Basically without getting into too much detail about the reasons behind the troubles and dwelling on them, my aim was to focus on the cure and get better results after 3 difficult events. The judging criteria in FD has changed so much over the years and with cars becoming faster and technologically super advanced I guess the old Viper was stuck in a FD time warp and needed some changes to get some more performance from the car and also more performance from me. Basic things such as traction to carry more drift speed was required but like everything, to every action there is an equal opposite reaction. This new found traction and speed suddenly made the car trickier to steer and transition through drift so we needed more angle and quicker lock-2-lock steering rack. Not an easy task, especially mid season to be re-engineering steering, anti roll bar and spindle design to “hopefully” gain an advantage on its current setup without any prior testing or knowledge from someone else to clarify the changes will actually work, a lottery in other words! Luckily after an all nights work in Seattle we basically junked the roll bar and re-engineered the spindles in such a way to have zero Ackermann angle which in turn alleviated the other steering rack issues as the hubs now turned more degrees with less steering input = quick rack. It was a gamble and it paid off this time. The steering improvements along with the teams hard work and dedication to making the car perform 100% at the remaining round such as Vegas where I was disgusted with myself for falling out in Top32 I really wanted to say thanks to everyone with a Top16 or better at Irwindale. On another day Top8 or more was capable but no shame in losing to Tyler on a day where he ended up winning the event….il get you one day Tyler!!” J
ED: So after working with Sam and the Team for a season, have you learned any tricks or have you helped them learn any tricks they might have not known being from opposite sides of the pond?
DKK: “Working with Sam, Brad, Stina and all the guys at SHR at events and throughout the year was somewhat surreal. It was a great experience personally and yes in some ways I think we all learned a lot from each other, not only technically but also from each others characters and maybe their perceptions of what we can do as the “newbie’s” changed as the year went on. We showed our own ingenuity at times and I feel we contributed to the team positively both on and off the track all year as it progressed. I guess we just grew together as we got to know one another to form a stronger team partnership and this just shows when we finished up the season with our best performance all year – we all walked away smiling so for me that’s a good weekend. To come from Europe as a privateer running a drift program on your own budget to suddenly being the face of brands like V-LEDS / Dodge / Federal and BFGoodrich tyre in the Dodge motorsports team SHR is a bit intimidating and daunting at first, but when the race weekend roles around all these things leave your mind and you simply aim to hold your own and do a good job. I never wanted to drift just to make up the numbers and I never will, Samuel is the same and he’s been a great mentor all year at how he takes the bad in his stride and constantly bounces back. Its been a character building year for sure and one that I know going into 2012 will stand to me immensely when Long Beach comes back around.”
ED: We know you are planing to come out to be stateside. When is this slated to happen? Will you be remaining with Team SHR for the 2012 Formula Drift Season?
DKK: “For 2012 I am certainly looking to stay at SHR and drive the Viper again. We have shown an element of the cars potential so with a freshly built Viper ACR-X from scratch and some upgrades in the areas we all feel necessary we are confident of fielding a very competitive package at Long Beach. At the moment I’m currently planning on returning to the USA next week to attend SEMA on behalf of SHR at some of our sponsors booths and I know we have some meetings scheduled which will be taken care of while I make some appearances. Once we get back from SEMA I have our Visa applications to go through while also finalising our invitational to the Middle East tour with Formula Drift – more on that once I get confirmation about our invite so I can say what vehicle I will be driving. Basically we will be kept busy into the new year and I hope to get out to LA as quickly as possible to help Brad and the SHR crew with the new Viper build before setting off to do the Middle East events. Busy times!!”
ED: So how does the drifting and drivers defer here from the ProDrift series in Ireland and the UK? Do you see any other ProDrift drivers planning to try and trek their way to America?
DK: “Funny you should ask as this is a question I’m asked quite a lot from Irish drivers & fans back home. A lot of people see DMAC doing so well and ask me why am I struggling being a PD champ like him or simply see I have a Viper with 700+bhp that won 2x FD championships and think I should be winning too. To fans at home their perceptions of FD is a Prodrift event with v8’s when it really isn’t. There is something that the Driftstream just doesn’t portray online so maybe that’s something they need to work on….3D FD or something along those lines may be required!?!? J Seriously though, to those who have attended a FD event or especially competed in FD will know how fierce the competition is and how consistent and committed you need to be and also have a top team, car and overall package to be consistently competitive. Granted there is an element of luck in drifting but if you have all areas above covered then you are making your own luck by being superior to your rivals. At present there is a line between Formula Drift and Prodrift or other UK/EU championships and the current level of competition, equipment, resources and media power in FD is growing steadily away per annum from that of championships in the EU. The Pro-am Formula Drift drivers were insane at some events this year and yet you see past pro am champs struggle when among the pro drivers. We all saw Dai Yoshihara come out to Ireland and the UK and drive in two events and do quite well against the best on offer. James Deane won on both occasions and in all honesty he would be a nice addition to the Formula Drift grid as a regular and its only a matter of time before he gets a bite at the cherry full time. Formula Drift for me and for many is the pinnacle of the sport so if you can be competitive in Formula Drift and win then your driving your ass off!” JR the 2010 FD champ summarised FD to me nicely after Vegas Rd6 when he explained his qualifying runs to me and every time he pitched the car on entry at the wall at over 100mph he said to himself – WHAT THE F@*K AM I DOING!! That says it all.”
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