Irish Driver Shines In UK Championship

2001 Formula Renault Championship
Round 8, Croft, 12 August 2001

Keith Dempsey, the Rising Star of Irish motor sport, was in action again at the demanding Croft circuit in North Yorkshire last weekend. This time he had no help from the weather, but he still showed that he is the most improved driver in the highly competitive Formula Renault Championship.

The seventeen-year-old racing driver from Ashbourne, Co Meath, was on a roll following his sensational win in round seven of the championship at Snetterton, Norfolk the previous weekend. However, whereas on that occasion he was helped by an inspired tyre choice in changeable weather, this time he had to do it the hard way.

Qualifying was held on a dry track on Saturday afternoon. The twenty young drivers in their identical, two litre single-seater racing cars had just thirty minutes to post one quick lap time which would earn them a place on the grid. Although dry, rain was threatening, so Keith decided to go for a quick time early in the session. He was soon on the pace, running comfortably in the top ten. His 1 minute 19 second lap time had him in eighth place with a few minutes to go, but a rare off-course excursion required him to stop at his pit so his Cliff Dempsey Racing team could check the car. While he was stationary, Chris Buncombe posted a quicker lap, dropping Keith to ninth.

Sunday afternoon, and the clouds were threatening. Team boss Cliff Dempsey delayed taking the car to the assembly area before the race in case he had to make a last-minute tyre change, but the rain held off and all the cars started on slick, untreaded racing tyres. Keith made a lightening start from ninth place, diving through the usual first-corner confusion and emerging on the other side in fifth place. By the end of the lap he was even further up, fourth.

The Safety Car came out on lap four as Alex Buncombe's number 10 car was recovered from the side of the track, and the field closed right up. After five laps, the cars were released to race again and pole position driver Carl Breeze led them away. Keith's chase of third-placed Tom Sisley was hampered as he had to defend his fourth place from the determined Finn Heikki Kovalainen, but he held his ground and the top positions remained unaltered for the rest of the race.

Afterwards, Keith didn't seem completely happy with his fourth place. "I should have taken Tom Sisley for third place at the restart, but I had to keep an eye on Heikki (Kovalainen) in my mirrors and missed my opportunity", he rued.

However, team boss Cliff Dempsey was very satisfied. "While our win at Snetterton was excellent, everyone has put it down to the 'Luck Of The Irish' in difficult weather conditions," he explained. "This time Keith took them on in a straight fight, and beat all but three of them. And those three are all much more experienced drivers than Keith. He did a great job!"

Keith's next outing in the Championship will be at Oulton Park, Cheshire, on 26 August.

Result of round 8:
Carl Breeze - GB (Motaworld Racing)
Danny Watts - GB (Falcon Motorsport)
Tom Sisley - GB (Motaworld Racing)
Heikki Kovalainen - FIN (Fortec Motorsport)
Chris Buncombe - GB (Manor Motorsport)

Keith Dempsey's season in Formula Renault is supported by:
- Irish Ferries
- KTK Sand & Gravel
- Richmond Recruitment
- Snap-On Tools
- Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey