Oulton Park, Cheshire, 5 September 2000 - Keith Dempsey, thought by many to be the best young motor racing driver to emerge in Ireland this year, took the next step in his sporting career today when he tested a Formula Renault car at Oulton Park, Cheshire.
Driving for the RCL Motorsport team, Keith joined the 22 regular competitors in the Formula Renault 2000 championship for an exclusive test day at the tricky English circuit.
Despite early morning rain, Keith was first out onto the track and quickly got to grips with both a car and a circuit which were new to him. His plan was to spend the morning learning how the car handled, and then start to look for representative times in the afternoon. As he gained more experience Keith's times improved, and soon Keith was running inside the top ten. He managed to get a taste of the dry-weather "slick" racing tyres as the track dried just before the lunch break.
After lunch the test programme was delayed by another competitor having a major accident at "Old Hall", the first corner on the circuit. The driver was unharmed, but circuit staff had to make repairs to the protective barriers which line the circuit. When the session re-started, Keith consolidated his experience of the car in the faster, dry conditions and then fitted fresher tyres to the car to start setting competitive times.
However, the earlier delay meant that he only had some 35 minutes running on these faster tyres at a time when all the more experienced competitors were setting their best times. Nevertheless, Keith's fastest time was under two seconds behind the quickest time of the day and ahead of many of the regular runners.
RCL Motorsport race engineer Paul South said afterwards: "I was very impressed. The other drivers have been driving all year and this is their second visit to Oulton Park. For Keith to be so competitive in his first test, when he had never even seen the track before this morning, shows how much potential he has. He should certainly compete in this championship next year."
Currently leading the 2000 Europa Cup Ireland motor-racing championship by 11 points, Keith is well on his way to winning Ireland's premier single-seater crown while still only three weeks past his seventeenth birthday. He is therefore looking at racing in Britain next year, where Formula Renault is now the established route to stardom.
Featuring identical single-seater cars, powered by identical 2-litre engines, the Formula Renault car is similar to the Formula Europa machine that Keith has driven so successfully in Ireland in 2000. However, with a carbon-fibre chassis and a 6-speed sequential gearbox, it features the latest technology which young Keith will have to experience before he is ready to move up the motor-sport ladder of success.
Keith's first challenge is to win the Europa Cup championship in the last two races which will be held at Ireland's Mondello Park circuit on 16/17 September. Then he is looking forward to a run in the Formula Renault Winter Series which takes place over three weekends in Britain at the end of October.
This year, Keith's Europa Cup campaign is backed by Irish Ferries, Richmond Recruitment, Snap-On Tools and Mintex.