Rally debut Kane takes hot seat at Tour of Sperrins
Steven Kane admits he is stepping in at the deep end when he makes his rally debut on the Tour of the Sperrins on Saturday.
He may be one of Ulster's most experienced and successful racing drivers but rallying is an altogether different ball game.
"It is just something I've wanted to do since I was a youngster growing up in Co Down and watching rallies like the Circuit of Ireland go past our front door," explains Northampton-based Kane, who has been a winner on the race track in everything from Formula Ford to Formula 3, from British Touring Cars to prototype sports cars in America.
But never having driven a rally car in earnest and, crucially, never had to rely on a co-driver calling the road ahead, Kane will climb on board a WRC Mini in Maghera to take part in a fiercely competitive round of the Northern Ireland championship.
He will line up against the likes of Irish Tarmac champions Darren Gass and Derek McGarrity.
"Being a rally fan, I've seen Darren and Derek many times and they are mega drivers so I'm not thinking about trying to beat them or even competing with them," he said. "But this was an opportunity to live a boyhood dream and I just had to say yes."
The opportunity, he explained, came about via Prodrive, the constructors of the WRC Minis, and McGeehan Motorsport, the Draperstown company which runs a pair of the cars in Irish events.
"I've known the Prodrive people for some time and when I've been home I have been to a few rallies with the McGeehan team," he said. "They knew I was keen to do a rally and put the pieces in place. I'm really looking forward to it."
Kane, currently competing in the Blancpain European GT championship for the JRM Nissan team – it also features nine-times World rally champion Sebastien Loeb – says switching to the rally car is not really an issue.
"I've only had a handful of runs in the Mini, but what is different is listening to my co-driver calling the pacenotes and learning to trust what he says..."
Kane will have the experienced Noel Orr beside him and says he has been impressed with what he has seen so far.
"We've had a few practice runs to get him used to pacenotes and he has been very professional...But it is all new to him and it will take time to build confidence," said Orr whose brother Michael, will be on board the second McGeehan Mini driven by Derek McGeehan on Saturday.
Kane insists he has no high expectations – "I just want to try and finish my first rally" – but adds intriguingly: "I'll see how I adapt and maybe there could be a few more rallies in the future ..."
The first car, the Ford Escort of last year's Sperrins winner Camilius Bradley, leaves the Maghera start at noon followed by the Subarus of Gass, McGarrity, Donagh Kelly, etc. Kane is seeded at No 8.