“The Saddest Happiness”.

Anyone that knows me personally will know about what I’m currently doing with the first car I ever owned, my Mk2 Golf GTI, called Lara. That will be a story for the site in itself, but it’s something major that took months of contemplation and decision making before I gave it the go ahead. It was an extremely tough decision, but one that I personally knew I had to make and would be worthwhile in the long run – the saddest happiness, to quote the song.

Don’t worry baby, you’ll be better soon, and then all the other girls in the yard will stop picking on you.

As I sit here (well, lay. I’m in bed right now typing this. Sorry I’m not one of those hip “macbook in a coffee shop” writers. I did try that once though. It was class. Must do it again. Anyway.) thinking about the overwhelming and so far insanely difficult challenge I’ve set myself, I’ve decided to step back into what stands out to me as the most important and definitely my favourite time with the car – an event called Autoheroes, an event held every now and again down in Mondello Park, deep down south in Ireland.

A heads up, I’ll be using a mix of photos from our first and second Autoheroes events, because I’m a numpty and didn’t take enough pics at the first one.

Back in March of 2016, 427 Motorsports as you know it today was just starting to get it’s feet. We had created our Facebook page, had sold a few T Shirts, covered a few events. Everything we did though tended to be local, and were either static shows or Drag Racing events in Bishopscourt. While this was fun and all, we decided that we want to branch out a little bit, and go somewhere a bit further afield. I believe it was Rian who mentioned a new up and coming event called Autoheroes, and that it was a mixture of drifting, track racing and a static display section. A bit of a mixed bag, with something for everyone.

Did I mention that anyone could have a go on the racetrack? I was sold.

Me and Rian were convinced. Shea was supposed to go, but being Shea, he changed his mind last minute and couldn’t be bothered driving all that way. After some convincing, we drafted in Conor, who was literally arriving off the ferry the night before, just about to return from university in England. His was so last minute that we actually fitted his 427 window sticker at the event itself. Conor being Conor though, he said “sod it” in that posh English way that he does when he’s just back from England and agreed to go anyway. This is why we like Conor. Conor is good.

The awesome thing about Auto Heroes is the variety. Nowhere else would you see an off-road spec Suzuki Jimny parked up beside Skylines and drift spec Silvias.

It was the next morning however, that made this event special to me. We awoke at the crack of dawn (literally, at around 5:30 we were getting ready to set off), staying at Conor’s old place in County Monaghan. It’s about a two and a bit hour drive to Mondello Park from Conor’s place, which is nothing to me today. I do two and a bit hour drives on a weekly basis now. But at the time, I had never driven more than an hour – but it wasn’t me that was the issue. It was Lara.

Of course, I had her cockpit all spruced up and ready to go.

Anyone who knows Lara knows that she has nickname “The Heartbreaker”, a name coined by my brother Dave, because she once failed her MOT (state inspection, NCT, blah blah) four times in a row. Four. Times. That’s basically unheard of. Couple this with something breaking on every trip out and the countless times that I’ve been towed home, the prospect of a 2 hour drive in this car without any breakdown cover was frankly insane. But hey, I had Rian and Conor there, right?

So nevertheless, we saddled up the three cars and set off bright and early. Well, dark and early – the bright part hadn’t quite come yet. We aren’t as technologically advanced as your usual automotive writers, so we didn’t have any form of on-board communications – it was just each one of us, our machines, and our music. And I can honestly say, this has been my favourite experience in that car to date.

There’s nothing like being in your favourite car, with a long journey ahead, your favourite music, and your two best friends in tow.

There’s something quite special about the bond between a man and his car. There’s something very special about being with your two best friends. But there’s something really quite remarkable about having the two together.

You see, the thing is, this article isn’t really about Autoheroes itself, or about my GTI. Well, in a sense, I guess it is about my GTI. But not really. What it’s really about is that feeling that you get when you’re with people who mean the most to you, doing the things you love. We can’t call people without wings angels, so we call them friends instead. In a similar way, it’s not possible for us to record onto digital format what we see with our own two eyes, so we call them memories instead. Memories that we’ll always treasure – and I know that years from now, when I go to recall some of the happiest days of my life, I’ll be playing back that car journey.

These three cars aren’t mine, yet they’re three of the most important cars in the world to me, and there’s nothing else I’d rather see through my windscreen.

You see, as cliché as it sounds, life is about the journey you take, not the place that you wind up. Because we all wind up in the same place in the end – six feet under. And that day, the destination didn’t matter – the journey was what mattered. I will never forget watching the sun rise over the mountains as Sweet Home Alabama played full volume (full volume of course being a necessity in Lara, because she’s so unbearably loud) and seeing Rian’s 306 in front of me, and Conor’s Abarth my rear view mirror. I’ll never forget being in Slane at 7 in the morning, and hitting the rev limiter at traffic lights because I forgot what time it was, and seeing Rian burst into stitches through his rear view mirror as we then high tailed it out of there. The constant staring at the temperature gauge to make sure she didn’t break down. The shouting at Rian for driving too slow. The shouting at Conor for driving too fast. There were no other cars on the road, it was just us, our machines, and the shared sense that things couldn’t be more perfect.

I’ll never forget the fact that Lara made the whole trip, without breaking down. Or did she? Well, we stopped for fuel 5 minutes before the track and she decided she’d had enough. Maybe she was too scared for what she was about to experience…

Me, destroying a Civic, before Lara destroyed herself.

After having my first experience of being on an actual race track, I was in love with Lara even more. But she wasn’t in love me with me, not anymore – I broke a sensor and the engine thought there was no oil. This meant I had the whole two hour trip back with a constant buzzer sound, which was louder than any music I could play. Needless to say, I had a headache.

But yes, as I was saying. This isn’t about Autoheroes, or my GTI – this is a public service announcement. Life’s too short to worry about where you’re going to be – just worry about what you’re going to do on your way there.

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