Just as most people were winding down after the stress of Christmas, petrol-heads all over the country prepared for one of the last events on the 2004 Motoring Calendar – the Erne Diff, held at St Angelo’s airport in Enniskillen.
Upon our arrival at 10am, there was already a large fleet of modified cars queuing outside the entrance. The PSNI presence seemed to be directed mostly towards controlling traffic, in an attempt to keep disruption to a minimum. I quickly abandoned my two passengers and made my way over to the entrance for the cars participating in the various areas of the show. Although I wasn’t entering the Show & Shine or the Diffing Arena, I decided to have a crack at the 1/4 mile Drag Strip – one of the first to be successfully run in Ireland. At £10 a run, a few entrants were unhappy at the cost, mentioning that Drag Strips in the rest of the UK are generally cheaper. However, not many venues can provide the quality of an Airport runway for a drag strip, so I happily handed over the money and made my way into the show.
A number of websites and stands were assembled, with a large selection of Ireland’s modified cars on show for spectators to browse around. There was a good variety on display – from body-kitted Civics to fully tuned Skylines. Nearby, a large circular area seemed to be drawing a lot of attention and upon closer inspection, this revealed itself to be the diffing arena. Even at this early hour, there was a large queue of eager pilots waiting at the entrance for their 5 minutes of tyre smoking – in everything from old Ford Sierras to the latest BMW M3’s. For those who were a little too eager, there was a friendly tractor driver standing by to help show them to the exit – as one Capri driver found out to his detriment
Aside from the Diffing and the Show & Shine, the main attraction of the day was of course, the Drag Strip – an event which anyone can enter, regardless of their car or experience. There were two 1/4 mile lanes, both with official rally timing equipment, and drivers lined up 2 at a time. This particular area attracted a fantastic crowd of spectators and the queue of cars waiting to enter was also encouraging. Again, the variety of cars and drivers entering was astonishing – from small-engined Vauxhalls through to fully tuned 600bhp Nissan Skylines; from local website members who were out to see if they could beat their mates, through to professional tuning firms such as OMA Performance. I settled for one run on the strip, but found that the poor weather made traction (particularly in high powered RWDs) almost impossible in first and second gear. Nevertheless, it was a great experience to try out and the times posted throughout the day made for debate later. Fastest of the day on the rain drenched strip was a silver Evo 5 pulling an awesome 12.64s quarter.
As is always the case, the show was punctuated by other smaller attractions such as the Auto-testing. Overall, the general consensus from visitors to the show seemed to be overwhelmingly positive, with most remarking that only the poor weather let the show down slightly. It can be safely said that if the show was repeated in the summer – at the same venue and perhaps with better pricing for the drag strip – it would be even more successful and would prove itself a hard act to beat.