Shane Lynch – The Drifter

Julian Hamilton with Shane Lynch at the Autosport Awards Show

Julian Hamilton with Shane Lynch at the Autosport Awards Show

By Julian Hamilton

Here’s the scenario. You’ve been part of one of the most successful Irish pop bands of all time. You’ve sold 25 million records worldwide won Brit Awards and performed live in front of countless more on a world stage. Add to that a smattering of appearances on some of the best-loved reality TV shows on UK TV and to top it off, Louis Walsh on speed dial.

You’d forgive Shane Lynch, a north Dublin native for wanting to put his feet up and take it a little easy after some busy years in the spotlight. Far from it. I had done my research and heard on the grapevine that Lynch was drifting. A bit of a sideways career move I thought to myself, but pretty apt paying homage to the American R&B group from the 50’s and 60’s.

Talking to Shane earlier this year at the Autosport Awards Show at the NEC in Birmingham and everything became clearer. He spoke of his involvement with the British Jap Speed Team, how fun drift racing really is and how his career actually began on two wheels.

“As a kid I was always interested in competing. BMX was the first thing I really got into and I actually won the Portuguese BMX championship when I was fourteen. It was a bit difficult because Ireland never showed BMX on TV, I was just happy to be doing my own thing.

“My dad was a mechanic and he always raced stock cars when I was a kid so there was always a race car on my drive that I wanted to play in.

“In 1998 towards the end of my music career (after the success of Boyzone), I did a celebrity race and we were driving Caterham 7’s. I was in the briefing with Allan McNish, John Cleland and Alister McRae, all guys at the top of their game and I’m thinking what the hell am I doing here!

“I started at the back of the grid, the mechanics said leave it in second and go for it. I was doing a bit of street drifting at the time so I knew how to go sideways. I ended up third in the race and as I got out of the car I signed for Ford Motorsport!”

Shane then began a successful motorsport career in which he raced Porsche GT’s in both the UK and Germany. He also turned out for Eclipse Motorsport where he raced TVR’s Mosler’s and Marcos cars and came within a hairs breath of winning the 2003 British GT Championship in the last race at Brands Hatch.

“We were actually ready to take home the championship,” Shane recalls. “There was a big accident, with I think, Marcus Mantus down by the Dingle corner at Brands Hatch. I stopped racing for a while after that it shook me. I took a break and then someone said to me have you heard of this drifting thing. I went down to Silverstone to sit in with a dude called Mark Johnson (who was also won a programme called So You Want to Be an F1 Driver.) “He was the first drifter that I ever sat alongside and it was raining, this kid’s car control really blew my mind. I said to myself now this is what I want to do.”

The BDC British Drift Championship takes place across six rounds at circuits such as Knockhill, Silverstone and Anglesey in Wales. With the season now at its conclusion it is at demonstration events like the Autosport Show where fans can have a look at the skill of drift racing which has its early origins in Japan. Drivers show their skills by hanging the cars out in the corners, intentionally oversteering and then countering that but turning the other way using opposite lock or counter steering.

“I’m really honoured to have been asked back for our fifth appearance here with the Japspeed team. I think events like this are really important as they bring together many different genres under one roof. You also bump into some of your rivals that you’ve raced against over the years more often than you would like.”

Shane comments on the parallels between the two fast paced worlds of music and motorsport. “They are different worlds. “I mean when it comes to adrenaline excitement and dreams they are both certainly on a par. When you come off stage after playing in front of 80,000 people that high from that is quite a big thing to replace. “Luckily I found a thing that makes me tick in motorsport.”

Then the million dollar question: Who is the fastest Boyzone driver? “Oh ha, well Keith’s been out in my car he was good but Ronan and Mike also love their cars. You see we don’t have football teams so we are all passionate about cars.”

Whilst not having any cast iron motorsport idols, Shane is keen to express admiration for two big names that he admires. “Travis Pastrana (supercross and motocross champion) was the first guy to push extreme motorsport. He was the first dude I looked at and thought this guy is pushing it to a whole new level. I’m not a massive F1 fan but I do follow Lewis Hamilton, he’s got a good character and I like what he’s done. He’s more than capable of winning the championship this season, but as we know there are more than 2000 bolts on a racing car ready to go wrong.”

In amongst the screeching tyres and smoke a fan recognises Shane in the pit area where we are standing and asks him if he would like to buy one of the cars that he is competing in. “Hey, drifters haven’t got any money!” Shane replies, “We spend too much of it on tyres!”

At least he’s got the day job to fall back on.