The 2021 SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship got underway much later than anticipated with its first round not taking place until July.
After an unexpectedly long layoff from championship action, 87 competitors gathered at socially distanced intervals around the paddock at Kirkistown, to see the season commence.
With a total of 210 competitors registered in the championship across 19 classes, here is a roundup of how the 2021 season unfold.
Round 1, Ulster Automobile Club, Kirkistown:
No one was able to match the pace of Alan Cassells who lead from the first time run. After a spin on his first run, Gerard O’Connell managed to claw his way back up to second place overall, with Adrian Pollock finishing off the rostrum.
On this event O’Connell was fastest through the speed trap at 127mph, with both Steven Gault and Pollock coming through at 125mph.
Philip Cardy returned to the road cars category after a sabbatical, and took the win from Andrew Robb, with Jonny Forsythe finishing third. Wesley Patterson took the modified category win from Stewart Strain, with Lewis Dunlop finishing third.
David Hawthorne snatched the specialist category I had of brother, Stephen, with Graham Boyce claiming third. In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge it was Kathy McDade who came out on top, ahead of Emma Campbell in second with Sheryl McBride finishing third.
Round 2, 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland, Kirkistown:
Yet again Alan Cassels set-off from the line like a greyhound after a rabbit, eventually setting his fastest time on run number three. Gerard O’Connell claimed second overall on his second run, whilst third went to a returning Simon Woodside.
On this event O’Connell was yet again fastest through the speed trap at 131mph, with Steven Gault at 125mph and Cassells coming through at 111mph.
Philip Cardy once again took the road cars category win from Conor Hamill, with Aaron Vance finishing third. The modified category win went to Oliver Cormican who finished ahead of Ryan Murray, with Stewart Strain finishing third.
Jim Hutchinson took the specialist category win from David Hawthorne, with Steven hawthorns finishing third. In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy it was role reversal as Sheryl McBride took the challenge win from Emma Campbell, with Kathy McDade finishing third.
Round 3, North Ulster Car Club, Nutts Corner:
Despite Adrian Pollock taking an early lead, it was Alan Cassells who would take maximum points at the end of the event, with Adrian second and Steven Gault finishing in third.
On this event Cassells was fastest through the speed trap at 116mph, with both Stephen Colbert and Gerard O’Connell, who were sharing O’Connell’s World Series Dallara, coming through at 111mph.
Philip Cardy took another road cars category win from Conor Hamill, with Aaron Vance finishing third. Ian Lancashire returned to the modified category, and took the win from Oliver Cormican with Stewart Strain finishing third.
Jack Boal took the specialist category win from Trevor Allen, with Richard Munnis finishing third. In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy Emma Campbell took her maiden challenge trophy win ahead of Sheryl McBride, with Kathy McDade finishing in third.
Round 4, Ulster Automobile Club, Kirkistown:
After a mostly wet event, the top drivers were able to swap for dry tyres for the final run of the day. Alan Cassells keeping his clean-sweep alive with an event win, it was Stephen Colbert who finished second ahead of Gerard O’Connell in third. The latter to sharing O’Connell’s World Series Dallara.
On this event O’Connell was again fastest through the speed trap at 124mph, with Stephen Colbert at 112mph and John Donnelly coming through at 108mph.
Conor Hamill took his first win in the road cars category beating Phillip Cardy for the first time this year, with Johnny Forsythe finishing third. Having just won the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship modified category, Daniel Campbell returned to sprinting by winning the modified category ahead of Ryan Murray, with Ian Lancashire finishing third.
Trevor Allen won the specialist category from Richard Munnis, with David Hawthorne finishing third. In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy Amy Hawthorne took her maiden challenge trophy win ahead of Emma Campbell, with Sheryl McBride finishing third.
Round 5, 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland, Kirkistown:
With the knowledge that he could stamp his name on a trophy that has eluded him until now, Alan Cassells knew that he had to win this event to claim the 2021 championship trophy.
That he did on his first run, by setting a blistering event and championship winning time. Gerard O’Connell finish the event just 1.16 seconds behind, in second place, with Stephen Colbert finishing third, just three quarters of a second behind O’Connell.
On this event Eamon Matheson was fastest through the speed trap at a whopping 161mph, with both Colbert and O’Connell in the same car coming through at 149mph.
Again Conor Hamill took the road cars category win from Philip Cardy, with Barry Griffin finishing in third. Oliver Cormican took the modified category win from Ryan Murray, with Ian Lancashire finishing 3rd.
Rory Stephen’s finally showed the potential of his RSR Escort by taking the specialist category win from Trevor Allen, with Richard Munnis finishing in third. In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy Amy Hawthorne took her second win on the bounce ahead of Emma Campbell, with Kathy McDade finishing third.
Round 6, 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland, Kirkistown:
Gerard O’Connell triumphed at this cold, wet and greasy final fling for this year’s Championship. Tony Greenan brought his recently acquired F3 Dallara home in second place, ahead of John Donnelly who rounded off the rostrum.
On this event Patrick Roche was fastest through the speed trap at 109mph, with John Donnelly and Tony Greenan both coming through at 108mph.
Barry Griffin took his first road cars win from Conor Hamill, with Johnny Forsythe finishing third. Oliver Cormican took another modified category win ahead of Ryan Murray, with Daniel Campbell finishing in third.
In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy Kathy McDade took her second win of the season ahead of Catherine Donnelly, with Sheryl McBride finishing in third.
In the end:
After Round 5 the top four overall had been decided, mathematically anyway, when drop scores were brought into play. Alan Cassels took the series win in his OMS 25, whilst Gerard O’Connell driving his Dallara World Series car finished four points behind in second. Both men giving it their all, right to the end.
Third overall went to hard charging Steven Gault in his Reynard 903, the County Antrim driver giving us all a masterclass in being consistently fast, it’s been a joy following him on the time sheets. John Donnelly driving his recently purchased Pilbeam MP62 got to grips with his new steed in the second half of the season, finishing just one point behind Gault.
Round 6 was critical for the category battles, as well as many of the classes, some of which ended as a tie-break, commanding a count back to see who would be victorious.
If this season is anything to go by, next year’s championship could prove to be in a league of its own!
2021 S.W. Adair Northern Ireland Sprint Championship Standings.
1 – Alan Cassells, OMS 25
2 – Gerard O’Connell, Dallara World Series
3 – Steven Gault, Reynard 903
4 – John Donnelly, Pilbeam MP62
5 – Patrick Roche, OMS SC
6 – Brian Fitzmaurice, OMS PR
7 – Adrian Pollock, Dallara F301
8 – Trevor Roberts, Force Nine
9 – George Stevenson, Force PT
10 – Ryan McGimpsey, Jedi MkI
Road cars saloon/GT category:
1 – Philip Cardy, Subaru Impreza
2 – Conor Hamill, BMW M3 V8
3 – Aaron Vance, Clio 197
1 – Oliver Cormican, Mitsubishi Evo
2 – Ryan Murray, Subaru Impreza
3 – Stewart Strain, Peugeot 205
1 – Trevor Allen, MNR Vortex RT
2 – David Hawthorne, Westfield Megabusa
3 – Richard Munnis, Westfield Megabusa
Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy:
1 – Emma Campbell, Peugeot 106
2 – Kathy McDade, Seat Leon
3 – Sheryl McBride, Global GT1
Class 1 – Mark Brogan, Peugeot 106
Class 2a – Conor Hamill, BMW M3 V8
Class 2b – Adam Brogan, Mazda MX5
Class 3 – Philip Cardy, Subaru Impreza
Class 5 – Trevor Allen, MNR Vortex RT
Class 6a – Karl Johnston, Austin Mini
Class 6b – Stephen Colbert, Sunbeam Lotus
Class 7 – David Hawthorne, Westfield Megabusa
Class 8 – Rory Stephens, RSR Escort
Class 9a – Emma Campbell, Peugeot 106
Class 9b – Patrick Roche, OMS SC
Class 10 – Alan Roddy, Citroen Saxo
Class 11 – Stewart Strain, Peugeot 205
Class 12 – Oliver Cormican, Mitsubishi Evo
Class 13 – Stephen Wishart, Swift SC96
Class 14 – Brian Fitzmaurice, OMS PR
Class 15 – Alan Cassells, OMS 25
Class 16a – Gerry McGarrity, Mini Cooper
Class 16b – Stephen Nevin, MkI Escort
Words & Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY