April’s Car and Superkart meeting at Kirkistown was bathed in sunshine. Spectators were treated to some great, competitive and clean racing in all classes.
The featured class this time was Superkarts and special trophies were sponsored by the Weir family, who have been associated with Karting for well over fifty years. The late George Weir and his brother, Frank, organised karting at Kirkistown, right up to George’s passing in 2019. Today George’s daughter, Fay, holds the karting reins at the circuit.
In the first Superkart race, Ballygowan driver, Aaron Newell, went straight into the lead, closely pursued by Newtownards driver, Alan Witherow. Newell has only graduated to the 250cc class this year. As the race progressed, he stretched his lead out to just over 3 seconds at the end. In third place, quite a long way back, was Craigavon driver, Brian Jones. The 125 cc class was dominated, as it has been this season so far, by Comber driver, Alan Crossen. Scott Greenaway, from Armagh, was second and the evergreen, Noel Lindsay, from Hillsborough, was third.
In the second Superkart race, Newell had to come from 5th place on the first lap. However by the start of lap two he was in the lead again and this time he stretched his advantage to almost 9 seconds at the end. Witherow was second again but this time Jones piled on the pressure, falling short by only 0.7 seconds at the line. In the 125cc class, Millisle driver, Ross Witherow, was keeping Crossen honest, passing and repassing numerous times before he retired from the lead on lap five. This allowed the result to be a copy of race one, with Greenaway second and Lindsay third.
Newell emphasised his domination by leading start to finish and crossing the line almost 10 seconds ahead of Alan Witherow, in the third Superkart race Brian Jones went out at the end of lap one but lap record holder, Stuart Coey, from Comber, rose to the occasion, finishing just over 1 second behind Witherow. Once again, Alan Crossen dominated the 125cc class, with Greenaway a secure second. This time, Ross Witherow finished in third place.
The first car race of the day was for Saloons and Modi-5-Cup Mazda MX5s. Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, dominated in his Seat Supercopa. Ballynahinch driver, Ralph Jess, was never headed for second place. Lisburn driver, Greer Wray, was briefly in third place in his BMW 330i before Nutt’s Corner driver, Donal O’Neill, took the place in his sad looking Seat Leon, which had been damaged in a collision during qualifying. In the Mazdas, Derry driver, Gavin Kilkey, grabbed the lead at the end of the first lap and never lost it again. Ballywalter driver, David Cousins kept second all the way but was closely hounded by Moira driver Francie Allen.
In the second race for these cars, Baxter dominated again, winning by over 55 seconds from Jess. O’Neill made a woeful start, being passed by both Gareth Blain, from Downpatrick, in a BMW 330i, and Greer Wray. O’Neill got past Wray on lap two and took a further three laps to pass Blain. He was chasing Jess hard before his Seat went into limp mode on lap eleven. A visit to the pit lane and some advice from his engineer, Peter Carvill, saw him return to the race a lap down. Unfortunately for Blain, his BMW went sick on lap twelve and he had to retire. This promoted Greer Wray to third and gave O’Neill fourth place. In the Modi-5-Cup, Francie Allen led from start to finish. Gavin Kilkey was in second place for five laps before David Cousins, who had started last, came through. These were the only three finishers in the class.
The Formula Ford 1600s were the second and eighth races of the day. In the first encounter Ballymena driver, David McCullough, had qualified on pole but Ballina driver, David Parks, was quicker off the line. However, McCullough got into the lead soon and stretched the gap to 2.8 seconds at the end. Parks, who was driving a Ray borrowed from his employer, Leslie Shaw, was being hunted by the Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson. Davidson got past on lap five but was repassed a lap later. By lap twelve Davidson was getting close attention from Ballycastle driver, Brandon McCaughan. They swapped places on laps thirteen and fourteen, before Davidson claimed the final podium place.
The second race for FF1600s saw Davidson retire on lap two. This allowed McCullough to have a fairly untroubled run. Parks was also having a secure run to second place. McCaughan had passed Rob Parks for fourth place on lap one and went chasing after Dave Parks. Robert Johnston, from Crumlin, had had a poor first lap, dropping to last before passing both David Nicholl, from Markethill and Henry Campbell, from Ballymena, on the next tour. On lap nine, Rob Parks retired with a miss in his engine. Three laps later McCaughan suffered the same fate. This left Johnston in third place. However, on lap thirteen, Campbell got through, securing the final podium position.
The Fiesta Zetec races promised a spectacle, with eleven of the evenly matched cars taking to the grid. In the first of two races, Banbridge driver, Neville Anderson, who had qualified in pole position, had a mishap on the first lap and dropped to the rear of the field. This left Portadown driver, Derek Graham, chasing Belfast driver, Paul Stewart, for the lead, which he got at the end of lap one. Mark Stewart was third and Strangford driver, Megan Campbell, relieved Derek Graham’s son, Michael, for fourth place. On lap three, Paul Stewart retook the lead and Michael Graham got fourth place back from Campbell. One lap later Mark Stewart passed Derek Graham for second place and on lap five he passed his brother to take the lead. By this stage Anderson was up to seventh place and on lap nine he was into fourth place. Lap eleven saw Derek Graham pass Paul Stewart for second place and on the next lap Michael Graham passed Anderson for fourth. The final passing manoeuvre was on the last lap, when Paul Stewart regained second place at Derek Graham’s expense.
In the second Fiesta race, Megan Campbell got a cracking start into the lead but she was bundled down to sixth place by the end of the first lap. At that stage Michael Graham was leading, closely followed by his Dad, Derek. Mark Stewart was right with both of them and Paul Stewart wasn’t far behind. On lap two Mark Stewart took the lead. Two laps later, Derek Graham passed his son, Michael, as did Paul Stewart. These four were inseparable. On lap six, Derek Graham took the lead and held it until lap ten. Behind him both Paul Stewart and Michael Graham passed Mark Stewart before he set about repassing all three and retaking the lead on lap ten! For the remainder of the race Mark Stewart and Derek Graham were, more often than not side, by side on the track. On the final tour Michael Graham secured third place, while Neville Anderson managed to sneak past Paul Stewart for fifth. The winning margin that Mark Stewart had over Derek Graham was 0.025 of a second!
The Roadsports races were eagerly anticipated by all because of the inter-family rivalry between Newtownabbey’s Jim Larkham and his nephew, Steven Larkham, from Carrickfergus. Jim encouraged Steven into the sport and now he is the biggest threat to his Championship ambitions. This is the perfect example of youth versus experience.
In race one Steven’s lack of experience showed, as he got a ten second penalty for an “out of position” start. However, this only served to spur him on and he stuck in Jim’s wheel tracks. On lap five he took the lead, only to lose it again one lap later. Behind them, Belfast’s John Stewart was enjoying his first race in his Radical PR6, although he was experiencing some difficulties with unexpected gear changes. He was having a good dice with Bernard Foley, from Blackrock, in a Crosslé 42S. On lap eight, Banbridge driver, Brian Elliott, passed Foley for fourth place and on the final lap he squeezed past Stewart to take the final podium place. In the official results, Jim Larkham is shown as winning by 10.362 seconds but 10 of those were Steven’s penalty!
In the second Roadsports race, Jim Larkham led from beginning to end. Steven Larkham spun and dropped to sixth on the first lap. This left Brian Elliott in second place. On lap three, John Stewart got by for second and three laps later, Elliott retired. That promoted Foley into third place. Although Steven Larkham put up the fastest lap of both races, such are the speeds of these cars, that he could not improve on his position, which was fifth after Elliott’s retirement.
The entire day ran very smoothly and actually finished ahead of schedule, shortly after 4:00pm.
The next race at Kirkistown is on Saturday 28th May, when the featured class will be Saloons and GTs.
Words: DONAL O’NEILL | 500 MRCI Photos: JIMMY GRAHAM