Saturday 29 September saw the eighth round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship make its annual visit to the picturesque St Angelo airfield in Enniskillen and it was more success for Adrian Pollock.
The day started off dry, but cold, and there were reports of a mild frost for those who were unfortunate enough to be up at such an early hour. Enniskillen Motor club, as they always do, managed to attract a bumper entry of 94 cars, which is the biggest entry for any championship event this year so far.
The added bonus of the Enniskillen event is that a lot of the local ” rally men” make an appearance in cars which are not usually seen on the sprint circuits, adding an extra dimension to the event as it allows people to have a go, who may possibly enjoy the sport and do another event.
It also gives the regular competitors a chance to pitch their talents against some fresh opposition. It’s also a great touch to see the club introduce two one-off rally car classes, allowing the rally cars to compete in a class of their own, outside of the championship class structure.
With bonus points available for registered championship contenders, the event’a always going to play a major part in everyone’s championship attacks and as expected, didn’t disappoint on that account. The bonus points system is a key tool to attracting the regular competitors to the Fermanagh venue, as the extra points available can make a huge difference at the tail end of the year.
The day started off well, however after the first practice runs of the day the main topic of conversation was how tight the chicanes were. As the day progressed, this would become a major factor in the final results as a large number of drivers had runs disallowed for touching the chicanes.
Unfortunately due to several small hold ups, an oil spill and a car rolling, only two timed runs were possible within the time available, which meant that if you’d fallen fowl of a chicane, you only got a single counting run.
Adrian Pollock made a giant leap forward in his championship battle bid as he romped to overall victory from Steven Gault who has threatened all season to take a win. Sadly Adrians championship rival, John Morgan, failed to make a timed run after being sidelined with mechanical woes.
This now gives Adrian a 17 point lead in the championship from John Morgan, with two rounds remaining and even with dropped scores, Adrian now has one hand firmly on the title. Again, the dreaded chicanes had a factor here, as the final results show that Steven Gaults first time was faster across the splits than Adrians first run, however, Steven was deemed to have touched a chicane so was awarded an NTR.
Third place went to the recently crowned Northern Ireland Hillclimb champion Gerard O’Connell, who was one of very few who managed not to touch a chicane all day. In terms of the category awards, Paul Montgomery took the honour of fastest road-going car with a fabulous run which put him 19th overall and earned him a class 3 win.
Bangors Chris Rogan was second in the road-going category, with Michael Clarke third. This result gives Chris a 10 point lead in the category and allows him to place a hand firmly on the category championship. Knowing Chris, it will be very very difficult to prise his hands off the title, as he will grip it even tighter than if it were a fiver!
In the modified category, Ivan McCullough took top honours with Daniel Campbell finishing 1.9 seconds behind Ivan in Second and Oliver Cormican took third. From a championship perspective, Daniel now replaces Oliver at the top of the Modified category by 1 point and Ivan Mccullough is third.
Once drop scores come into play, this category is still very wide open as both Daniel and Oliver were completely equal and couldn’t be separated before the event.
In the historic ranks, Stephen Strain once again did the business, beating Gerry McGarrity by a mere 1.49 seconds. Gerry had been having issues with his diff during the event so will be well please to finish so well and score some class points, however he was disappointed to again loose the battle to be the fastest mini in the west, when Gary Milligan in his class 6a mini pipped Gerry by a mere 0.36 seconds.
In terms of the classes now, class 1 for up to 1700cc road cars was again won by Gary McClurg in his little Citroen AX, however Gary didn’t make it easy for himself after receiving an NTR for getting a little too close to a chicane on his first run. Aiden Savage took second in his puma, with Dennis Watson third in his saxo. It was great to see Aiden going so well, and this circuit clearly suited his gutsy driving style. Garys win gives him a perfect score of 6 wins for the season which makes him the 2018 class 1 champion. Second and third places are still to be secured in the class with Aiden, Stephen Morrisey and Dennis Watson all still to decide who’s finishing where.
Class 2 for over 1700cc road cars was again won By Chris Rogan in his Megan RS 250, Michael Clarke finished 1.72 seconds behind Chris in second and Stephen Donnelly was third. From a championship perspective Michael Clarke is still in control but the next two rounds will decide the championship once dropped scores are factored in as Chris still has two scoring rounds, and Michael has two lower scores to drop. This will be a great class to watch as it unfolds over the remainder of the season.
Class 3 for 4wd road going vehicles saw Paul Montgomery take a comfortable win from David Murray, with Chris McCarthy third. All three drivers in Subaru Imprezza’s and Paul Montgomery was fit to steer his to 19th overall in a very impressive run. This result lifts Paul to the top of the class championship in Class 3.
No one came out to play in classes 4 or 5 so next up, class 6a for limited modified 8v production cars. Gary Millligan took what turned out to be a comfortable class win from Roy Coulter. Norman Harvey was third and class championship leader David Evans was fourth. This class suffered significantly with penalties for touching chicanes with all but one of the drivers in the class having runs disallowed due to touching chicanes.
From a championship perspective Gary took maximum points with Norman receiving points for second and David picking up points for third. David still leads the championship with Gary Milligan 8 points behind in second, with Phil Robinson in third. This championship battle will go down to the wire as Gary has still got 2 scores to count whereas David now has six scores on the board. With a lowest score of 4 points David has to win a round to increase his points haul, so its all to play for and the pressures all on David Evans.
In class 6b for 16v modified Production cars Dermot O’Hagans local knowledge stood him in good stead as he took the class honours from Brian Fitzmaurice and with both drivers driving Honda Civics it was a real civic battle to the finish. Colin Dines took third in class. Again both Dermot and Brian had their first runs disallowed for touching the chicanes. Brians class win gives him sufficient points to wrap up the class title for this year and both Colin Dines and Dermot O’Hagan are now tied in second. With two rounds remaining all is still to play for for the title of 6b vice champion in 2018.
Class 7 modified specialist production cars was won again by Clive Latimer in his immensely quick Sylva Riot, aka the flying snotter. Clives time of 151.14 saw him take an extremely impressive 6th overall. Its great to see Clive finally getting to grips with this little pocket rocket, although he also lost his first timed run time for being over friendly with a chicane. The Hawthorne brothers battled all day, with Steven getting the nod over David by a mere 0.32 seconds. These two have been inseparable all year in the hillclimb championship as well as when they have chosen to sprint.
It was great to see Scott McMullan take a fine fourth place after a long lay off from the sport. Welcome back Scott. Clives win now sees him 6 points clear of Graham Boyce in the championship chase and both drivers still have a points scoring round left. Third place is currently Tom Devaneys.
Class 8 sports libre saloons. Ian Howard took the win in this class and it was a lonely drive to a time which put him 21st overall. Ians class opposition unfortunately rolled out in practice. Ian therefore took full championship points but he still trails class leader Lewis Dunlop by 1 point.
Class 8b larger libre saloons. Occasional sprinter Davy Aiken pushed his rallycross nova hard to take the win by 0.2 seconds from Gary Campbell with Derek Brogan third. As Davy isn’t championship registered, Gary took maximum class points to extend his lead in the class standings, although there’s very little in it, so this could change before the season is done.
Class 9 libre saloons, or “the radical class” as it has become known this year, was as expected, won by Gerard O’Connell in his Radical SR8. Lee Kirkwood was second in his smaller Radical and Gordon Buckley took third. Ronnie Coulter was the only “Tin Top” in the class and he took fourth. After his success in the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship Gerard O’Connell has a comfortable third place in the Overall Sprint championship and he has a lead in the class 9 championship which can’t be overhauled. Gerard has had an absolute belter of a season and he has been a pleasure to watch all year.
Class 10 libre rally cars. This class was dominated again by Alan Cassels in his Peugeot 106. Alan’s first run was disallowed for chicane over familiarity, a shame as this run would have given him an exceptionally good finish, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. Phillip White took second from Alan Roddys Saxo.
I was speaking to Phillips father and was surprised to hear that this little Micra is the same car in which Phillip contested the junior 1000cc rally championship in, albeit with a 1380cc engine now, rather than the standard 1000cc engine used by the juniors. Alan Cassels class win allows him to further increase his lead in the class championship from Alan Roddy who takes points for second from this event due to Phillip White not being championship registered.
Class 11 for the bigger rally cars was won by Daniel Campbell in his starlet from Andrew White with Thomas Purdy third. As Daniel was the only championship registered driver he takes top points which confirms him as class 11 champion for 2018 with a comfortable points advantage over Norman Armstrong.
Class 12 was as always, fast and close. Ivor McCullough navigated the tight chicanes in his beast of a Nissan GTR to take the win from Oliver Cormican in his flying Evo. Local man John Donnelly was well outside his comfort zone when he took Derek Jobb’s rallycross supercar Escort to third in class.
Speaking to John, he told me that it was as far removed as you could get from his usual single seater, but that it was a mountain of fun to drive. Fair play to John for trying it. Despite taking the win, Ivan McCullough still trails Oliver in the championship points chase, however Ivan still has two rounds in hand so this class could change hands right at the end of the season. Watch this space!
Lewis Wilson took his second class win in class 13 when he pipped George Stevenson by a mere 2.03 seconds with Paul Buchanan third. Great to see Catherine Donnelly getting to grips with her Delta as she took a fine fourth, only 1.08 seconds off Pauls time. These class results have a big effect on the class championship standings as Lewis now jumps to second and Catherine to third. George Stevenson’s second place was enough to secure him another class 14 championship.
Class 15 for all other race cars. This class was won by Adrian Pollock in his Dallara from Steven Gault in his Reynard. Richard McGimspey steered his RMG SM Turbo to third with Christopher Houston fourth. Sadly the chicanes played as big a part in this class as the racing itself with every driver except Adrian Pollock getting an NTR in one of their runs.
As mentioned above, Steven Gaults sector times in his first run were faster than the sector times achieved by Adrian Pollock in his first run. Could this have been Stevens first ever outright win? In terms of the championship Adrian has further increased his ,lead in the overall Northern Ireland championship and also in the class championship. With dropped scores still to be considered this season still isn’t over.
Class 16a Historic Saloons was, as always dominated by local man Gerry McGarrity in his immaculate little mini. Gerry drove well despite an issue with his diff and still managed to take a comfortable class win from John Golden with Trevor McIlroy third. As the only championship registered competitor in the class, Gerry took maximum class points which also gives him the class title for the year.
Sadly however he was unable to win the title of the fastest mini in the west, as Gary Milligan beat Gerry by a mere 0.36 seconds. Gerry was however quick to point out that Garys bigger wheels help him carry more speed on the corners and that if they were on equal sized wheels Gerry would beat him hands down. This sounds to me Like a challenge, and I also heard Gary say something about a box of matches……..
The last of the championship classes, 16b for non road going historic cars was won again by Stephen Strain in his escort with Karl Johnston second and Arthur Ovens third. This class win secures Stephen the championship class win as well.
The brace of non-ANICC classes for rally cars were won by Ian Duff in his proton and Raymond Johnston in his escort. Class 19 was a very close affair with the top 2 separated by only 0.46 seconds. Raymond Johnston pipped Damien McGouran by 0.03 seconds and Marc Johnston took third only 0.43 seconds behind,
The next, and ninth round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland sprint championship takes place at Kirkistown on 13 October. [I think it is safe to say, that if Guy Martin had been at the event, you may well have heard the odd complaint about chicanes – Graham]
Words: David Evans – #154 | Photos: William Neill | NeillPics
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