Spectators were treated to great weather, fantastic racing and new lap records at the recent Car and Superkart Race meeting at Kirkistown Race Circuit on Saturday 27th May, 2023.
The Scottish Fiesta STs were a visiting class and they put on a great show, while enjoying the fact that the 1.56 mile Kirkistown circuit allowed them to use 5th gear, which they cannot do at their local tracks. Although the statistics will say that Steven Gray lead from start to finish, in their first race, they will not say that he was shadowed by Broddy Orr and Gerry Hendry all the way. Hendry had grabbed third place from Aran Ward on lap one and, after a great battle, he relieved Orr of second place on the penultimate lap.
A small field of Kirkistown Fiestas ran concurrently, with Michael Graham, from Portadown, and Megan Campbell, from Strangford, putting on a marvellous show of tight, clean racing. Every lap there was slipstreaming and passing between these two. On the final lap, Graham lead into Maguire’s Hairpin but Campbell got the better launch out of it. A drag to the finish line ensued. Campbell prevailed by just 0.017 seconds! 500MRCI Treasurer, Michael Mulholland, came third.
In the second outing for these two classes, later in the day, Hendry went one better, taking the win in the Scottish STs, from Orr in second and Gray in third. Once again, Aran Ward was engaged in another great tussle, this time losing out to David Colville, who took fourth place.
In the Kirkistown Fiestas, it looked like shaping into a repeat of the first race until Campbell’s car began to slow. She was probably glad to be lapped by the Scottish ST leaders, as this provided one less lap to travel. In the end she managed to hold on to second place, a lap behind Michael Graham. Mulholland took another third place.
The other visiting class was “The Legends”. These are 5/8th replicas of 1930s American Stock Cars, now powered by 1,250cc engines. They always put on a great show, with thirteen entries this time. Their races at Kirkistown are just eight laps long but they have three outings in a day. Unusually for this class, one driver, Peter Barrable, from Swords, dominated all three races. The battles for the lesser places were tighter. In race one, David Yamamoto, from Wexford, took second ahead of Derek Hogan, from Dublin. In race two it was Willie Lawrence, from Golden, who took second place while Scott Jackson, from Kilkenny, took third. In their final outing, Jackson moved up a place to second, while Yamamoto took third. Ballymena driver, Richard Spence, took a consistent three sixth places.
The “New For 2023” Mini class was the third race of the day and they were sharing the grid with the Modi-5-Cup Mazdas, who for some inexplicable reason were put to the rear of the line-up. Unfortunately, the race was red-flagged, after a commotion among the Minis at Colonial 1 on the first lap. The race was restarted and after a frantic first lap, Ballywalter driver, David Cousins, who had started eleventh in his Mazda MX5, took the lead. Second was Downpatrick’s Wayne Owens, in a Mini. He would later be disqualified for causing the initial crash at Colonial 1. Third on the road, was Moira driver, Francis Allen, in his Mazda. Another Mazda driver, Rob Kennedy, from Crossmaglen, had battled through to fourth. By the end of lap two, Dundalk driver, Kian O’Brien, had taken advantage of the battling Mazdas, to assume the lead! Craig Gilmore, from Ballyhalbert, had done likewise in his Mini to grab second place. By lap six, the Mazdas of Cousins and Allen, were back at the front, putting on a wonderful display of close, clean and competitive racing. Rob Kennedy was keeping them honest in third place. O’Brien was leading the Minis, fourth on the road. Craig Gilmore was still second in the Minis but Gregory Radcliffe, from Banbridge, passed him for fifth on the road. At the end of nine laps the final results were, in the Modi-5-Cup, 1st Cousins, 2nd Allen and 3rd Kennedy, in the Minis, 1st O’Brien, 2nd, Craig Gilmore and 3rd Darren Gilmore.
For the second outing of these classes, sense prevailed and the Modi-5-Cup Mazdas were put to the front of the grid. This assisted both classes immensely. Two amazing battles took place at the head of both classes. In the Mazdas, it once again involved Cousins, Allen and Rob Kennedy, who swapped places consistently from lap seven onwards. On the final lap they went three abreast into Maguire’s Hairpin for the last time. Who would get the drive best as they headed for the line? In the end Cousins shaded Allen by just 0.175 seconds, with Kennedy a further 0.24 seconds behind! The Minis were even more exciting, all-be-it for second place! Kian O’Brien had established a lead that would not be challenged. However Darren Gilmore, from Lisnaskea, his brother, Craig, and Newry’s Jack Conachy were going at it, hammer and tongs, throughout the race. In the end, Conachy took second place from Darren Gilmore by just 0.4 seconds.
The Saloon races were sponsored by Vital Motorsport through past competitor Alan Stewart. In the first of two races, Paul Parr, from Newry, had to start at the rear of the grid, due to not getting a time in qualifying. By lap two, he had got his Seat Supercopa into the lead. Navan driver, Adrian McNally, in a similar car was second but getting very close attention from Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick, in yet another Supercopa. On lap four, Blaine got past into second place, which he would hold to the end. Kells driver, David McMinn, took fourth place in his diesel Seat Ibeza while Patrick Corbett, from Castlewellan, took his Honda to fifth place and final unlapped car. In the second outing, Parr dominated again, from Blaine. This time McNally did not finish, promoting McMinn to third place. Corbett brought a very noisy Honda home in fourth place. Lisburn’s Greer Wray, took fifth place in his BMW and his brother, Keith, was sixth in a similar machine.
The Superkarts put on three great shows!
In race one Craigavon’s Brian Jones grabbed the 250cc class lead on lap one and held it to the end, despite the best attentions of, firstly, Liam Fox, from Moira, and later Alan Crossen, from Comber. On the final lap, Fox repassed Crossen to secure second place. However, it was the 125cc class that was most breath-taking to watch. For nine laps Stuart Coey, from Newtownards, Scott Greenaway, from Armagh, and Alan Witherow, from Millisle, swapped places constantly. In the end, Coey finished 0.149 seconds ahead of Greenaway, who was 0.2 seconds ahead of Witherow!
The statistics say that Brian Jones led Alan Crossen for the entirety of the second race. They don’t tell how Crossen closed a very large gap down to nothing or how they often entered Maguire’s Hairpin side by side. Or how Ross Witherow had to fight his way from sixth to get the final podium place. As for the 125s, it was the same story as race one, with a rearranged result. This time Alan Witherow took the win by 0.9 seconds over Stuart Coey, who was 0.4 seconds ahead of Scott Greenaway.
The final Superkarts race was a fitting climax. This time the initial battle was between Brian Jones and Millisle’s Ross Witherow, with places changing from bend to bend. Meanwhile, Alan Crossen was fighting through from fifth place, first having to pass Bangor’s Colin Menary and then Liam Fox. It took until the last lap for him to get past Jones to secure second place behind Witherow. After an initial squabble with Stuart Coey, during the first two laps of the 125cc class, Alan Witherow was able to build a lead. Coey was now focused on Scott Greenaway who wanted his second position. It was on the final tour that Greenaway muscled through to claim the place.
The majority of the action took place in the first half of the combined Roadsports and NI 7evens race. In 2023 this race is now a rolling start, in the interests of safety and, indeed, spectacle. From lights-out, Newtownabbey’s Jim Larkham powered his Radical PR6 past his nephew, Steven, from Carrickfergus, in a similar machine. However, the lead was to swap between these two at least four times in the ensuing four laps before Steven got a break and built a gap, setting a new Roadsports lap record in the process! Mike Ward, from Youghal, was having a great battle in his Radical PR6 with Holywood’s John Benson, in a Crosslé 37S. On lap six, Ward established superiority to make it a Radical 1-2-3 at the end. In the NI 7evens, a great deal of passing took place in the first four laps between the Francis brothers, Mark and Richard, from Donaghadee, Paul Thompson, from Banbridge, and Graham Moore, from Newtownards. Once Moore got the lead, he took off at a scalding pace, never to be headed. The brothers Francis swapped places constantly, with Mark getting the honour of second place.
In the second race for the Roadsports and NI 7evens, Jim Larkham, once again grabbed the lead but this time he held his nephew at bay until his drive shaft broke on lap nine. This allowed Steven Larkham to go on to win from Mike Ward in second and John Benson in third. Graham Moore was on a mission in the NI 7evens. He powered into an unassailable lead on the first lap, going on to set a new NI 7evens lap record. This time Paul Thompson managed to beat both Francis brothers to claim second. Mark Francis took third.
In two poorly supported FF1600 races, Ballymena’s David McCullough won twice. Randalstown’s Alan Davidson had a second and a third. Trevor Delaney, from Carrickmacross, had a third and a second and Ballymena’s Henry Campbell had two fourths.
The next meeting is the 70th Anniversary meeting of Kirkistown Race Circuit. It will be held over two days on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th June.
Words: DONAL O’NEILL/500 MRCI Photos: JIMMY GRAHAM [Images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]