Saturday 5th March 2022 saw the resumption of the McMillan Specialist Cars NI Autotest Championship after its winter recess.
The lay-off hadn’t blunted Steven Ferguson’s edge at all and he pretty much picked up his winning ways where he left off in September, coming out top of the timesheets at eight of the ten rounds of the championship, securing the Stewartstown man his eight overall championship win.
Nowadays, the “specials” don’t necessarily have it all their own way, and at two rounds it was David Thompson in his “Large Saloon” (Class D) Vauxhall Nova who pushed Steven off the top spot on the podium.
With Steven taking the Overall Championship, David settled for second, as well as sealing the Large Saloon Championship, with fellow Large Saloon competitor Mark King finishing third overall for the second year in a row.
With Ferguson taking the Class A win, James Wilson taking second and Chris Grimes rounding out the class places in third.
In Class B for the rear-wheel drive sports cars, it was Andrew Blair who took the top honours. Andrew, is his Westfield was the pace setter in this class, winning the class at five of the ten rounds. His father Paul, sharing Andrew’s Westfield would be the class runner-up, with last year’s class winner Trevor Ferguson finishing third in class.
Class C saw a battle of the Mini Saloons, with Omagh’s Jonni McDaid taking the class win, from Andrew Earney and making a return to the championship Robin Lyons, finished the season a commendable third in class having only competed at four rounds.
With David Thompson sealing the Class D Large Saloon Championship with class wins at nine of the ten rounds. Mark King would take the runner-up spot in the class, with Dungannon’s Gary Campbell clinching the third-class spot, as well as the Semi-Expert Championship title.
In the Clubman Challenge it would be Adam McMullan in his Starlet Special who would claim the overall win. Ben McKee in his Nissan Micra would do enough to take the runner-up spot, with Lawrence Baird is his Mazda Mx5 taking third place.
The Advanced Challenge would see ten highly experienced competitors pitted against each other. Jack Gillis in his Vauxhall Nova would take the overall win, with Gareth Dillon in his Mazda Mx5 taking the runner up spot and Robert Robinson rounding out the top three, in his Toyota Yaris.
As the autotest championship and challenge continue to go from strength to strength, seeing 29 competitors registered for the championship and a further 29 registered for the challenge, it is testament to the work and promotion put in by Championship Co-Ordinator Mark King and the Autotest Specialist Committee.
Championship Sponsor, George McMillan of McMillan Specialist Cars, “I am delighted this year’s championship was such a success. Congratulations and a massive thank you to all the clubs, marshals and site owners involved, without them we wouldn’t have a championship to compete in. I am very much looking forward to next year, when all been well, we shall be able to run a full ten round championship.”
With the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs deciding not to go ahead with their annual awards night, Autotest Championship Co-ordinator in conjunction with Championship Sponsor George McMillan again decided to again host a Social Evening and Prize-giving at McMillan Specialist Cars premises in Antrim on Saturday 4th February 2023. During the evening over eighty attendees took the opportunity to mingle, catch up with old friends and enjoy their time among the fantastic cars on display, with some food and beverages for good measure. Award winners were presented with beautiful pieces of Dublin Crystal by George and ANICC Chairman Wilson Carson.
Also, during the night Larne Motor Clubs Jonathan Millar, was presented with the Ford-Hutchinson Trophy, as the 2022 Clubman of the Year. Having started out in motorsport as a marshal with his father, attending many events, and like all good wines Jonathan matured with age, joining his local motor club and moving up through the “ranks”. He has been a secretary of the meeting, clerk of the course, and competitor participating in autotests, autosolos and targa rallies. He is also a very successful Clerk of the Course for Cairncastle Hill Climb and has won many awards for his contributions to motorsport.
A great night was had by all in attendance, and now the Autotest competitors can look forward to the first round of the 2023 Championship and Challenge which is due to take place on Saturday 4th March. With preparations well underway, the cars will soon be back out revving and wheel spinning at a venue near you soon.
Championship Co-ordinator Mark King highlighted that, “It has been great to see some new, younger competitors join our ranks over the last couple of years since we introduced that Clubman Challenge. I would encourage anyone to give it a go, the Clubman tests are designed to be simpler in order to give competitors an introduction into the sport with the hope that they enjoy it enough to stick with it!”
So why not head down and give it a go!!!
2023 Championship Dates
04th March – Autotest Drivers Club
25th March – Ulster Automobile Club
15th April – Larne Motor Club
6th May – Thoroughbred Sports Car Club
20th May – Enniskillen Motor Club
10th June – Omagh Motor Club
24th June – Coleraine & District Motor Club
05th August – Dungannon Motor Club
26th August – Coleraine & District Motor Club
02nd September – Autotest Drivers Club
Words: Grace King / ANICC Secretary Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY