Not far beyond Benone Beach on the outskirts of Coleraine is a stretch of road, all of which is uphill, with a famous hairpin bend, this stretch of tarmacadam is known as ‘Eagle Rock’ within the hillclimbing fraternity of Northern Ireland and recently, it hosted the penultimate round of the Millers Oils Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship.
On Saturday 25 August, the course close to Binevenagh Mountain closed to public traffic, as the hills came alive to the sound of engines, with all to play for in the championship, it was Gerard O’Connell, more or less on his home event, who was out to make the most of bonus points on offer.
Just two rounds of the championship offer bonus points, and a win at Eagles Rock would earn however was to stand on the top step of the rostrum, an extra five points in the series, it was going to be full throttle from the start on this one.
However, the weather was to play a big part of the 2018 Eagles Rock hillclimb event, organised by the Maiden City Motor Club. with road conditions being very wet during the first practice session of the day. Hillclimb events generally operate on a schedule of 2 practice runs with 3 timed runs to follow.
Of the 3 timed runs, the fastest time for each entrant is what goes forward to the results sheet as their ‘best time’, so in theory, you have three goes at being the fastest up the hill, and with a wet morning session, the roads would only partly dry towards the the end of the day.
Not ideal conditions for anyone, though a sure way to sort the men from the boys as only the brave would stand-out on the regularly updated results!
As usual, there was a various mix of cars from road going saloons to rally cars and single seater race cars .
Gerard O’Connell would be the man to beat all day as he was on a charge even with the trying conditions, he set fastest time overall on the final run of the day to take the lead in the championship, while Andy Hawthorne was very happy with 2nd overall in the Lotus Reynard with Oliver Cormican 3rd overall and 1st in the saloon car class, in his Mitsubishi Evo .
Class 1 was won by David McCoy in the ford puma from William Heaney in 2nd.
Class 2 was yet again a very popular class which was won by David Gibson who was within a second of the class record, 2nd place went to Michael Mcallister and 3rd Conor Hamill in the BMW //M3 .
Class 3 was won by Paul Montgomery when Philip Cardy ran into issues, only completing one timed run, but this was enough for 2nd with Barry griffin in 3rd.
Class 4 was won by Phil Dorman with John Hamill in 2nd .
Class 5 was won by Godfrey McCartney in the specialist Lotus Elise .
Class 6a was won by Gordon Fogarty despite having a small off damaging his radiator on his 2nd run, thankfully, run 1 was enough to win the class with John McDowell in 2nd and Gary Milligan 3rd.
Class 6b was won by John McCullough in his Ford Escort MkII with Adam Vance 2nd and Declan Farran in 3rd.
Class 7 saw two brothers battling for the silverware with Steven Hawthorne proving the fastest, with brother David in 2nd and Paul Hamill in 3rd.
Class 8a was won by Rudi Gage in his Maguire mini, but it wasn’t without drama as a spin on his last run of the day reminded him of the tricky conditions.
Class 8b was won by Garry Campbell in the Toyota Starlet.
Class 9 was won by the overall winner, Gerard O Connell, Gerard also demolished the class record in his Radical V8 machine, Lee Kirkwood finished 2nd, also in a Radical.
Class 10 was won by Alan Cassells in his Peugeot 106 S1600, also finishing in the top 10. Alan Roddy was 2nd in his Citroen Saxo.
Class 11 saw a family battle between Seamus and Barry Morris, Seamus finishing first in the Darrian by less than 0.2 of a second from son Barry in the Ford Escort, Daniel Campbell was the best of the rest in 3rd.
Class 12 is where the fast saloons are and Oliver Cormican managed 3rd overall and 1st in this class, David Hunter was 2nd with Rodney Donaldson in 3rd.
Class 14, the single seaters was won by Brendan Flynn in the OMS from John Donnelly 2nd with Paul Buchanan in 3rd.
Class 15 was won by Andy Hawthorne who also finished second overall, while earlier championship leader and current contender for the series, Richard McGimpsey, had a troublesome day and finished second .
Class 16a saw Robin Hillis win the class from Paul Robinson with Conn Williamson in 3rd.
Class 16b was won by Tony McLaughlin.
Our final event of the season is the popular Knockagh event outside Carrickfergus on the 15th September.
2018 ANICC MILLERS OILS N.I. HILLCLIMB CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR
14 April: Croft Hillclimb (Holywood, Co. Down) 28 April: Drumhorc Hillclimb (Laurencetown near Banbridge) 05 May: Craigantlet Hillclimb (Craigantlet Hills above Belfast) 26 May: Spamount Hillclimb (Castlederg, Co. Tyrone) 29 June + 30 June: Cairncastle Hillclimb Festival (Larne, Co. Antrim) 11 August: Garron Point Hillclimb (Carnlough, Co. Antrim) 25 August: Eagles Rock Hillclimb (Magilligan, near Coleraine)
15 Sept: Knockagh Hillclimb (nr. Carrickfergus)