To say that the weather was inclement at Kirkistown on Saturday 30th September would be an understatement. Qualifying sessions for The Martin Donnelly and Emerson Fittipaldi Trophies race meeting, featuring cars and superkarts, took place in dryness but by Midday, the rain had arrived.
By the time the first feature race for The Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy was ready to go, the track surface was wet, with many puddles. The trophy was donated to the Irish Formula Vees by the Ex-F1 World Champion, many years ago.
Ronan Doherty, from Dunloy, had made his intentions clear by winning the first Formula Vee race earlier in the day. Current holder and multiple Formula Vee Champion, Anthony Cross, from Bohernabreena, was second and another ex-champion, Dan Polley, from Dublin, was third. Colm Blackburn, from Dublin, Jack Byrne, from Tinahely, and Gavin Buckly, from Dublin, rounded out the top six. When the start lights went out in The Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy race, it was Polley who got the better start from Doherty. Byrne was a clear third, with Blackburn chasing. Because of the dire conditions, there was less of the cut and thrust normally associated with Vee racing. By the time the first car reached Maguire’s Hairpin it was Doherty in the lead. He began to pull away from Polley who was now watching behind for Byrne (There was no point watching in front because he couldn’t see anything through Doherty’s spray!). Cross had made a poor start and was coming from ninth. By lap three, he was up to seventh. On lap five, Byrne passed Polley and set off after Doherty, lapping faster. Cross was now fifth. Byrne was closing the gap to Doherty but very slowly. Blackburn had been fourth from the start but on lap seven Cross passed him. On lap ten, Cross demoted Polley. And that was it. On the final lap, no one could catch the Formula Vee rookie and so Ronan Doherty became the first Ulster driver in many years to win the coveted Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy. Jack Byrne was second and Anthony Cross was third. Dan Polley was fourth. Gavin Buckley had a fairly quiet race to fifth, passing Colm Blackburn on lap eight.
Bill Adair, from S.W. Adair Tyres in Omagh, had put up a new set of race tyres for the winner. The 500MRCI had put up two more sets for the best placed B and C class drivers. However, since Doherty was the best placed C driver, it was felt that a set should go to the second best placed C driver and that was Stephen Morrin, from Clane. Jack Byrne was the best placed B driver. Fastest lap, unsurprisingly, went to Anthony Cross. He collected €150 from commentator, Alan Drysdale, for that feat.
The other feature race was The Martin Donnelly Trophy race for Formula Ford 1600s. Noel Robinson, from Portadown, had qualified fastest of all but it was Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar who won the first FF1600 race earlier. Jason Smyth, from Celbridge, had finished second and The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson, took third place. Robinson could only make fourth place ahead of Mark McKenna, from Swords, and David McCullough, from Ballymena. When it came to The Martin Donnelly Trophy race, it was seventeen year old Smyth who led going into the second lap. Davidson had passed Robinson and Dempsey to take second place. For the next six laps Davidson kept Dempsey behind but he had a developing car problem. Meanwhile McCullough and Robinson were having a great battle, swapping places regularly. On lap five McCullough began to pull away from Robinson, setting off after the Dempsey/Davidson battle. On lap nine, Dempsey finally got the better of Davidson on the entrance of Maguire’s Hairpin. In clear air he began to close on Smyth. By lap eleven he was right on Smyth’s gearbox, applying massive pressure to the young man in front of him. McCullough had now passed an ailing Davidson, for third place and was catching the two in front. On lap fourteen, Smyth’s composure cracked for a second, running him wide at Colonial One and letting Dempsey through to win the Martin Donnelly Trophy a lap later. Smyth was second and was inconsolable in Parc Fermé. McCullough was third. Davidson retired on lap thirteen, leaving Robinson to take another fourth. McKenna was fifth and Philip Harris, from Ballynahinch rounded out the top six.
There was a full supporting programme, including three Superkart races.
In the first, the current “Man-In-Form”, Brian Jones, from Craigavon, shot into the lead, closely chased by Alan Crossen, from Comber and Liam Fox, from Moira. All of these were in 250cc machines. In the 125cc class it was Ballygowan’s Aaron Newell who took the lead, chased by Comber’s Stuart Coey and Cashel’s Eoin Ryan. Unfortunately both Jones’ and Newell’s machines stopped. That left Crossen to take the 250cc win, from Fox and Lurgan’s Richard Dewart. Coey won the 125cc class from Craigavon’s Scott Greenaway and Dollingstown’s Philip Mills.
In the second superkart race Brian Jones won, after a good battle with Richard Dewart. This time Alan Crossen was third. In the 125cc class, Stuart Coey won from Scott Greenaway and Hillsborough’s Noel Lindsay.
In the final superkart encounter, the result of the 250cc class was exactly the same as race two, but this time the battle was for second as Brian Jones cleared off into the distance. Stuart Coey took the 125cc win from Scott Greenaway but this time it was Geoffrey Simms, from Mountnorris, who took third.
Seventeen cars took part in the combined Modi-5-Cup Mazda MX5 and Kirkistown Fiesta race, with, for the first time, more Mazdas than Fiestas included. Francis Allen, from Moira, led from start to finish, while Ballywalter’s David Cousins, spun to the rear of the entire field on lap two. That left Newry’s Damian Moran to chase Allen. Mark Crawford, from Banbridge, who had sat in his car for the first time that morning, was in a very competitive third place. In the Fiestas, Portadown’s Derek Graham was leading from his son, Michael, with Shane Rabbitt, from Dunsany, in third place. By the end of lap four Cousins had fought his way back to seventh, Rabbitt had already passed Derek Graham and was about to pass Michael. On lap seven, Crawford took second place overall and Cousins was up to fourth. Derek Graham was back in the lead of the Fiestas, with Megan Campbell, from Strangford, in third place. On lap ten, Cousins took third place from Moran. Rabbitt was leading again in the Fiestas and Michael Graham was back in front of Campbell. That was how it finished one lap later.
In the second race Derek Graham and Shane Rabbitt had a great battle in the Fiestas, with Rabbitt, again, getting the win. Michael Graham was third. For the first seven laps the Modi-5-Cup race was highly entertaining, with places changing all the time among Gregory Radcliffe, from Banbridge, Damian Moran, Stuart Annesley, from Holywood, Mark Crawford, David Cousins and Francis Allen. By lap eight it had settled down with Cousins in the lead, Allen second and Moran third. That was how it finished.
In the first combined Roadsports/N.I.7evens/Globals race, Ballycarry’s Steven Larkham led his Uncle Jim from start to finish. Mike Ward, from Youghal, was in a safe third until he had a spin on lap seven. That allowed, Donaghadee driver, Mark Francis, from the NI 7evens, into third overall. On lap eight, Graham Moore, from the NI 7evens, took over third place. However, on the final lap, Ward, who had been battling hard to get back, relieved Moore of the position. Moore took first in the N.I.7evens, from Francis and Paul Thompson, from Banbridge. A race long battle took place among the Globals, with Peter Drennan, from Navan, winning ahead of Pat Murphy, from Monaghan, and James Thompson, from Crosstown.
In the second race for these classes, Steven Larkam took the win from Mike Ward, with Jim Larkham in third place. Graham Moore, again, won the N.I.7even section from Mark Francis. Paul Thompson was third again. In the Globals, Cameron Fenton took the win from Peter Drennan and Richard Finlay, from Larne.
The Kirkistown Mini Coopers produced another twelve car grid. Racing was frenetic but clean, right down the field. Darren Gilmore, from Lisnaskea, was sixth at the end of lap two, yet he battled his way through to take his first win in the class! Johnny Titterington, from Ballygowan, also had a great run, leading from lap eight until being passed by Gilmore on the final tour. Tandragee’s Peter Bennett led for the first seven laps before succumbing to, first, Titterington and then Gilmore. In the second race, Bennett again led for nine laps this time, before being passed by both Titterington and Gilmore on lap ten. He did get back past Gilmore on the final run to the line. Thus, we had another first time winner in Johnny Titteringtom.
The first combined Saloons and GT race was red flagged after a nasty crash at Maguire’s hairpin on the first lap. Both Dundonald driver Keith Wray’s BMW and Kilcoole driver, Raymond Finnegan’s Wildcat were too badly damaged to continue. The drivers were taken off in the medical unit for examination and were later released with advice that they would be very sore the next day! On the restart, Dungiven’s Gerard O’Connell left from the rear of the grid in his SHP Escort. At the end of the first lap he had passed twelve other cars for the lead! Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, was in second place in his Seat Supercopa. Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick, was third in a similar machine. On lap five, Blaine passed Baxter for second on the road and first in the Saloons. Gavin Kilkey, from Derry, also in a Supercopa, passed Baxter as well. The places did not change after that. Second in the GT class went to John Cardoo, from Naas, and third was Stephen Conn, from Armagh.
In the second race for these classes, O’Connell dominated again, although this time it took him five laps to pass Blaine for the lead. Baxter finished second on the road but was penalised five seconds for repeatedly exceeding track limits, dropping him to third overall and second in the Saloons. Third in the Saloons went to Patrick Corbett, from Castlewellan, driving Peter Baxter’s other Supercopa. In the GTs, Joe Yates, from Holywood, took second place ahead of John Cardoo in third.
The final race meeting of the season takes place on Saturday 21st of October and will feature all of the car classes based at Kirkistown.
Words: DONAL O’NEILL/500 MRCI Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY [Images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]