Saturday 27 October saw the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland host their Halloween Sprint at Kirkistown, the final round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship.
It was a cold Autumnal start to the day, but the track was bone dry for all those who ventured to the County Down circuit for the event and with 52 starters, it was a slightly smaller than usual entry, but what it lacked in quantity it made up for with quality.
Gerard O’Connell rolled out his latest addition, a beautiful Millington powered Ford Escort MkI which was the main point of conversation for many during the course of the day. Ennis based driver Robert Dwane made the long trip north to have a go in his 1.3 turbo OMS, hot on the heels of his successful championship campaign in the Irish Hillclimb Championship, which he won this year.
Dwane showed that his hillclimb championship success was no flash in the pan when he took the lead in the first timed run with a blistering time some 4.27 seconds faster than second placed Adrian Pollock. Adrian Pollocks superb season has seen him crowned 2018 Northern Ireland Sprint champion after a titanic, season-long-battle with John Morgan.
Sadly a cracked brake disk at the Enniskillen round put the brakes on Johns Championship challenge. This was a real shame as John and Adrian had been sensational to watch all season and had alternated wins until the Enniskillen Round.
As the day progressed, Dwane chipped away at his times and set the Fastest time of the day on his final run, with a staggering time of 115.41 seconds. His small and nimble OMS proved just too quick for Pollocks larger, but more powerful Dallara.
Adrian had to settle for second however with an outstanding time of 116.99 secs. I witnessed Adrian’s last run from the pit lane and will attest, Adrian was on a mission as he left the line for that run. His approach to, line through and then exit from the kart chicane on the front straight was fabulous to watch. Adrian really does drive the Dallara like a little kart.
Gerard O’Connell had a mammoth battle to take third overall in his Radical SR8 with Steven Gault in his Ford engined Reynard taking fourth. Stevens second run of the day was his best with a 121.96 being his best. Gerard had to go all out on his last run to pip him with a stunning 121.56 run and some serious late braking into the front chicane.
Gerard O’Connell also took the honour of being the first saloon home, at the wheel of his new MkI Escort. Yes, that’s correct, he competed in two cars. O’Connell headed up Oliver Cormican in the tin top battle with Oliver sadly having a ‘wee moment’ on the exit from the kart chicane on his final run.
Thankfully Oliver was unhurt after his little “kiss” of the barriers. Apparently on his arrival with Oliver, the paramedic was most delighted to see Oliver already under the car checking for damage as this covered the first 6 steps of his medical assessment!
Third placed saloon was Paul Montgomery in his road going Subaru. Despite his little skirmish Oliver still managed to clinch the Modified category in the Championship.
In the road-going section, Andrew Robb took the honour of being the fastest car home with a stunning drive in his E46 BMW //M3 that put him 21st overall. Second place went to Nick Bassett in his Honda S2000 with Bangor lad Chris Rogan third, a mere 0.49 seconds behind Nick.
Chris’s result today was enough to earn him the road-going category championship in his Renault Megane.
As always, Gerry McGarrity thrashed his beautiful little MkI Mini to within an inch of its life to claim the title of fastest historic car, although Karl Johnston made him work for it. As per most events, there was a massive battle going on amongst the mini boys from the west.
Gary Milligan again managed to retain the title of “fastest mini in the West” as he beat both Gerry And Karl. When this was mentioned in front of Gerry, he was very quick to highlight that Gary isn’t running on 10-inch wheels, so this gives him an unfair advantage and that if all things “wheel related” were equal, then Gerry would be the fastest mini in the West.
This sounds like one of those discussions that will go on for a while.
The class battles were very intense, and despite some classes already being settled, not every final position had been decided. This was especially true in class 1 as recently engaged Stephen Morrissey came to the event with with third place in the championship safely in his name, but he wanted more.
Stephen drove the life out of his little Peugeot 106 to take a comfortable 9.07 second lead from James Schofields Honda Civic with James Davidson third in his Mazda MX5. Stevens class win, and Dennis Watson’s decision not to compete, gave Steven enough points to take a last gasp second overall in the class 1 championship behind Gary McClurg and ahead of Dennis Watson.
Class 2 – Road Going Saloons over 1700cc was won by Andrew Robb in his stunning Black BMW //M3. Nick Bassett steered his Honda S2000 [flamboyantly at times] to second in class, a mere 0.47 secs ahead of Chris Rogans Renault Megane while Johnny Forsythe, a former Kirkistown Fiesta Champion, took fourth in class in his Renault Clio.
Hopefully Andrew Robb and Nick Bassett will register for next years championship and do more events in 2019 as classes 1 and 2 have proved to be very popular this season, in both the sprint and the hillclimb championships, guaranteeing close racing at all times.
With neither Nick nor Andrew being championship registered, Rogan took maximum championship points giving him enough points to take the class 2 championship from Michael Clarke with Stephen Donnelly finishing third in the class listings.
Class 3 – road going production cars 4WD is where Paul Montgomery dominated all day in his Subaru, and with no competition in the class, obviously took maximum class championship points. After today’s round, Montgomery tops the class championship table.
Paul also won class 3 in the Hillclimb championship as well as the Roadgoing Category in the hillclimb championship too.
Class 6a – 8v Modified series Production cars and David Evans continued his winning ways to take class honours from Gary Milligan by 1.21 secs. Norman Harvey finished third, 1.32 secs behind Gary, after an epic drive as he tried to secure enough points to take third in the class championship.
Norman needed second place or higher today to earn enough points to take third in the championship but sadly it wasn’t to be this year, despite Normans best efforts. This class has seen some epic battles all season between Evans and Milligan, with some of the rounds being decided on the last run of the day.
Overall, Evans takes the class championship from Milligan with Phil Robinson third and Norman Harvey’s third place today, meant he missed out on third in the championship by just 1 point – highlighting just how fierce this category has been all season.
Class 6b – modified Series Production Cars 16v is a class that was guaranteed to be won by Mr Dines, as both competitors were called Dines. With Brian Fitzmaurice and Dermot O’Hagan both marshalling, Colin Dines had a clean run to take the class win, 2.62 seconds ahead of Graham Dines in the same Renault Clio, which they share.
In terms of the class championship, Brian Fitzmaurice takes the class honours and today’s results give Colin Dines second in the class listings. Third place finishes in a tie between Graham Dines and Dermot O’hagan so count back and marshalling duties will come into play to resolve this tie.
Class 7 – Modified Series Production cars and Alan Davidson had a lonely drive to win the class today, his time of 140.13 placed him a fabulous 16th overall just one week after competing so successfully in the Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch, where he finished 11th overall and won the pre-’90 class.
Well done Alan. None of the class championship contenders were out today as this class was already previously decided in Clive Latimer’s favour, with Graham Boyce second and Tom Devaney third in the class championship standings.
Class 8b – Sports Libre Special saloon cars and sadly Kevin McLaughlin suffered a drive shaft failure in first practice which meant that only Gary Campbell started the timed runs in the class. None-the-less Gary had a spirited drive to take the class win and finish 20th overall.
Gary also secured the class championship from Derek Brogan with Kevin McGlaughlin third. As this is a new class for this season, Gary also takes the honour of being the first person to win class 8b in the sprint championship. Gary was also joint winner in this class in the Hillclimb Championship as well.
Class 9 – 2wd Libre cars as always was a Radical affair with three drivers in four cars, three of which were Radicals – now work that out. Gerard O`Connell brought his new MkI Escort out for a shake down, and drove it as well as his own Radical SR8 in this class. He managed to top and tail the class, taking both first and fourth place.
Gerards fastest time of the day in his Radical was enough to give him third overall as well as the class 9 win. Second place was secured by a quickly improving Lee Kirkwood who had a super drive to take 8th overall and finish only 8.56 seconds off Gerards time.
Whilst this sounds like a large difference it must be remembered that Lee`s Radical is a 1.5 SR3, whereas Gerard has the larger 3L SR8. Gordon Buckley took third in his 1.3 Radical and Gerards result today gives him the Class 9 championship with a maximum points score, having been unbeaten all season.
Gerard also takes second overall in this years Sprint Championship, as well as being the 2018 Northern Ireland Hill climb champion and class 9 championship winner in the Hillclimb championship as well.
Class 10 – Sports Libre rally car is a class for the smaller engine rally cars and was won again by Alan Cassels who took the class win from Derek Gurney in his huge Sierra, from Thomas Fitzmaurice`s Citroen C2. This class proved to be particularly hard on cars, with only one of the four cars entered, being able to complete all five runs, due to mechanical woes.
On his way to the class win, Alan finished 18th overall and was third saloon. This is some going when you see how much more powerful machinery finished behind him. Today’s result guarantees that Alan adds the class 10 Sprint Championship to his class 10 Hillclimb championship for this year.
Alan also narrowly missed out on the Leaders Championship in the Hill climb championship as well. He has had a very successful season. Alan Roddy has secured second in the class championship with Thomas Fitzmaurice taking third. This is Thomas`s first ever Sprint Championship award, so well done to him.
Class 11 – Libre Rally cars, and Noel Strain had a lonely day in this class as the only competitor. Sadly some mechanical woes side-lined him and he only managed one run, but it was a super run none-the-less. Daniel Campbell takes the class 11 Championship win for 2018 with Norman Armstrong finishing second and Seamus Morris third.
Class 12 – 4WD Sports libre cars proved to be an eventful day for both competitors as sadly Oliver Cormican had a slight off on his last run, while Ted Johnston who finished behind Oliver, seemed to think he was Ken Block in a MkII Escort, rather than a four-wheel-drive Escort Cosworth.
Both drivers were spectacular to watch as Oliver tried successfully to take the class win and the overall Modified category championship win as well. Ted Johnston was second after slip sliding his way round all day. I was parked opposite Ted and every time I saw him, he was smiling like the proverbial Cheshire cat having completed his runs.
He really was having so much fin in his Escort and it was refreshing to see someone just enjoying the sport so much. In terms of the class championship Oliver secured the class title from Ivan McCullough. Oliver Cormican also won the Modified Saloon category and the class 12 Hillclimb championship too. So a very successful season for Oliver.
Class 13 – Formula racing cars was, as usual dominated by ANICC chairman Henry Campbell, who set a blistering run of 145.54 to finish 19th overall. Henry not only competed in a full seasons sprinting in this car this year, but he also competed all season in the Northern Ireland Formula ford Championship and was, just last week, at Brands Hatch at the Formula Ford Festival.
Second place was taken by Ian Maple who is now perfecting the handling of his immaculately prepared Mondiale M89s. The third and final position in this class went to hard charging southern hillclimb championship regular John Whitley, who literally travels the length and breadth of Ireland to compete in this car.
Class championship honours for 2018 went to Henry Campbell who was only beaten once this year, by Mike Todd. Ian Maple was second in the class with Basil Barnes third. Over the course of the season we’ve seen 6 drivers dabble in class 13 and it would be great if they would all come out to play next year?
Class 14 – for the smaller racing cars saw Trevor Roberts dominate from George Stevenson, both in Jedi’s, whilst Trevor is new to the Jedi, he is an extremely successful kart racer with numerous titles and race wins at local, national, European and world level.
Trevors experience shows as he drives the little Jedi like an overgrown kart on steroids, and boy is it great to watch. Trevor’s class win didn’t affect the overall class championship which George Stevenson has already secured from Lewis Wilson with Catherine Donnelly third. Catherine has had a belter of a season and has come on leaps and bounds this year in her little Delta, it’s great to see her getting a class position for all her hard work.
Class 15 – for all other racing cars, or the big single seaters as they are known, was headed up by Robert Dwane in his nimble little OMS. Omaghs Adrian Pollock took second on the day and maximum class points, which also gave him the class championship and the Overall title of Northern Ireland Sprint Champion 2018 as he won the overall championship as well.
Third place on Saturday went to Steven Gault in his Reynard and Steven also took third in the class championship and third in the Overall Northern Ireland championship as well. This was Stevens first season in a single seater and as i predicted after the March sprint he has become a driver to watch. With some more seat time he will be challenging Adrian and the others for outright wins.
Class 16 – road going historic saloons and Gerry McGarritty really has stamped his authority on this class this season as once again he took the class win, however Karl Johnston pushed him hard all the way in his little red Midas. On his last run, Karl pulled a 159.76 run out of the bag which was only 0.18 secs behind Gerry’s 159.58 best time.
Michael Johnston took third in class and in terms of the class championship, Gerry McGarrity was the run away class winner with Karl Johnston Second and Mervyn Johnston third.
The next and final sprint of the year takes place on 10th November at Kirkistown – this event, hosted by the Ulster Automobile Club is a non-championship event and is the re-run of the event which was cancelled due to standing water on 13 October.
Anyone who had entered the original date will automatically have their entries carried across to the new date.
Words: DAVID EVANS – #154 | Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY
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