Warm sunshine greeted drivers and spectators at Saturday’s car and superkart race meeting at Kirkistown. Although the featured class was the Saloons/GTs, the real anticipation was centred around the Roadsports class, because everyone in the know expected the lap record for the class to be beaten. It just wasn’t clear who would do it!
Eighteen cars lined up for the start of the combined Saloons/GTs and Modi-5-Cup race for Mazda MX5s. Most of the GTs were from the Irish Supercars. At the start Paul Parr, from Hilltown, got into the lead in his Supercar, closely followed by Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, in his Seat Supercopa. Charlie Linnane, from Kilmacanogue, slotted into third in another Supercar, ahead of Downpatrick driver, Gareth Blaine in his BMW. Nutt’s Corner driver, Donal O’Neill, got a terrible start, dropping to tenth. In the Modi-5-Cup class, which had started with a two-row gap behind the main saloons and GTs, David Cousins, from Ballywalter, had grabbed the lead from Moira driver, Francie Allen. On lap two, Baxter got past Parr and disappeared up the road, never to be headed again. Linnane was hounding Parr but could not make a pass stick. Draperstown driver, Aaron Brunton brought his Supercar into fifth place and Portadown driver, Gary Grattan, moved his similar machine into sixth. Newry driver, Damian Moran, was now second in the Modi-5-Cup field. On lap four Blain’s BMW developed a misfire and he retired. O’Neill passed Warrenpoint driver, Paul McAlinden’s Supercar to move into seventh on the road. By the end of the sixth lap, O’Neill had recovered to fourth on the road. Francie Allen and Gavin Kilkey, from Derry, were having a great battle in their MX5s. On lap twelve, Kilkey made his pass stick. The final results were, in Saloons Baxter 1st, O’Neill 2nd, Greer Wray 3rd. In GTs Parr 1st, Linnane 2nd, Brunton 3rd. In Modi-5-Cup Cousins 1st, Moran 2nd and Kilkey 3rd.
The second race of the day was for Formula Sheanes. Richard Kearney, from Carlow, led from start to finish. Mark Keenan, from Navan, was giving chase before his car expired on lap seven. Meanwhile Garrett McKenna, from Ballyboughal, had fought his way up to second, closely shadowed by Tom Foley, from Enniscorthy, who had got a poor start and was coming back from last! These two swapped places repeatedly on laps twelve, thirteen and fourteen, before Foley finally secured second place.
The first Superkart race was next. Aaron Newell, from Ballygowan, has been doing most of the winning this year, since he moved up into the 250cc class. And so it continued, as he led from start to finish. Brian Jones, the pacey plumber from Craigavon, made second place his own. Third place went to Richard Dewart, from Waringstown but he had to fight hard for it. Firstly Moira’s Liam Fox got past on lap two but his kart expired almost immediately. Then Bangor veteran, Colin Menary, closed in, passing him on lap five. However, his machine calved as well, on lap eight. Alan Witherow, from Bangor, who had done a lot of testing during the week, had his kart refuse to get off the line! Meanwhile, Peter Crossen, from Comber, continued his 2022 dominance in the 125cc class. Ross Witherow, from Millisle, did have something to show for his considerable testing during the week by securing second place by over ten seconds from Daniel Hyland, from Ballinasloe.
The Kirkistown Fiestas were the third car race. Included in the field was Corey Alleyne, from Letterkenny, who was racing to get signatures to upgrade his licence to enable him to race in the new Praga sports car series in England. The first lap was the usual Fiesta mayhem. Pole setter, Mark Stewart, from Belfast was passed by Portadown’s Derek Graham, Derek’s son, Michael and Banbridge driver, Neville Anderson. As Derek Graham built a small lead Anderson and Michael Graham were having a mighty battle, with places swapping lap by lap. On lap five Stewart got past Anderson for third and set off after the Grahams. Mark’s brother, Paul Stewart was on a recovery drive from eighth place and he too, passed Anderson. On lap six, Mark Stewart relieved Michael Graham of second place. On the following lap, both Paul Stewart and Anderson demoted him two more places. On laps eleven and twelve, Michael Graham fought back to fourth but his driving was later deemed to be “unsafe” and he was disqualified. On the final lap, Anderson managed to get past Mark Stewart for second place. Paul Stewart was awarded fourth place, ahead of Strangford’s Megan Campbell and Helensburgh’s Stephen Walker. Alleyne finished a creditable seventh.
It was a small seven car field that formed for the first FF1600 race. Unfortunately, Crumlin driver, Robert Johnston, rolled forward slightly before the start lights went out and he was immediately given a 10 second penalty. Ballymena driver, David McCullough, was on pole and he led away. The two Mondiale M89S drivers, Brandon McCaughan, from Ballycastle and “The Randalstown Rocket”, Alan Davidson, were second and third. McCullough was able to increase his lead because McCaughan and Davidson were battling behind. On the first lap Davidson had the advantage but two laps later it was McCaughan. Trevor Delaney, from Carrickmacross, was having a lonely, untroubled drive in fourth place. On the last lap Davidson got past McCaughan to seal second place. Fifth was Philip Harris, from Newtownards and sixth was Johnston. Henry Campbell, from Ballymena, was the final finisher.
The next race was the Roadsports. It, too, was just a seven car field but the top two qualifiers, Steven Larkham, from Carrickfergus and his uncle, Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey had both done 58 second laps during qualifying! Jim is usually slow off the line but not this time. He was straight into the lead but Steven was right on his tail. Belfast’s John Stewart passed Holywood’s John Benson for third place on lap one. Meanwhile Jim Larkham was spending more time looking in his mirrors than where he was going, as Steven added more and more pressure. The lap times kept coming down. On lap five, Steven got through and now it was Jim doing the chasing. On lap seven, Jim got into the 58 seconds again but Steven broke the Roadsports lap record with a time of 58.345 seconds. Both drivers kept up the pace with Jim being slightly quicker over the next two laps. However, from lap ten onwards, Steven applied steady pressure and he slowly extended his lead. At the end, he had pulled out an eight second gap over Jim. John Stewart finished in third place, just under one second ahead of John Benson. Mike Ward, from Youghal, was the only other finisher.
The second Superkart race was next and Aaron Newell again took the lead from the start. Liam Fox passed Brian Jones for second on the opening lap. Unfortunately, both Colin Menary and Alan Witherow’s machines stopped on lap one. Richard Dewart had a mishap and was absolutely last at the end of this lap. In the 125cc class Peter Crossen, once again, took the lead and would never be headed. Ross Witherow gave chase in second place and this time it was Hillsborough’s Noel Lindsay who was in third place. On lap four, Newell’s kart stopped at Maguire’s Hairpin, giving him his first non-finish of the season so far. This promoted Fox to first and Jones to second. Dewart had been scything through the field and he was now up to third overall! Ross Witherow’s 125cc machine stopped on lap seven and this promoted Daniel Hyland, who had been swapping places with Noel Lindsay for the previous few laps, to second in class. That was how they all finished.
The second race for the featured class was next. Charlie Linnane shot into the lead from the start, just ahead of Paul Parr. Peter Baxter was slightly slow off the line but by the end of lap three, he was in the lead and going away. Gareth Blaine had got his BMW sorted and he slotted into fourth. Donal O’Neill made another poor start and was tenth at the end of lap one. Gary Grattan and Aaron Brunton were having an orange battle for fifth in their identical Supercars. Gavin Kilkey had taken the lead from David Cousins in the Modi-5-Cup Mazdas. By lap three, O’Neill had passed Greer and Keith Wray and the ailing Paul McAlinden to move into seventh place. David Cousins had passed Kilkey to lead the Mazdas. On lap five, O’Neill got past Brunton going into the John Crosslé Chicane and one lap later he passed Grattan at the same place. On lap seven, Linnane’s car expired, putting Parr back into second place and moving Blaine up to third. O’Neill was now fourth and that is how the first four would finish. Brunton would win the orange battle for fifth, leaving Grattan sixth. On lap four, Cousins had an almighty spin at Colonial Two, dropping to the rear of the field. That left Kilkey leading the Mazdas, with Damian Moran second. However, on the final lap Francis Allen made a move stick and he got the second place. Cousins got fourth.
The Sheanes were out for their second run next and Richard Kearney led from start to finish again. This time Mark Keenan’s car went the distance and he finished second. Richie Adams held third for two laps before being passed by Chris Dunne, from Foxrock, and then by Garrett McKenna. On lap fourteen, Adams got one place back from McKenna.
The second Fiesta race saw Michael Graham hold the lead for five laps while his dad, Derek, was passing firstly Neville Anderson and then Corey Alleyne on the initial lap. The Stewart brothers also dispatched Anderson and Alleyne, to give chase to the Grahams. On lap three, Strangford driver, Megan Campbell, took sixth place from Alleyne. It all started to unravel for Michael Graham on lap six. Firstly, his dad took away his lead. Then Paul Stewart passed him for second. A lap later, Mark Stewart demoted him further, quickly followed by Anderson. He had gone from first to fifth in two laps. He did manage to repass Anderson on the following tour. On lap eleven Mark Stewart passed brother Paul, who was passed by Michael Graham and Anderson, a lap later. Anderson also got back past Michael Graham on the final lap to secure third place.
The second FF1600 race was almost a re-run of the first. David McCullough led every lap. Alan Davidson and Brandon McCaughan hotly disputed second place, the advantage going to Davidson for the first five laps, McCaughan for the next ten but back to Davidson on the all-important final tour. Once again, Trevor Delaney had an untroubled run to fourth. Philip Harris and Robert Johnston had a ding-dong battle for fifth place before Johnston’s gear linkage broke on the tenth lap. Henry Campbell finished sixth.
Race twelve was the third and final outing for the Superkarts. This time it was Colin Menary who shot into the lead, with Aaron Newell a close second. However, Newell’s Kart stopped on the first lap and Brian Jones took up the chase. Liam Fox had lost a place to Richard Dewart on lap one but he reclaimed it on the following tour and set off after Jones and Menary. Peter Crossen took his customary lead in the 125cc class but this time he was being hounded by Ross Witherow. In fact, Witherow took the lead on lap six before losing it again one lap later. On lap eight, Menary’s kart gave up and Jones took the overall lead. It was to be short lived, as the flying Fox took first place on the final lap. Dewart was third. Daniel Hyland took third place in the 125cc class.
The final race of the day was the second Roadsports encounter. Could Jim Larkham redress the balance with his nephew, Steven, this time? It was John Stewart who took the initial lead on the first lap before Steven Larkham got into his stride and swept past. Meanwhile Jim Larkham was trying to deal with John Benson’s Crosslé, which was in third place. On lap two, he got by and set off after Stewart. On the fifth lap, John Stewart had a big off at the Colonial Complex and the race was neutralised under the safety car, which ran all the way to the end.
This was an unfortunate end to a wonderful day’s racing.
Words: DONAL O’NEILL | 500 MRCI Photos: JIMMY GRAHAM
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