Saturday 07 May saw the fourth round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship in the Larne Motor Club at Kirkistown Circuit.
Thankfully someone in Larne Motor Club had been a good child and we were all rewarded by a beautiful day’s weather with the sun splitting the trees, and a very pleasurable light wind which just kept everyone’s temperature down enough to make the day satisfying.
Due to the excitement of getting out playing on such a lovely day, several people were having too much fun which resulted in several red flags over the two practice runs. Thankfully there was no major damage done and only a hint of cement dust as we started the timed runs around the 1300hrs mark.
Before we mention the event itself, we need to report a very big milestone for one sprinter, Gary Milligan, on 08 May, 1982 at Kirkistown circuit, during an Ulster Automobile Club event.
On that day, Gary finished 23rd overall and fourth in class. It’s ironic that 39 years and 364 days later, Gary is back at Kirkistown competing in another sprint, in another Mini. Sadly on this occasion he was a bit slower overall and finished 38th overall, but he was more successful in the class battles by taking third in class.
That is quite an achievement to still be competing 40 years after your first event. Looking down the entry list from 40 years ago, there is one other competitor who competed then and is still competing nowadays, but sadly wasn’t here today, and that’s Robert McGimpsey!! Massive congratulations to both Gary and Robert for reaching this milestone, and here’s to another 40 years racing!!
Back to Round Four… Right from the start Robert Dwane hit the ground running in his OMS 25, which he later proved to be a good move, as he set a blistering run on 116.11 secs which turned out to be the fastest time of the day as well as a new class record by nearly 2 seconds!
This time was to prove to be out of everyone else’s reach and Tim Woodside, fresh from a Northern Ireland win at the previous weekends British Hillclimb Championship round at Craigantlet, and having won the last round too, came second with a best run of 123.39.
Jim Hutchinson rounded the top 3 out with a third overall and a time of 132.24 secs. I will come back to Jim in a minute as he needs a few column inches in his own right!!
Looking back through the time sheets you can see that Rob Dwane’s car is simply a rocket ship in a straight line. It’s incredible to watch and listen to. Rob was clocked at 120mph through the speed trap on lap 1 and Tim Woodside who was second fastest was 10mph back on 110 mph. On lap 2, Rob was clocked at 137 mph which was just under take off speed of a Eurofighter Jet, with Gerard O`’Connell second fastest through it at 111mph.
As mentioned above, third on the day and my winner of “driver of the day” went to Portadown`s Jim Hutchinson in his RSR Escort. Jim drove the wheels off his RSR escort and placed it third overall with a final time of 132.24 secs which took 4.7 secs off Roger Gage’s previous class record at the circuit.
This is an outstanding drive to put a tin top saloon third overall in front of single seaters and “locaterfield” style cars. Jim had an extra battle to contend with on Saturday as this was the first time that he and Gerard O`Connell had ever been at the same event in their Escort RSR`s together, so there was a big battle royale between these two drivers to see who was the fastest in an RSR.
Gerard finished a mere 1.58 secs behind Jim after an epic third run, but just couldn’t catch Jim who has now been crowned the fastest man in an RSR Escort!! I do however suspect that this battle will be rekindled in the future and that the gap between both drivers will decrease, and watching this happen will be a delight. It’s battles like this which make our championship so wonderful.
Another fabulous drive came from newcomer Ethan Faulkner in his Mk4 Jedi. Ethan had never been to Kirkistown before so was completely blind to the circuit when he commenced his first run. This didn’t seem to put him off as he finished fourth overall on a 132.51sec run which was only 0.27 secs behind Jim Hutchinson.
Had it not been for the oil spill just at the end of the second run, Ethan may well have found the 3-tenths of a second he needed to take his first ever podium. There are a couple of things which you need to appreciate about Ethan just to appreciate how good this result is. The first is that this is only his second ever event and the second is that his Jedi MK4 Is only 1000cc, ohh… and don’t forget that he had never been to Kirkistown before!! Mark my words this young lad is a star of the future!!!
Saturday really was a day of hard charges. Dan Campbell pushed hard in his Toyota Starlet to finish 6th overall and fastest modified car, a mere 1.64 secs ahead of his father, Garry in a similar but different Toyota Starlet.
Also fighting hard were the Hawthorne twins, David and Steven, who swapped tenths of a second all day with each other as well as Scott McMullan, who really is driving the wheels off his Reis Aero. Scott took the class 7 win by a mere 1.09 secs from David Hawthorne, with Steven Hawthorne 1.12 secs back.
Whilst were mentioning the Hawthorne`s, between the entire family there were seven drivers competing on Saturday including Nicola Hawthorne, who made her maiden outing in the Clio 172 which her daughter Amy has been competing in so well of late.
Amy proved to be the fastest female Hawthorne whilst her dad, David, proved to be the fastest Hawthorne overall. Poor Nicola is bound to have had some stick on Saturday night. Also, Amy and Nicola were the first ever mother and daughter dual entry at a speed event in Northern Ireland so there’s a wee bit of trivia for you all.
Working down the paddock there were some superb drives up and down the paddock and it was great to see Andrew Kernohan taking 3rd in class 6b in his Clio. His new race suit has brought his some fresh luck, and it was good to see the return of Rudy Tate and Andrew Straney in Rudy`s Locost Megablade.
Once again Andrew showed Rudy how to drive his car, pipping him by 3.24 seconds, but Rudy did manage to get the award for the closest cut of Silage so far in 2022. His days following the young farmers about have proved to be useful!! It’s fair to say that these two fellas have some superb fun in whatever they drive and they are also in the thick of the craic round the paddock.
Another returning face was that of Chris Rogan who appeared in a Mazda MX5 in class 2b. Chris showed us that despite growing a beard he has lost none of his previous pace and hopefully we can persuade him to do more events in the future. Seumas Hobbs also made a very welcome return to the paddock in his Maguire Mini and proved to have lost none of his touch.
As well as returning faces we had two new comers with us as well. Jonathan Smith debuted his beautiful green Mk2 escort in class 6a but sadly he suffered clutch problems which sent him home early, alongside Jonathan was his good friend Gary Moore, who usually races his fiesta in the Kirkistown Fiesta championship. Gary also had a good day and enjoyed doing a full days racing and not having to go home to fix body panel damage sustained during the day. Hopefully this will encourage him to return to the paddock again
In terms of the Categories we will start with the Road going category where the car in front was once again a BMW. Andrew Robb was out again and took the category and class 2 win as well as 17th overall in his BMW. Conor Hamill pushed him hard but couldn’t get the deficit below the final 1.29 secs which really doesn’t do the battle justice. Third went to the hard charging and ever improving Crawford Ewing in his Megane. Crawford finished 4.64 adrift of Conor and ahead of the returning Michael Clarke. Conor Hamill leads the overall category championship ahead of Andrew Robb and Crawford Ewing but there’s only 5 points between them and Andrew is certainly catching Conor.
Dan Campbell took the Modified Category championship honours today, a mere 1.64 secs ahead of second placed Garry Campbell in their Toyota Starlets. Oliver Cormican was third, a mere 0.36 secs ahead of fourth placed Stewart Strain in his 205 GTi. Ken Colbert was 5th in this battle. Despite being in warmer climes and therefore missing today’s event, Stephen Colbert still leads the modified championship race, 4 points ahead of Dan Campbell with Ken Colbert third in the family sunbeam.
In the specialist Category Jim Hutchinson took the category win in his RSR Escort on his way to finishing 3rd overall and fastest tin top. Jim did have to work hard though as Gerard O`Connell pushed him hard in his RSR Escort to finish 2nd in category to Jim a mere 1.58 secs down on Jim, despite a clinker of a last run to try and seal the win. Scott McMullan was third in category and finished ahead of both of the Hawthorne twins as he continues to get more comfortable in his Reis Aero.
Jims win puts him jointly on top of the category with Scott McMullan, its then a 3 point jump to joint third between the Hawthorne twins with Gerard next up in his Escort. This is going to be a really tight finish this season and rest assured whoever wins this deserves to win it!!
In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Sheryl McBride took her first win of the year with an outstanding drive in her Global GT light. Sheryl had a corrected deficit of 2.48 secs from second placed Amy Hawthorne who is steadily getting faster. Kathy McDade took third on the day as she struggles to come to terms with her new Honda Civic. She also struggles to obtain some fairy dust for the fuel tank but I’m sure she will track some down for the next event. Fourth in class went to Emma Campbell today in her little 106 in which she had some mechanical issues. Nicola Hawthorne finished fifth in the challenge but as this was her first event she was running with a conversion factor of 1 which severely hampered her final times. In the overall time sheets Nicola would’ve been the third fastest lady on the day. Today’s result puts Sheryl 2 points ahead of Emma Campbell who had been leading it, and has more event wins under her belt. Kathy is third ahead of Amy Hawthorne and Catherine Donnelly. It’s still very close at the top
For some, the most important category is the fastest mini in the west. Once again this went to Karl Johnston who yet again drove the wheels off his little mini. Karl was incredible to watch as he explored every inch of the tarmac as he pushed super hard to keep Gerry McGarrity behind him. In the end, Gerry lost out by a mere 1.28 secs to Karl. Third place went to Gary Milligan again who had a disastrous day with fuel issues which he traced back to a fuel pump. In true sportsman style, Gerry Mcgarrity lent Gary a fuel pump to let him get a proper run.
Unfortunately the Erne Trophy sprint on 04 June at St Angelo airfield has had to be cancelled due to circumstances beyond the control of Enniskillen Motorclub. The championship are trying to invoke the reserve championship date on 09 July to replace this round as the fifth round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship. Keep watching the championship facebook page and the ANICC website for details.
Words: DAVID EVANS #154 | Photos: Gary Craig Motorsport Photography
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