The Five Hundred Motor Racing Club of Ireland hosted a mega-race event at Kirkistown Racing Circuit on Saturday 30th July and Clerk-Of-The-Course, Chris Edwards, and his team of officials, deserve major congratulations for getting a seventeen race programme executed and finished ahead of time!
The first race of the day was actually three classes in one line-up. The Kirkistown Fiestas have been putting on great shows all year so far. The Modi-5-Cup Mazdas were back in their original place, having raced with the Saloons and, most recently, on their own. Adding to the mix was a new class for Mini Coopers. The Mazdas lined up in front, separated by two grid spaces from the Minis, who were separated one grid space from the Fiestas.
When the lights went out it was Moira’s Francis Allen who grabbed the lead by the end of lap one, ahead of David Cousins, from Ballywalter. Newry’s Damian Moran spun out and dropped to the rear of the field. Derry driver, Gavin Kilkey moved into third place.
In the Minis, Carrickfergus driver, Jack Irvine, took his Scottish Cup Mini straight into the lead of the class and fourth place overall by the end of lap one. Kian O’Brien, from Dundalk, moved into second in class, just ahead of Hugh McEvoy, from Newry.
Derek Graham led his son, Michael, both from Portadown, in the Fiestas, closely monitored by Mark Stewart, from Belfast, and Megan Campbell, from Strangford.
On lap two, McEvoy demoted O’Brien but was repassed a lap later. Banbridge driver, Gregory Radcliff, got swamped at the start, dropping his Mazda down to ninth on the road but he began to climb back and on lap three he passed Newry driver, Noel Conachy’s Mini and McEvoy’s similar car. Meanwhile, a fired-up Moran was on a mission, passing eight cars by the end of lap three. On lap four Belfast’s Paul Stewart passed Campbell for fourth place in the Fiestas. By the end of lap six Radcliff had re-passed O’Brien and Moran was now up to eighth on the road. The Fiestas were getting very fraught for the front five with positions regularly changing between Mark Stewart and Michael Graham, just behind Derek Graham. Campbell had her hands full, fighting off the close attentions of Anderson and Paul Stewart. By lap ten, it seemed to have shaken out with Campbell ahead of Stewart, who was ahead of Anderson. However, one lap later it had all gone wrong for her as she dropped five places. At the finish Allen won the Modi-5-Cup class from Cousins. Kilkey was third and Moran fought back to fourth, which was actually fifth on the road. Irvine ran away with the Mini class, finishing third on the road. O’Brien was second and McEvoy was third. Derek Graham was able to hold on to the lead of the Fiestas. Mark Stewart got second and Michael Graham took third place.
The HRCA Historic Sports Cars were making their annual visit and they did not disappoint, with their eclectic collection of very fast machinery. When the lights went out for Race Two it was Dublin’s Bill Griffin who took his Crosslé 9s into the lead. Armagh’s Jackie Cochrane made his traditionally slow start in his V8 Sunbeam Tiger, being passed by Blackrock’s Bernard Foley in a Crosslé 47S. Ray Moore, also from Dublin, was starting well down the field but he made rapid progress in his Crosslé 9S to be fifth at the end of the first tour. By the end of the second lap he had risen to third. A lap later saw him take the lead, which he would keep to the end. By lap four Foley was into second place as Griffin slipped down the field. At the end of lap six the main positions were settled and the field began to spread out. Moore took the win. Foley was second. Cochrane was third. Fourth was David Kelly, from Delgany, in another Crosslé 9S. Fifth was Donaghadee driver, Lewis Dunlop, in a Lotus Elan and sixth was Griffin.
Race Three was for the other visiting class, Formula Sheane. It provided a start to finish win for Richard Kearney, from Leighinbridge. Dublin driver, Chris Dunne had to fight his way up from sixth at the start to finish second. Richie Adams, from Rathfarnham, started and finished in third place, with a few battles along the way.
Race Four saw fifteen cars take the start in this combined Saloons and GT race. As expected, Dungannon driver, Gerard O’Connell, was never headed as he went on the win the GT class. Behind him there was lots of great action. Paul Parr, from Hilltown, had abandoned his RT Supercar car and acquired a Seat Supercopa. Having made a rocket start, he was up to second on the road by the end of the first lap. However, teething problems with his car appeared and he began losing places, finally retiring on lap five. Lurgan driver, Peter Baxter, took over second place in another Supercopa but then he, too, struck problems and retired on lap eight. That left Charlie Linanne, from Kilmacanogue, in an RT Supercar to go second. Alan Watkins, from Bray, in another RT Supercar had dropped to fifth from second, but the retirements saw him back up to third. Stephen Traub, from Belfast, was now fourth on the road and first of the Saloons. Alan O’Neill, from Dunmanway, driving the only rotary engine car in the field, moved his Mazda into fifth place and Ralph Jess, from Ballynahinch, made steady progress into sixth place.
The Superkarts were Race Five and Millisle’s Alan Witherow, fresh from winning the IGP plate in the 250cc class, was the man to beat. He immediately shot into the lead but was being harried by Bangor’s Colin Menary, until Menary’s kart expired on lap three. Alan Crossen, from Comber, has made the jump into the 250cc class and this was the first chance to see him in action in this kart at Kirkistown. He lost a place at the start but then made steady progress, passing Brian Jones, from Scarva, on lap four and Liam Fox, from Moira, a lap later. On lap six he passed Witherow for the lead but relinquished it again a lap later. In the end, Witherow won, Crossen was second and Fox took third.
The 125cc class saw another Witherow victory, this time by Ross. His was hard fought and he only beat Danny Hyland, from Ballinasloe, by 0.036 seconds! Third place went to Scott Greenaway, from Gilford.
Roadsports were the featured class of this meeting and in their first outing Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, quickly took the lead in his Radical Pro6, from Belfast’s John Stewart, in a similar machine. Steven Larkham, from Carrickfergus, was third for a lap before gassing his Radical into the lead, where he would stay. Ray Moore, from Dublin, had a few tussles with Jim Larkham, before securing third place in his Crosslé 9S. John Benson, from Holywood, dropped as low as seventh in his Crosslé 37S before climbing up to finish fourth. Banbridge driver, Arnie Black, got a good result of fifth for his developing Mermic and Bernard Foley, from Blackrock, brought his Crosslé 47S home in sixth place.
FF1600 has suffered from low numbers lately but Race Seven saw eleven take the start, with most of the top drivers in attendance. Ballymena’s David McCullough is the man in form in 2022 and he took the lead at the start and held it all the way to the end. The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson slotted into second place but Ballina’s Dave Parks was on a charge and he got past on lap two, haring off after McCullough. Setting the fastest lap along the way, Parks crossed the finish line only 0.27s seconds in arrears. Behind these two, Davidson was being challenged by Ballycastle driver, Brandon McCaughan. After swapping places twice, Davidson prevailed to get third place by 0.3 seconds. Rob Parks, from Ballina, was fifth and Andrew Noble, from Rathfarnham, was sixth.
Much was expected from the N.I.Sevens, who were having a separate race for the first time, having normally run with Roadsports. They did not disappoint, with an incredibly close battle between Mark Francis, from Donaghadee, and Trevor Allen, from Ballinderry. At the finish, Allen won by just 0.777 seconds. David Mutch, from Belfast, and Paul Thompson, from Banbridge, put on an equally good show for third and fourth, finishing in that order. Jimmy Dougan, from Killyleagh, was fifth and Greg Elliott, from Banbridge, was sixth.
Race Nine was the second encounter for the Fiestas, Minis and Modi-5-Cup Mazdas. This time Francis Allen made a ridiculously fast start from fifth place on the grid, getting up to second by the first right hander, Colonial One. Francie informed this writer that he had done some intense set-up work on his car since June and that it was much more predictable and controllable now. That certainly seemed to be the case! By the end of lap one he was in the lead and going away. Gavin Kilkey was in second place and this time he held it to the end. Damian Moran moved up into third place on lap one. He remained there until having a bruising encounter with a Mini on lap ten, forcing his retireme. In the Minis, once again, Jack Irvine took the win. Kian O’Brien was second and Noel Conaghy was third. The Fiestas provided more entertaining, if a bit too robust, battling throughout the field. Mark Stewart fought his way past Conor Mulholland, from Newtownabbey, Derek Graham and Paul Stewart to win. Derek Graham finished in second place and Neville Anderson probably made more passing moves than anyone else to secure third place.
The second Superkart race saw Alan Crossen take the lead on lap one and hold it to the end. Brian Jones grabbed second on lap two and followed Crossen home. Colin Menary dropped as low as fifth before getting back to third place. In the 125cc class, the result was the same as the first race with Ross Witherow taking the win from Danny Hyland, with Scott Greenaway third.
In the second HRCA race, David Kelly, in his Crosslé 9S, passed Bill Griffin for the lead on the first lap and went away. On lap five, Jackie Cochrane rumbled his V8 Sunbeam Tiger past Griffin’s Crosslé 9s to secure second place. On lap nine, Bernard Foley, in his Crosslé 47S, passed Griffin for third and that is how the places remained.
The second Formula Sheane race was a close but uneventful race that once again gave Richard Kearney the win. However, this time it was Richie Adams who took second place with Chris Dunne having to settle for third.
In the second Saloons and GT race, Paul O’Connell took the lead on lap one and was never headed. Paul Parr, once again, rapidly rose to second on the road before his Supercopa expired on lap four. This left Peter Baxter in second place overall and leading the Saloons. Alan Watkins held third on the road all the way to the end. Stephen Traub was the last car on the lead lap at the end and secured second place in the saloons. Charlie Linnane, having dropped to last, managed to rescue third place in the GTs. Stuart Curran, from Newry, was the third Saloon home.
By the time the second Roadsports race came round, the track was soaked and the drivers has a hard time getting the power down safely in these naturally nervous cars. Steven Larkham established a lead from the start in his Radical Pro 6 and thereafter, drove to what he could see in his mirrors, going just fast enough to keep his lead safe. Bill Griffin, in his Crosslé 9S, did make some inroads, especially towards the latter part of the race but Larkham had him covered. Mike Ward, from Youghal, seemed to be pushing his Radical Pro6 hardest as he chased down Bernard Foley’s Crosslé 47S. Because of this, these two were slowly closing on Griffin, although his position was always safe. On the last lap, Ward made the only passing move of the whole race since lap one to steal third place.
The rain had mostly stopped for the second FF1600 race but the track was still very wet and traction was at a premium. When the lights went out, The Randalstown Rocket lived up to his name and got a much better start, to take the lead from David McCullough. As the cars slipped and slithered around the track, Davidson kept McCullough at bay but it was probably inevitable that McCullough would eventually get through and he did so on lap five. Meanwhile Dave Parks was the fastest man on the track and closing on the two of them. He caught and passed Davidson on lap six but could not get away from The Rocket. On lap nine, Davidson reclaimed the place but Parks got it back a lap later. These two were hounding McCullough and all three crossed the finish line within less than one second. Brandon McCaughan had been shadowing the leaders all through the race, waiting for a mistake that never came. He came fourth, setting the fastest lap in the process.
The final car race was the second outing for the N.I.Sevens and the weather had deteriorated again. Mark Francis seemed to revel in the conditions and he took the lead from Trevor Allen on lap two. His car was all shapes as he negotiated the Colonial Complex. On lap seven, Paul Thompson squeezed past Allen, only to be quickly repassed by both Allen and David Mutch. Mutch and Thompson put on a wonderful display of car control, making multiple passing manoeuvres over the final five laps. In the end Thompson just had the advantage by a microscopic 0.059 seconds!
The final Superkart race provided a fitting end to a great day’s racing. Brian Jones shot into a commanding lead, only for his superkart to expire on the third lap. Alan Witherow had an issue that dropped him from second to stone last, on lap one. Alan Crossen took over the lead when Jones went out but Colin Menary was on a mission! He, too, was being stalked by Liam Fox. Watching these machines, in what were still treacherous conditions, was breath taking. They were easily the fastest competitors on the day. On the final lap, Menary closed in on Crossen through Fisherman’s and down to the John Crosslé Chicane. Fox was in his wheel tracks. As they approached Maguire’s Hairpin at one hundred and silly miles per hour, Menary left his braking late and shot past Crossen. Unfortunately, he had left his braking too late and went wide, letting both Crossen and Fox through. 1.345 seconds covered all three as they crossed the finish line. The 125cc class result was another repeat of the first two race results with Ross Witherow winning from Danny Hyland and Scott Greenaway.
As mentioned earlier, this brought the racing to a close nearly half an hour early, with not one red flag required all day.
Hopefully, our next meeting, which will be over Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August and includes the B.O.S.S. cars competing for the Leinster Trophy, will run as smoothly as this one.
Words: DONAL O’NEILL | 500 MRCI Photos: JIMMY GRAHAM