The seaside racing circuit of Kirkistown was all set for the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland’s ‘Spooky Sprint’ on Saturday 28 of October 2023 where the championship was to be decided on this, the final round.
After a highly competitive season covering a total of eight rounds, with two drop scores, it was all down to three times on the final event in County Down to decide the winner. Heading into the event, it was looking to go one of two ways, with Gerard O’Connell or Alan Cassells set to be victorious.
With a wet weather front impending, the event got underway with hopes of running the usual two practice runs, followed by three competitive timed runs before the precipitation took hold. Sadly, as has been seen heavily on the news in recent days, what came from the skies was unprecedented.
Midway through the second practice, organisers were forced to hold the start line due to standing water around a few areas at the bottom end of the circuit. The rain eased, the sun came out, yet the organisers were not in a position to allow the event to restart due to yet more rainfall.
By 2pm, the vast majority of the lower end of the track was under water, many parts of it too deep to be deemed as safe to run the event. Track inspections by Clerk of Course and Driver’s representatives forced a driver briefing at which all crews were thanked for coming out and supporting the final round, but for their safety, the 5-00 MRCI had taken the very difficult decision to abandon the meeting.
Based on times from first practice, the biggest shock was to see Dave Kane at the top of the charts in his Casmat. Clearly this nimble chassis with its limited power when compared to the big Class 15 cars, is perfectly at home trashing around a sodden Kirkistown. Well done, Dave!
Top speed in practice went to Gerard O’Connell, who entrusted his Pirelli wets more than most would to record a mind-numbing speed of 148mph. Finishing two-tenths behind Dave, it was clear that Gerard had stepped into the ring with the gloves firmly on.
Ryan McGimpsey brought his new Empire Evo home in fourth, showing great pace, with Jim Hutchinson nipping at his heels in his RSR now equipped with a 2.9 Millington.
Down the field there was spins, slides, and plenty of smiles.
A statement posted on the Sprint Championships Facebook page the day after the abandoned meeting states, “Evening all. I’ve been trying to work out what to say and honestly, I don’t know!!
“Today was one of the wettest days ever seen at Kirkistown. The day had to be abandoned halfway through second practice as there was simply too much water on the circuit for the event to run safely.
“I didn’t do any live coverage etc as it was just too wet, and I didn’t want to get my phone soaked. That’s how bad it was!!! I’ll share some photos tonight which hopefully give you an idea as to how bad it was.
“As I was leaving, I drove round the circuit and the entire track was waterlogged and covered in water!! It must have been 3 or 4 inches deep in places.”
Continuing, “A massive thanks to all the marshals etc who stood out today in those conditions to make the day happen. Also well done to the organising team for making the decision to abandon the event.
“I didn’t hear one person disagreeing with the decision.”
At time of writing, I am unsure if a reserve round that sits in the regulated championship calendar will be brought into play to finish the season. But there is no doubt that I will have an update in the coming weeks.
Words and Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY [Images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]