Spectators were treated to an amazing day of car and superkart racing at Kirkistown Race Circuit on Saturday 25th September, 2021. Two prestigious trophies were up for grabs, The Martin Donnelly Trophy for Formula Ford 1600 and the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy for Formula Vee.
However, there were also other classes that provided incredible excitement, throughout the day. The opening race was an 8 lap affair for the amazing Superkarts.
In the 250 class, Comber’s Alan Witherow went from fourth to first on the first lap, demoting Moira’s Liam Fox to second, Craigavon’s Brian Jones to third and the evergreen Colin Menary, from Bangor, to fourth. One lap later, Menary was back up to second.
In the 125cc class, Comber’s Alan Crossen had taken the lead from his brother, Peter, who had just passed Ballygowan’s Aaron Newell. Unfortunately, Peter had to retire on lap 3. This let Alan Crossen away but Ross Witherow, from Newtownards, was now giving Newell a hard time. On lap 7, Liam Fox retired and the positions were set. At the end, in the 250s, Alan Witherow won from Menary and Jones and in the 125s it was Alan Crossen from Newell and Ross Witherow.
A massive 23 car field lined up for the first car race of the day, for Formula Vee. Unfortunately, on the warming-up lap, Brendan Ellis, from Carlow, developed gear selection issues and didn’t take the start. Anthony Cross, from Bohernabreena, had taken pole but just by 0.097 seconds from Buncrana’s Jordan Kelly. It was Kelly who took the lead at the start, with Tim Murray, from Tara, demoting Cross to third. By the end of the first lap, Dublin’s Dan Polley had passed both Wicklow’s Gary Newsome and Cross for third place. However, in typical Formula Vee style, nothing remained the same for any length of time. On lap 3 Murray took the lead and Cross was back to second place, only to lose that to Kelly a lap later. Meanwhile, Newsome and Polley were swapping places at nearly every corner! On lap 6, Polley got back to third and Dublin’s Gavin Buckley deposed Newsome for fifth. From lap 7 onwards, it was hard to know who to follow. Kelly and Murray were swapping places constantly. Polley and Cross were doing the same. On lap 11, Polley passed Murray, only to lose the place a lap later. This gave Kelly breathing space. On the final lap Cross managed to squeeze past Polley. At the finish line it was Kelly ahead of Murray, Cross and Polley, in that order.
The Legends were the third race. These cars are 5/8th replicas of 1940s American Stock Cars, powered by 1200cc engines. Their power-to-weight ratio is excellent but their aerodynamics are dire! This makes for brilliant, close racing. Like the Superkarts, they have a rolling start. Geoff Richardson, from Clonskeagh, took the lead and Jamie Moylan, from Naas, passed Greg Richardson, from Caninteely, for second place. Peter Barrable, from Swords had made a great start and by the end of the first lap he had come from nineth to fourth! On lap 3, Moylan took the lead and he would stay there until the end. Geoff Richardson had a mishap and dropped to sixth. Barrable and Dundrod’s Ivor “The Driver” Greenwood both passed Greg Richardson. On lap 5, Geoff Richardson repassed Dublin’s Gordon Brown and a lap later he repassed his brother, Greg. The final overtake was when he took third place from Greenwood on lap 7. The results were, 1st Moylan, 2nd Barrable and 3rd Geoff Richardson.
The fourth race was for Formula Sheane. These single seater cars are quick, with most of them lapping at the same speed as Formula Ford 1600s. The first four laps of the race were manic! On lap 1, Philip Sheane, from Wicklow, lost the lead to Derek Roddy, from Dundalk, who had already passed Garrett McKenna, from Ballyboughal, Paul McLoughlan, Brendan Carr, from Dublin, and Richard Kearney, from Carlow! On lap 2, Chris Dunne, from Bray, passed Kearney, only to lose the place again on the next lap. Kearney continued his redemption by passing Carr for third. On lap 3, the action was between McKenna, Dunne and Richie Adams, from Ballyboden. By lap 4 it had calmed down somewhat. The only further passing was between Kearney and Roddy, who swapped places constantly from lap 7 to lap 10. At the end, Sheane won from Kearney and Roddy.
Race 5 was the first FF1600 encounter and this would set the scene for the Martin Donnelly Trophy race, later in the day. Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar, had qualified on Pole from Ballymena’s David McCullough and Ballycastle’s Brandon McCaughan. “The Randalstown Rocket”, Alan Davidson, had qualified fourth. Ivan McCullough, brother of David, didn’t qualify on the Friday, as he was working in England and had yet to get home. He hadn’t actually raced since this same meeting in 2020. This time he would be starting both FF1600 races from the back of the grid. Dempsey shot into the lead from the off, closely followed by David McCullough and Davidson, who had got the jump on McCaughan. By the end of lap 1, Ivor McCullough had got up to 7th place. On the next lap, the gremlins that seemed to be ever present on Ballina driver, Dave Parks’ car rose again and he retired, promoting Ivor to 6th. On lap 5, he passed Darwin Smith for 5th. Lap 7 saw David McCullough having an issue as he dropped to 5th place, now behind his brother. Ivor’s progress continued on lap 9, as he passed McCaughan for third place and a lap later he dismissed Davidson for second! On lap 11, David McCullough repassed McCaughan and on the final tour he and McCaughan both passed Davidson. The final results were 1st Dempsey, 2nd Ivor McCullough and 3rd David McCullough.
German driver, Timon Dohnke, makes the trip every meeting from his home town of Teltow, to race in the Kirkistown Fiestas. He hires a car from Ricky Hull, who supplies around one third of the field. With practice comes experience and Dohnke’s experience is starting to pay. On lap 1 of the first Fiesta race, he took the lead, only to lose it to Neville Anderson and then regain it again on lap 2. Meanwhile, Paul Stewart, from Belfast, had an uncharacteristically low start in fifth place and was making rapid progress, first passing Strangford driver, Megan Campbell and then Anderson before relieving Dohnke of the lead on lap 3. On lap 5, Campbell moved past Dohnke for second place and on lap 6 Anderson passed both of them to get back to where he started, in second place. Unusually for Fiesta racing, the places remained static until the end, with Stewart winning from Anderson and Campbell.
Roadsports were up next, with a small but very fast field. Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, in a Radical PR6, led from Holywood’s John Benson, in a Crosslé 37S and Downpatrick’s Niall Fitzsimmons in a Radical Pro 6. The places remained like that until lap 5, when Fitzsimmons got past Benson. At the end, Larkham won from Fitzsimmons and Benson. Blackrock’s Bernard Foley was fourth in his Crosslé 42s. Steve Morris made a welcome return from Welling, finishing fifth in his Crosslé 42S ahead of David Kelly in his beautiful Crosslé 9S.
The final race in the pre-lunch section was for Libre Saloons, Seats and Mazda MX5s. The Seats started at the front of the grid, with two empty spaces between them and the Libre Saloon field, who were a further two empty spaces ahead of the Mazdas. When the lights went out, Shane Murphy, from Cork shot into a lead he would not relinquish. Barry English, from Dublin, similarly held onto second place. Sam Mansfield, from Saggert, demoted Brian Berry, from Rathfarnham, into fourth place and Neil Tohill, from Wicklow, did a similar move on Lurgan driver, Peter Baxter. Behind them, Nutt’s Corner driver, Donal O’Neill and Ballynahinch driver, Ralph Jess, were having a battle, with O’Neill losing out from the line but getting back in front at the Crosslé Chicane. Lisburn driver, Greer Wray, went from 12th to 9th on lap 1, passing Jonny McCarthy, from Moira, Keith Wray, from Dundonald and Dan Keelan, from Ashbourne. In the Mazdas, Gregory McMillan, from Ballymena, rapidly dealt with Ballywalter driver, David Cousins. Newry driver, Damian Moran, in his first ever race, quickly passed Jim Kennedy, from Crossmaglen. Peter Baxter retired his Supercopa at the end of lap 3. On lap 5 Berry got past Mansfield and Greer Wray passed Jess. Pete Murray, from Clonmellon, who had dropped from 13th to last, during the first two laps, passed Kennedy and Keelan. However, Keelan repassed him again on lap 8. On lap 10, Berry was passed by both Mansfield and Tohill. The results were 1st Murphy, 2nd English and 3rd Mansfield. In the Mazdas it was 1st McMillan, 2nd Cousins and 3rd Moran.
The first race after a very short lunch break was for the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy. This trophy was donated many years ago to Irish Formula Vee by the two time Formula 1 World Champion. The hot money was on Bohernabreena driver, Anthony Cross, who had already won the trophy on three previous occasions. Although he had “only” finished third in the morning race, many thought that he had been keeping his powder dry. When the race began, two incidents caused the race to be red flagged, with a car stranded with a missing corner at Maguire’s Hairpin. At the restart, first race winner, Jordan Kelly, managed to do the unthinkable and build a small gap from the chasing pack. Cross was trying to catch him but by lap three he was into a massive fight with Jack Byrne, who had come up from 7th place. On lap 6, Tim Murray joined the fray. All three took turns in 2nd place as Kelly built on his lead. At one point, Cross dropped to 5th, behind Garry Newsome. On lap 11, Cross got back up to 3rd place but he could rise no further. At the end of 15 laps, Kelly was 5.68 seconds clear, which is a lifetime in Formula Vee. Murray was 0.17 seconds ahead of Cross who was 0.21 seconds ahead of Newsome. Newsome was a further 0.1 seconds ahead of Gavin Buckley.
Omagh tyre supplier, Bill Adair, had sponsored a new set of tyres for the winner and two further sets were to be awarded to the first “B” grade driver and the first “C” grade driver. “C” drivers are those in their first season of racing. “B” drivers are those with more than one season’s racing and who have never won the “B” championship. “A” grade drivers have all won the “B” championship in the past. However, Jordan Kelly is a “B” driver. He got a set of tyres for the overall win. The winning “B” driver tyres would now go to the second placed “B” driver and this was, in fact, Tim Murray! The first “C” driver was Owen Kelly, Jordan’s brother! Thus, two sets of new tyres made their way back to Buncrana! Long time Kirkistown commentator, Alan Drysdale, personally put an award of €120 for the fastest lap and this went to Garry Newsome.
Next up were the Legends again. These guys draw lots for grid positions and that makes for plenty of close racing. From the start, Peter Barrable led from his brother Robert. Jamie Moylan was battling through Gordon Brown and Owen Lawlor, with his sights set on Ivor Greenwood. He got past Greenwood on lap 2 and suddenly it was a four car brawl for the lead. On lap 4, Geoff Richardson went from 4th to 1st. He managed to just hold on to the place to the end. On lap 5 Moylan passed Robert Barrable for 2nd place but he lost it again on lap 7. At the end, 0.78 seconds covered the first four cars. Geoff Richardson won. Robert Barrable was second. Jamie Moylan was third and Peter Barrable was fourth.
The Superkarts had their second outing next. Colin Menary led the 250s at the beginning of lap 1 but thereafter went down the field, finishing 5th. Alan Witherow assumed the lead at the end of the first lap and was not headed again. Lap record holder, Stuart Coey grabbed second and probably thought he was safe, until Brian Jones came steaming past on the final lap! The brothers Crossan and Aaron Newell fought for the first three places in the 125cc class with Alan Crossen winning from Peter, with Aaron Newell third.
Next up was the second outing for the Formula Sheanes. This time Richard Kearney led from start to finish. He was initially helped by the battle going on behind him as Paul McLoughlin, Derek Roddy, Brendan Carr and Philip Sheane all disputed second place. By lap 3, Roddy had established himself in second place but could not do anything about Kearney. McLoughlin was in third and that was how it stayed until the end.
Ex-Lotus Formula 1 star, Martin Donnelly, was on hand to give out the trophy, named in honour of his late father Martin Donnelly Senior, to the winner of the second FF1600 race. And what a race it turned out to be! Once again, Ivor McCullough was starting at the rear, since he had no qualifying times. On lap 1, David McCullough passed Jordan Dempsey for the lead. “The Randalstown Rocket”, Alan Davidson was, indeed, flying and giving nothing away to those in much younger cars ahead of him. It all went crazy at Debtor’s Dip on lap 5. There was a coming together. David McCullough was out. Alan Davidson had a complete 360º spin and continued. Dave Parks, who had already risen from 7th to 4th, suddenly found himself in the lead! Brandon McCaughan was also out as was Antrim driver, Drew Stewart. Dempsey was now 4th. And who was 3rd? Ivor McCullough! From lap 6 to lap 10 McCullough and Davidson had a great battle, changing places multiple times. All the time, Parks was trying to stay in front. On lap 11, McCullough got slightly away from Davidson and attacked Parks, taking the lead. Meanwhile, Dempsey was coming back at Davidson and they swapped places a number of times. At the finish, McCullough had a 3 second winning gap. Parks and Davidson were inseparable crossing the line, with Parks’ transponder giving a 0.001 second advantage!
Avon Competition Tyres provided a new set of tyres to the winner and the BRSCC provided a free entry to next month’s 50th running of The Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch. Davidson and Parks will also pick up a new set of Avons at the Formula Ford Festival.
After such excitement, a person could have been forgiven for expecting the following Roadsports race to be a bit dull but not a bit of it. This time Niall Fitzsimmons made a better start and led from John Benson, who had passed Jim Larkham on lap 1. The latter two swapped places a number of times before Larkham made the pass stick and set off in pursuit of Fitzsimmons. While he did catch and pass Fitzsimmons on lap 4, he could not pull away and at the end there was only 2 seconds between them. John Benson was a further 20 seconds behind, such was the pace of the leading pair.
Unfortunately, the second Fiesta race got silly and was red flagged due to an accident on lap 4. At the restart, Colm Barrable took the lead, which he would hold until the end. Timon Dohnke, Megan Campbell and Dan Keelan had a great battle for the remaining podium places. By lap 5, those were settled as well. In the end, Barrable won from the ever improving Dohnke and extremely consistent Campbell.
Race 16 was the final encounter for the Legends and it was a cracker! The scene was set for a mighty battle at the end of lap 1. Owen Lawlor was leading, from Jamie Moylan, Ivor Greenwood and Peter Barrable. On lap 2 Lawlor slipped to 4th but there was nothing separating these four cars! Gordon Brown got in on the act on lap 4, passing Lawlor. On lap 7 Barrable squeezed past Greenwood and that is how it finished. Moylan 1st, Barrable 2nd and Greenwood 3rd.
The Superkarts were meant to be out for their final race next but one of the Legends liberally coated the track in oil from Debtor’s Dip to the Crosslé Chicane and it was deemed too dangerous for them. Thus, the Seats, Libre Saloons and Mazda MX5s were sent out instead! This proved very interesting from a driver’s perspective! Barry English made the best start, passing Neil Tohill and Brian Berry, who was also passed by Shane Murphy on the following lap. Donal O’Neill got a great start in the Libre Saloons and was on the tail of the Seats into Colonial 1, as they held themselves up trying to avoid the cement dust on the oil. Greer Wray got past Ralph Jess on the opening lap. Gregory McMillan seemed unfazed by the oil and he rapidly rose up the field in his Mazda. Dan Keelan was not happy in his Fiesta ST and he dropped to the rear. On lap 3, Murphy passed Tohill for second place and four laps later he relieved English of the lead. On lap 10, a quick-fire battle ensued between Sam Mansfield, Peter Baxter, Berry and Tohill. The outcome left Mansfield in 3rd, Baxter in 4th and Tohill 5th. Berry was passed for 6th by O’Neill on the final lap. McMillan, Cousins and Moran were the first three in the Mazdas.
When the Superkarts did finally get out, they put on another great display. Stuart Coey grabbed the lead from Colin Menary on the first lap. Brian Jones went out with mechanical woes. Alan Witherow briefly dropped to 4th before passing Menary a lap later for 2nd place. Richard Dewart, from Lurgan, also passed Menary briefly before being repassed a lap later. On lap 4, Witherow took the lead but the battle between himself and Coey would go all the way to the end. Liam Fox managed to catch Dewart and passed him on lap 5.
Meanwhile there were two wonderful duels going on within the 125cc class. Alan Crossen was having a ding-dong battle with Aaron Newell while Peter Crossen was having a similar battle with Ross Witherow.
In the end, Alan Witherow won the 250cc class, with Stuart Coey 2nd and Colin Menary 3rd. In the 125cc class, Aaron Newell was 1st, Alan Crossan, 2nd and Peter Crossan 3rd.
That brought a wonderful day to a close. For a £10 entry fee, there is no better value on this island! The final meeting of the year takes place on Saturday 23rd October.
Words & Photos: DONAL O’NEILL/500 MRCI
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