Situated just outside Cultra in County Down sits the Creightons Green Road which came alive to the sight and sound of racing cars recently.
Those involved with motorsport will know that this stretch of road signals the start of the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship and an event that is hosted by the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club of Northern Ireland.
It sees competitors meander their way up this short and technical course towards Whinney Hill, on the outskirts of Hollywood. And, with great uncertainty as to whether the event would be able to run due to ongoing restrictions, the TSCCNI pulled off a mammoth task to enable the championship to start safely and within the guidelines.
Everything you can imagine with 4-wheels runs up this course from vintage Alfas to Subaru Imprezas, from a classic Porsche 911 to a Ford Ka, and from an Austin 7 Ulster to open wheeled single-seater race cars.
There is absolutely everything in between, too. Included on this event was a Casmat Buggy which, equipped with a motorbike engine, screamed its way to the top of the hill in a style more noted to the world of drifting.
Reigning hillclimb champion, Graham Thompson, led from the start in his GTR turbo while Ryan McGimpsey struggled to get close. That was until the final run of the day however, when Ryan found enough grip and bravery to finish just over half a second behind Graham in second place.
Third place went to former series champion, Christopher Houston, who only managed one timed run and with less than one second separating the top 3 at the end of the day, this year’s championship is set to provide some nail-biting action.
Posting on the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club of Northern Ireland’s Facebook page after the event, Club Secretary Colin McBride MBE said, “What a day! After 2-3 weeks of paperwork, paperwork, cajoling, threats, more paperwork, 100+ telephone calls, excuses, begging, online live IT counselling and then more threats, the admin was done.
“The ‘prep’ team did a bit of hedge trimming, grass cutting, line-painting, banner-raising, etc, etc. There were some (small) moans about the road surface and [its] ‘wee stones’ as it had recently been ‘tarred and chipped’.”
McBride continued, “It could have been so much worse, so a special mention for Jack Brien on the turbo-brush who went the entire length of the course on Friday evening, up and down, in a cloud of dust to get the surface in the condition we needed.
“Saturday morning and it was over to the ‘operations team’ to run the event on the day and they did us all proud. Get 100+ cars, vans & trailers squirrelled away wherever they would fit, [with the] 1st car up the hill at 10:00 on the dot.
“2 practice runs, 4 timed runs, that’s about 500 starts off the line (give or take a few that didn’t make the full 4 timed runs), a few scrapes and dents, but nobody going home with a wrecked car, factor 20 definitely needed all day. It was all just about ‘Purfick’ as Del-boy would say.
Speaking of his own performance on the day, McBride said, “I personally had a cracking day, [I] got the trusty Sylva sub-40 [seconds], chewing the tail-feathers of a Westfield Hayabusa… And going home in one piece with a sunburnt nose.”
“Feedback indicates that just about everybody else had as enjoyable a day as me…..so it was a successful event all round.
“A big thankyou from the TSCCNI Club to all the competitors, marshals, medics, rescue, recovery, timekeepers, media, officials & residents who made the event possible and enjoyable, under more difficult circumstances than usual.
“As they say at the Eurovision Song Contest, Au Revoir and Cairncastle….. Over to you…”
Full results can he found here – https://www.tsccni.info/post/croft-2021-results
Photos: Gary Craig Motorsport Photography