Saturday 26th June 2021 saw the return of spectators to Kirkistown Race Circuit, in County Down, for the first time in over a year. They were treated to some amazing racing by extremely talented and committed drivers.
The first race of the day was a combined affair for Saloons and GTs. The Saloon field was reduced to just four cars when Greer Wray’s BMW developed a severe cooling problem. However, the GT field was boosted by 6 Supercars plus Dromore driver, Mike Johnston’s incredibly quick MG.
Johnston elected to start at the back of the grid but took off like a man possessed, passing four cars on the first lap. By the end of lap 2, Belfast driver, Stephen Traub was leading in his Honda from Hilltown’s Paul Parr in a Supercar.
Lurgan’s Peter Baxter was back to third, having dropped to fourth previously in his Seat. At the end of lap 3, Traub was leading, Baxter was now second and Johnston was up to third! One lap later Johnston took the lead and checked out. Traub maintained second to the end, although he was hounded by Baxter, who set the fastest Saloon lap of 59.897. Meanwhile Johnston set a new GT lap record of 57.855 seconds, an average of 94.08 m.p.h! Loughgall’s Ian Newport was the second GT home ahead of Philip Jones, from Rush.
If it wasn’t for bad luck, David Parks, from Ballina, would have no luck at all. Having qualified second in the FF1600s, behind Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar, he grabbed the lead on the first lap. Dempsey dropped to third as The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson took second place. Championship leader, David McCullough, from Ballymena, made up a four car train. Keeping a close watch, just far enough behind to avoid any chaos if it happened, was another Ballymena man, Ryan Campbell, who has been going better than ever this season.
On lap 4, both Dempsey and McCullough got past Davidson. By this time the Gremlins were affecting Parks’ car. The symptoms were of intermittent fuel starvation, which was causing dangerous issues in such a tight battle. On lap 6, Parks retired from the lead, promoting Dempsey to first place. The top four, Dempsey, McCullough, Davidson and Campbell maintained positions to the end. On the final lap Ballycastle’s Brandon McCaughan overtook Ballina’s Robbie Parks for fifth place.
In the first Roadsports race, Niall Fitzsimmons, from Crossgar, made a lightening start in his Radical Pro 6. Newtownabbey’s Jim Larkham, who had qualified on pole in a similar car, took a more gentle approach, allowing both Fitzsimmons and Holywood’s John Benson, in a Crosslé, past. Maurice McClay, from Greenisland, was fourth in his Westfield. After two laps, Larkham began to apply the welly. On lap 3 he passed Benson and a lap later he took the lead from Fitzsimmons.
Now Fitzsimmons was receiving close attention from Benson and on lap 7 he succumbed. By now Larkham was well away, eventually winning by over six seconds. Benson ended with a three second advantage over Fitzsimmons.
Race 4 was the combined Kirkistown Fiestas and Modi-5-Cup for Mazda MX5s. Ballymena’s Gregory McMillan, in his MX5, tore off into a lead he would not surrender, breaking his own MX5 lap record in the process. Randalstown’s Paul Sheridan, Derry’s Gavin Kilkey and Ballywalter’s David Cousins were all having a great battle for second place, until Sheridan spun at the Crosslé Chicane allowing Tandragee’s Stephen Murray and a mountain of Fiestas through. Jim Kennedy, from Crossmaglen, spun in sympathy in his similar MX5!
Meanwhile, in the Fiestas, Belfast’s Paul Stewart led at the end of lap 1. Colm Barrible, from Dublin, was second and Megan Campbell, from Strangford was up to third. By the end of lap 3, Sheridan had fought through the Fiestas to regain fifth place within the Mazdas. Barrible had deposed Stewart for the Fiesta lead and now Mark Stewart, from Belfast, was right behind him. Lap 5 saw Mark Stewart take the Fiesta lead. On lap 7 Sheridan got past Murray for fourth in the Mazdas. By lap 8 a massive battle was ensuing for second place in the Fiestas between Barrible and Campbell. They swapped places on every lap but Campbell was ahead at the finish.
Race 5 was the first Superkart race. The first lap was crazy, with places changing at almost every corner. At the beginning of lap 2, Craigavon driver, Brian Jones, was leading the 250s. Alan Witherow, from Millisle, was second, Stuart Coey, from Comber, was third and Bangor’s Colin Menary and Moira’s Liam Fox were disputing fourth place.
In the 125cc class Aaron Newell, from Ballygowan, was having an uncharacteristically easy run in first place, from Scott Greenaway, from Gilford. Peter Crossen’s kart had expired as had Ross Witherow’s. Alan Crossen was distinctly off the pace. At the chequered flag, Alan Witherow took the win in the 250cc class, from Coey and Menary, although Menary did set the fastest lap at 96.772 m.p.h! In the 125s, Newell won from Greenaway, with Alan Crossen third.
Race 6 saw the welcome return of the Legends. These 5/8 scale replicas of 1940s American Stock Cars have 1250 cc engines. They are aerodynamically woeful but their power-to-weight ratio is excellent. This makes for very close racing and that is what they delivered. Throughout the 8 lap race places were changing at every corner.
The main protagonists were Peter and Robert Barrable, from Swords, Geoff Richardson, from Clonskeagh, Jamie Moylan, from Naas, Greg Richardson, from Cabinteely and Ivor “The Driver” Greenwood, from Crumlin. After 8 breath-taking laps, Peter Barrable won by 0.06 of a second from Robert Barrable. A further 0.3 seconds behind was Geoff Richardson, who set a new track record for Legends of 1.06.723, an average of 81.576 m.p.h!
The second combined Saloons and GT race was another demonstration run by Mike Johnston in his MG. Second in the GTs was Paul Parr and third was Philip Jones. Stephen Traub won the Saloons from Peter Baxter and Donal O’Neill.
Race 8 was the second Superkarts race. This was only slightly less fraught than the first one, among the 250s, with places changing among Colin Menary, Alan Witherow, Stuart Coey, Liam Fox and Richhill’s Stephen McAdam, for the first five laps. Eventually, things calmed slightly. Colin Menary won by just over half a second from Alan Witherow. Stuart Coey was third. In the 125cc class, Peter Crossen finished five seconds ahead of Aaron Newell, who was a lifetime (in Karting terms) ahead of Hillsborough’s Noel Lindsay.
The second Legends race was also less fraught then the first. This time Geoff Richardson took a lights to flag victory. Things were a bit more entertaining behind him as Ivor Greenwood tried to repel raids from Peter Barrable and Jamie Moylan. In the end, Moylan got through for second and Greenwood took third.
The second FF1600 race saw David Parks start from pole, only to suffer from a sick engine, which caused him to retire from third place on lap 7. The same fate had befallen David McCullough, one lap earlier. He had been in second place. That left Jordan Dempsey in a lead that he had wrestled away from Alan Davidson on lap 4. Meanwhile, Ryan Campbell was battling with Brandon McCaughan for third place. Eventually Campbell prevailed. Newtownards driver, Philip Harris, had his best result of the season with fifth, as did another Ballymena driver, Henry Campbell in sixth.
The next race was the second Roadsports race. Once again the two Radical drivers, Jim Larkham and Niall Fitzsimmons disputed the lead. Larkham led from the end of the first lap but he did not get far away from Fitzsimmons, who kept him very honest with a number of passing attempts throughout the race. In the end Larkham’s winning margin was 1.18 seconds. Bernard Foley, from Dublin, was a long way back in third place.
The final Superkart race was, arguably, the best race of the whole day. Lap one was just insane! Bear in mind that these machines average over 95 m.p.h! During the first lap, in the 250cc class, Colin Menary, Alan Witherow, Stuart Coey, Eoin Buckley, Stephen McAdam, Liam Fox and Brian Jones all swapped places numerous times! By lap 2, Jones was retired and Witherow was trying in vain to establish a commanding lead over Coey and Menary, who were swapping places at every corner.
It calmed for a couple of laps before Menary started attacking Witherow. On lap 6, Coey got in on the act and took the lead just as Menary retired. But Witherow wasn’t finished. He retook the lead on lap 7, only to lose it for the final time on the last lap. Meanwhile Liam Fox was quietly rising into third place, just ahead of Stephen McAdam. At the chequered flag 2.9 seconds covered all four. Peter Crossen had a close battle with Aaron Newell, in the 125cc class, winning by just 0.632 seconds. His brother, Alan, was third.
The second Fiesta and Mazda MX5 race was silly. On lap 1 an entirely unnecessary argy-bargy among the Fiestas on the exit of Colonial 2 resulted in the race being stopped and a number of cars being too badly damaged to restart. The restart was deemed to be a new race. Paul Sheridan took the lead in his MX5. Gavin Kilkey was second at the end of lap 1 and David Cousins was third. In the Fiestas, Megan Campbell led from Ashbourne’s Dan Keelan and Colm Barrable.
On lap 3, Gregory McMillan relieved Sheridan of the Mazda lead and Mark Stewart did the same to Campbell for the Fiesta lead. The positions remained static for the next lap. On lap 5 David Cousins got past Kilkey for third in the Mazdas and Campbell got ambushed by Barrable, Paul Stewart, Keelan and Timon Dohnke, from Germany, in the Fiestas. On lap 6 another completely unnecessary Fiesta incident on the way towards the Crosslé Chicane resulted in a second red flag and the results being declared as of the end of lap 5.
After a delay to clear up the mess, the final race of the day was the third Legends race. The first two laps were manic. Eventually Robert Barrable emerged in the lead. Peter Barrable had come from tenth to second! Gordon Brown, from North Dublin, had gone from first to third. Geoff Richardson had risen from eleventh to fourth.
Ivor, the Driver, had come from eight to fifth and Greg Richardson had gained one place to sixth. On lap 3, Geoff Richardson passed Brown for third. He then took second off Peter Barrable on lap 5. Brown continued to drop and on lap 6 he was passed by both Greenwood and Greg Richardson. The final result was Robert Barrable from Geoff Richardson, Peter Barrable, Greenwood, Greg Richardson and Brown.
That brought racing to a close at 5:15pm. It was a very successful and entertaining event for all in attendance. The next one is on Saturday 24th July.
Words & Photos: DONAL O’NEILL/500 MRCI