Whilst the Indian summer, which was forecast for the weekend of 13 – 15 September didn’t really come to fruition, the hot action which was forecast for the 7th Round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship round, hosted by Larne Motor club at Kirkistown certainly did deliver.
With a whopping 75 drivers lining up to do battle, whilst also doing some fundraising for the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland, there was a great atmosphere around the paddock as practice commenced.
When the lights went green to indicate the first timed runs defending champion Adrian Pollock set the standard for the day and went fastest, a mere 0.13 secs ahead of second placed Steven Gault. This was a trend that was to continue all day when Adrian went 1.34 secs faster in his second run to set a run of 119.7secs only for Steven to retaliate with a 119.66 second run which put him 0.4 secs ahead of Adrian at the end of the second run. John Morgan, who failed to set a first run time then set a fabulous 120.89 sec run to show his intention to the top 2 as the third runs started.
As always Adrian spent the time between the second and third runs to do whatever Adrian does when the going is getting tough, and he lined up for his third timed run with one thing, and one thing only on his mind – ten points. Adrian left the line like a scalded cat and setting his fastest 64 feet time of the day as he set out to make his mark, which he did with a blinding 118.66 second time.
Steven Gault also had a fabulous run and was faster to debtors from the start line than Adrian but he simply had no answer for Adrian who took 1 second out of Stevens’s time to set FTD of 118.66 seconds. Steven is clearly becoming more at home in the car as the season progresses and as I’ve said before Steven will shortly be taking more regular outright wins in this car! John Morgan seemed to have another mare of a day and didn’t do a third run although he was safe in third place.
Another brilliantly close battle was seen in class 9A. Gerard O`Connell invited his nephew Tommy O`Connell to try his Mark 1 Escort for the day as Tommy fancies doing a few sprints next season. By the time the second runs were over Gerard was beginning to wonder if his kindness was maybe his weakness as Tommy went 0.22 seconds faster than Gerard meaning that as Gerard lined up for his last run, the pressure was well and truly on him. Gerard set a brilliant last run of 135.99 secs to take the win from Tommy in the family battle. Gerard was heard on more than one occasion to praise Tommy for his efforts all day and for pushing him so closely. However will he lend him the Escort again as Tommy reckons he can find more time??????
There were some other fabulously close battles amongst the classes and one of the closest was seen in class 2 where Michael Clarke set a blinding first run time of 155.67 in his lotus Elise and everyone else in class 2 spent the day chipping away to try and beat this time. Luckily for Michael they couldn’t beat him but Alfred Robb got to within 0.18secs of Michael in his last run. Interestingly of the 8 class 2 competitors, 6 of them set their fastest run in the third run. Proof that practice does make perfect. Alfred`s son Andrew Robb who normally dual drives the Family M3 with his father chose to marshal yesterdays event and was seen to hold his breath every time Alfred approached the chicane at which Andrew was marshalling. I`ve heard of nervous passengers before, but not a nervous spectator.
Some other noticeable drives of the day were Andy Hawthorne who borrowed the family Westfield to win class 7 and go 14th overall, Ryan Campbell who steered his formula ford to a fabulous 16th overall just behind Catherine Donnelly who placed her little delta 15th overall. Catherine really has come on leaps and bounds over the last couple of seasons and it is great to see.
It was also great to see the re-appearance of some drivers who we haven’t seen in a while such as David Francis and David Patton in their awesome Escort Cosworth`s, Stephen Nevin in his beautiful (and I mean Beautiful) Mark 1 Escort, Olivia Coulter in her Anglia and Hillclimbers Paul Montgomery, Tony Grady, Paul Taggart and Daniel Campbell . Hopefully all of these competitors will decide to do some more events this season?
There were a couple of incidents on Saturday which show just how friendly the sprint paddock is. I heard of 1 driver whose overalls were turned down at scrutiny due to having a tear in the leg. With the driver facing the prospect of not being able to compete, another driver, who happened to hear what had happened gave the unfortunate driver a brand spanking new set of overalls which he had in his van as a spare set to let him compete again. A second driver had his overalls also turned down and he also was lent a set of overalls to let him compete.
If anyone deserved an award for spirit of the meeting yesterday, it was Gary Milligan. Despite being bitter rivals for the last number of years, and often never being separated by very much, David Evans had some very rare mechanical issues in his 205 gti. Gary Milligan was straight down to the help the Evans Motorsport team get the car repaired and even lent tools and equipment to help them repair the car as well as mucking in with some electrical work. Thankfully the mechanical issues were fixed but David, who wasn’t feeling too well, didn’t have the best of days. What other sport do you know of where competitors are so competitive against each other whilst also being so kind??
In the modified battle Oliver Cormican who currently leads the Modified Championship had mechanical issues which meant that he was unable to set a timed run on Saturday. Whilst he still maintains the modified lead it is now down to 1 point in front of Saturdays Modified winner Gerard O`Connell. Second went to Tommy O`Connell and Third went to Daniel Campbell. This is 1 battle which will go down to the wire, especially if Tommy finds that extra time??
In terms of the Roadgoing battle Michael Clarke was the fastest road going car finishing 0.18 secs ahead of Alfred Robb. Due to the road going Saloon only being open to saloon cars Alfred took category honours from Tony Grady with the venerable Tom Lawther third in his now famous Rover SD1. With both Alfred and Andrew now having marshalled it’s safe to say that the Road going title is going to be won by Mr A. Robb. Andrew has 28 points (and has a round in hand) over Alfred who has 23 points with Aaron Vance third with 10 points. There are only 15 points left to be scored.
Historic honours went to Stephen Nevin who finished 28th overall in his Escort Mk1. Gerry McGarrity literally held onto his mini to steer it (on 2 wheels on occasions) to second in the historic category but sadly Gerry lost out to Gary Milligan and Karl Johnston who pipped him in the battle for the fastest mini in the west.
As mentioned above this event was a fundraising event to raise some much needed funds for the Air Ambulance Northern Ireland Charity. A grand total of £1300 was raised via this event. Warmflow Engineering Ltd of Lisburn made a substantial Sponsorship donation and a second very generous donation was made by the Pitlane Restaurant n Kirkistown circuit. Those donations coupled with donations on the day and also donations made at the time of entry raised an amount which was higher than anyone expected. A massive thank you must go out to everyone who donated to such a wonderful cause.
The next event will take place on 28 September at Nutts Corner circuit. This event will be hosted by the North Ulster car club and entries are currently available via www.rallyscore.net
Words: DAVID EVANS #154 | Photos: Gary Craig Motorsport Photography
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