The eighth Round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship took place at Kirkistown Circuit on 08 October with the Ulster Automobile Club sprint at the venue. We were blessed with a cracking days weather which saw the vast majority of people finish up wearing only t-shirts as the event drew to a close at 1540hrs with 2 practice and 3 timed runs completed.
This event was always going to be a deciding one in the championship and Rob Dwane entered the event with a clear strategy of what he needed to do to be crowned SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Champion for 2022. Rob decided to throw caution to the wind and attack from the offset. Indeed Rob was lucky to even make the event after his father, chief mechanic and team driver, was unwell and Rob was unsure if he would make Kirkistown. Fortunately for Rob, his good friend Pat Roche had other ideas and brought Rob to the event. It turned out to be a pivotal decision on Pats behalf.
With a cold start to the morning Practice commenced at 10am and with no major issues all went through quite quickly. When the timed runs started Gerard O`Connell proved to be the man to beat in his World Series Car which has been a bit of a headache for Gerard this season. The sound of that car as it left the line was something else and has to be seen, and heard, to be appreciated. Gerard set a 95.79 sec run with Rob Dwane second ahead of Tony Greenan, Tim woodside and Steven Gault in that order. Robs time was sufficient to guarantee him a top 5 finish which was all he needed to secure the 2022 Championship, so once he had done that, he tightened the harnesses and went for his other big goal, the Circuit record. Robs second run was a 93.54 which meant that secured a new class and circuit record, before lowering it again in his third run to 93.51secs.
Whilst Rob was fighting for records the action was hot behind him. Tony Greenan, who is debuting his new Mercedes powered F317 Dallara also got steadily faster as the day progressed and he took second with a 95.44 sec run. Third on the day went to Gerard O`Connell who finally got to complete some timed runs in his WSR Dallara finishing on 95.53 secs, a mere 0.09secs behind second placed Tony Greenan. Tim Woodside finished fourth on the day which was sufficient to ensure that he took second overall in the 2022 Championship, and fifth went to Steven Gault who secured a fabulous 97.22sec run despite complaining of having no front tyres left. Ryan McGimpsey was a staggering 6th overall in his little Jedi. In terms of the overall championship Rob Dwane now cannot be beaten in the fight to be crowned champion. Tim Woodside has safely secured second but third is still very much up for grabs. Steven Gault has 1 hand on the cup, but it could still go to either Ryan McGimpsey or Ethan Faulkner so it is all to play for at the last event. Its so close that I organised some top 3 championship photos at this event, and had to take 3 different photos, to include each of the potential third place finishers!!
As usual there were some superb battles up and down the time sheets, and the occasional family ones too. Olivia Chambers was out to play in the family Anglia which brought her so much success in the past. She was dual driving with her father Robert and was delighted to have pipped him to third in class on the day, however Robert retaliated by securing the class 16b Championship on the day, so it was a day of celebration for the Coulter / Chambers household. Dan Campbell also had a great battle with his father Garry and again pipped Garry to take class 9a honours, but only by a mere 1.53secs. In a third example of a sibling beating the parent Steven Hawthorne can now finally boast of being the fastest Hawthorne after beating Andy by 0.5secs in Andy`s Westfield in class 7. I’m sure there was plenty of craic in the Hawthorne household after that result?
Looking down the final time sheets it was great to see Stephen Colbert returning to the championship again. Steven travels the world with his job in motorsport and therefore has missed the middle section of our championship but a strong start to the year, and a good result today may mean he salvages a good result come the end of the season, unfortunately for Steven his father Ken didn’t miss as many rounds and he has put his experience to good use to have an uncatchable lead at the top of the class 6b standings. It was also good to see young Max Colbert in the paddock cheering on his dad and grandad too, Max is a karting star and when asked if he fancies a run in the family sunbeam next year, his smile said it all……
There were some epic class battles up and down the sheets as well. Henry Campbell had a good dice with Phillip Harris in class 13 and Phillip set the early lead and it took Henry up to his last run to steal the class win by a mere 0.59secs from Phillip. The folks in class 12 also had a great wee battle amongst themselves when Ryan Murray pipped Ian Lancashire by 0.61 secs. Paul Montgomery tried his best to catch the 2 in front but finished three days behind Ian on a 116.74 sec run. There was also a super close finish in class 2b where Craig Ewing pipped John Stewart by a mere 0.46secs in their Mazda MX5`S
In terms of the Categories, we will start with the Road going category where Conor Hamill again reigned supreme pipping Crawford Ewing to the class and the category by a mere 1.21 secs. Crawford is pushing the Renault Meganne hard and its good to see. Aaron Vance took third in his BMW. In terms of the championship there are only 2 points between Conor and Crawford, in Conor`s favour with Andrew Robb third ahead of Aaron Vance. However, the requirement to marshal does kick in here and Paul Forsythe could see himself taking third depending on how things pan out.
Modified Category honours on the day went to Dan Campbell once again when he piloted his Toyota Starlet to 15thoverall. Second in the category was claimed by Ryan Murray in his Subaru whilst third, and the award for the most unusual line at the chicane went to Ian Lancashire in his Subaru. In terms of the modified Category Dan Campbell goes into the last round with a slim 3-point lead ahead of Ryan Murray and Stephen Colbert. With no dropped scores to be considered and no marshalling requirements to be fulfilled this is a straight fight to the finish to see who will be crowned 2022 Modified Category Champion. Dans 3-point lead will be hard to overturn but never say never!!
In the specialist Category Jack Boal once again claimed the honours in his GTR Hayabusa narrowly beating Jim Hutchinson by 0.43 secs. Jim was having fuel issues again with the car and so had to run with a full tank of fuel, to overcome these issues, and as you know a full car is a heavy car. Third in the specialist category went to Scott McMullan who had a cracker of a run finishing 18th overall in his Reis Aero. He also won the Stihl award on the day too!! Championship wise Jim has done enough to secure the Specialist Category for 2022, and Scott can’t be beaten for second so congratulations Jim and Scott. There is still a big fight on for third place and it could go one of 4 ways depending on drivers meeting the marshalling requirement and Andy Hawthorne getting a good result at the next round!
In the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Sheryl McBride once again took the Category win in her Global GT1. Sheryl has seemed to find a bit of form in the car of late and its good to see. Second on the day went to Kathy McDade who is finally getting the hang of her wee civic, either that or she is sprinkling the fairy dust like blazes into the Hondas tank. Emma Campbell was third in her little Peugeot 106 finishing ahead of Olivia Chambers, Amy Hawthorne and Catherine Donnelly. Catherine made a very welcome return however she has upgraded to the Reynard SF80 which her dad John formerly campaigned which sadly meat that her conversion factor was reset to 1 again which will have severely hampered her times today. Whilst mentioning conversion factors this was Amy Hawthorne’s third event in her new clio so her conversion factor for the last round should see her back in the mix. In terms of the Heaslip Ladies Challenge trophy, Sheryl`s category win secures her the Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy for the second time in 3 years and Emma is now also guaranteed second. Third is still up for grabs as mathematically Amy Could whip third away from Kathy so it’s not over yet!!
In the most hotly contested Category of fastest mini in the west Karl Johnston once again headed west with the fastest mini behind him on the trailer. I just knew this was going to happen when Karl appeared to the line wearing his sunglasses. A couple of years ago it was pointed out to me that if Karl has his sunglasses on when he adorns the helmet then he means business, a bit like when the Rubber Duck puts his Ray bans on before crossing the wooden bridge at the end of the 1970`s film “Convoy”. Despite both Karl and the “Rubber Duck” both driving black yokes, thankfully Karl’s glasses don’t cause him to go head-to-head with the State National Guard, but they do encourage him to go faster!!! Gary Milligan fought hard but was no match for Karl but he did manage to pip Gerry McGarrity to third. There was good craic amongst these 2 in the pitlane when Gary was queued up behind Gerry. Gary reckoned he would catch Gerry and need to push him round, bumper to bumper whereas Gerry offered Gary to fit a tow rope and allow Gerry to tow him round, reckoning that this was the only way Gary could catch him!!! Honestly its hard to believe these 3 fellas are such good friends when you hear the abuse, they give each other!!
Our next event will be the last round of the Championship and will be the Halloween Spooky Sprint on 29 October at Kirkistown, hosted by the 500MRCI. There are still a few classes to be sorted out and of course there’s an epic battle for third overall as well so there is plenty to play for. As I write this, they are predicting an Indian Summer and high temperatures of 17-25 degrees for the end of the month. Here’s hoping those temperatures make it as far as Kirkistown, but as you know weather predictions ahead of SW Adair Tres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship rounds don’t always tend to be the most accurate!! You’ll just have to turn up and see
Words: DAVID EVANS #154 | Photos: Gary Craig Motorsport Photography
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