Saturday 4th November 2023 will be a day that goes down in not just autotesting history, but the history of Northern Ireland Motorsport. A day that saw seventy competitors from all over the British Isles and Southern Ireland competing at both expert and clubman level, travel to Transport Training Services, Nutts Corner to compete at the inaugural Ronnie Trouton Autotest.
The event has been the brainchild of NI Autotest Championship Co-Ordinator, Mark King, who worked tirelessly to bring the event to fruition alongside Andrew Earney, Ashley Lamont, Colin Earney, George McMillan, James Wilson, John Clarke, Jonathan Millar, Lorraine Simpson, Malcolm McQueen, Wilson Carson and the Secretary of the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs Newmills Grace King.
An outstanding display of man and machine from all competing at the event, but at the end of the event it was the Expert Team made up of Stewartstown’s nine times NI Autotest Champion Steven Ferguson in his Mini Special, Ballyclare’s Andy Blair in his rear-wheel drive Westfield, Drumbo’s Robin Lyons in a Mini Saloon and Newmills Mark King in his Vauxhall Nova who took the top honours. Second overall in the Expert Team event went to the Irish team of Peter Grimes, Darren Quille, Chris Grimes and David Thompson after a hard fought battle with the England 1 team. This team was made up of Malcolm Livingston in his Lindsay Special, Paul Swift in a Mini Special, Richard Pinkney in his Caterham and David Mosey in his Vauxhall Nova.
In the Clubman event, it was firm favourites from NI 4, Gordon Clendinning, Robert Dickson and Ashley Lamont who took the top spot, with the NI 2 team taking the runner up spot. NI 2 was made up of Ian McCann in his Vauxhall Nova, Robert Robinson in his recently purchased Mini Special and Lawrence Baird in his Mazda MX5. After a tight battle with NI 2, the NI 1 team were forced to settle for third place, with the team being made up of Adam McMullan in his Toyota Special, Jordan Burns in his Ford Fiesta and Gareth Dillon in his Mazda MX5.
Ferguson was also the top individual expert driver on the day, which capped off a super season of autotesting for everyone. Ronnie Trouton MBE was on hand throughout the day to witness the first ever running of what looks set to become a permanent fixture on the motorsport calendar, with people already asking when the next one is taking place.
At the awards evening, ANICC Secretary Grace King, paid tribute to Ronnie saying…
“As a young man, Ronnie joined Dungannon Motor Club where he held the positions of Chairman and Secretary during the 1960’s.
He represented the club at the inaugural meeting of ANICC which was held in 1963 in the Ulster Automobile Clubs office in Belfast. In 1967 he was elected to the position of ANICC Secretary, before taking over the role of Chairman and later in 1989 he became ANICC President.
Little did he or anyone know then how the ANICC would become such an influential organisation in the development of motorsport in NI. He also had no idea how his links with the Association would lead to his appointment as Chairman of the then MSA Autotest Specialist Committee, his election to the MSA Council and Board, which culminated in his appointment as Honorary Vice-President of the MSA Motorsport Council, a role which he holds to the present day.
As a member of Motorsport Council, Ronnie’s passion for the sport saw Autotests grow in popularity across the nation, and nowhere more than here in Northern Ireland. Over the years he has watched many newcomers become great Autotest champions and ambassadors for the sport.
On a personal note I would like to thank Ronnie for all the support, words of encouragement and wisdom that he has given to me since I took on the position of ANICC Secretary.
Ronnie, I am honoured to call you my friend and I am delighted that in the 60th Anniversary year of the ANICC, as someone who was there right from the beginning and who has been and continues to be a great ambassador for motorsport, that you have been honoured by having your name associated with this event.”
Words: GRACE KING | Photos: GRAHAM BAALHAM-CURRY [Images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]