Coming into rounds 8 and 9 of the Used Cars NI Sevens Challenge, both the main challengers for the title had had their fair share of problems.
Jack Boal, the leader on 106 points, had taken his car to the hillclimb at Cairncastle, during the holiday break, and went off at The Cottage. There was significant damage that required a rebuild, but crucially he was ready to go again for these rounds at Kirkistown.
Alan Davidson, winner if the first 4 races, had a big off in round 5 that resulted in car damage, so he dropped points in rounds 5 an 6. An unfortunately timed rain shower at the Cultra Hillclimb saw him lose the lead of the Challenge to Boal. He went into the July meeting on 101 points. Meanwhile, a consistent Trevor Allen was picking up points, handily placed in case of any more incidents to the leaders. He was second in the points table, on 103.
Kirkistown is renowned for being on the Ards peninsula, and seemingly having it”s own weather system. A beautiful summer morning in the rest of Northern Ireland was blotted out at Kirkistown by a fog bank that rolled in from the sea and smothered the course. Naturally this was just in time for the Seven”s qualifying session. It was thick enough to prevent the Marshalls from seeing all the way round the course, so the safety car led the cars round for a few laps to see if it would clear. It didn”t.
After 4 laps crawling round behind the safety car, the fog didn”t look as though it was going to clear so the cars were brought back in again. After 20 minutes or so the Marshalls deemed visibility had cleared enough, so the qualifying session continued with the Formula Ford 1600s. The NI Seven”s session was moved to the end to allow cars to be refuelled and prepared. When they did get out it was Alan Davidson who claimed pole with a very impressive time of 1:03.241 – an average speed of just over 86mph and very close to the lap record from 2012. Second was Jack Boal, although he was just over a second back, followed by Trevor Allen, David Mutch and Davis Buick.
When the cars got off the line in Race 1 and shot into Debtor”s Dip, it was Davidson and Boal neck and neck. Davidson round the outside, Boal holding the inside, with Trevor Allen close behind. Unlike two months previous, there was no contact and they were still neck and neck as they started braking into Colonial. It was Boal who blinked first, with Davidson braking a car length later to claim the lead. David Mutch had slotted into fourth ahead of Graham Moore and Johnny Armstrong in his new car running a respectable sixth. By lap 2 Davidson had stretched his lead, and Boal had pulled out a gap in second, ahead of Allen.
Mutch was piling the pressure onto Moore for fourth. The pressure told. Exiting Fisherman”s, the double apex right hander, Moore put his left rear wheel over the curb and onto the grass. He caught the oversteer and lifted for a second to allow the car to settle and straighten. Mutch saw his chance and ducked up the inside, claiming the racing line, and fourth place, going into the chicane. Further back down the field Davis Buick, after qualifying well, was having problems with overheating, eventually pulling over as his water temperature showed 147C! Unfortunately for Davis as well as ending Race 1 this also ruled him out of Race 2.
Up with the leaders Davidson”s familiar Green GMS had no such problems. He was stretching his lead little by little, every lap. Boal, in second, couldn”t prevent it, but nor was he falling back to Trevor Allen in third. Allen was unable to shake off the attentions of Mutch, Moore and Armstrong behind him. Moore kept the pressure up on Mutch, and on lap 4 he got a good draft behind Mutch through Debtors before out and outbraking him into Colonial to reclaim fourth place.
Moore, closely followed by Mutch, managed to catch Trevor Allen who was struggling with handling issues. The three of them started an epic battle for the final podium position. First it was Mutch who made it past Moore, before then outbraking Allen to take third. This battling allowed Johnny Armstrong to catch the group, with third to sixth place now covered by a few car lengths.
Under braking for the hairpin Allen took third place back from Mutch, who appeared to be having braking issues. Armstrong was also able to get past Mutch under braking as Mutch”s brake issues made him vulnerable to overtaking going into the hairpin. With Allen holding third, and pushing hard to hold it, he was caught out at the chicane, the back end of the car became unsettled over the curb and spun him round. He recovered, but had dropped down to sixth place.
As the race ended, it was Alan Davidson who won by almost 20 seconds ahead of Jack Boal, with Johnny Armstrong third, emerging from a race long 4 way battle for the final place on the podium. Race 2, with it”s reverse grid, normally provides a challenge for the frontrunners, having to battle their way through the field, but as race 2 started Davidson got away like a scalded cat, and by Colonial only Johnny Armstrong was still in front of him. Trevor Allen was third ahead of Jack Boal, Graham Moore and David Mutch.
Ominously, for the rest of the field, Davidson was in the lead and pulling away by the start of the second lap. Boal had managed to nip past Allen and was trying to get past Armstong for second. A lap later Boal had made it past Armstrong, as had Trevor Allen, the top 3 reflecting the standings in the points table. Armstrong held fourth, but David Mutch, with newly bled brakes, was breathing down his neck while Graham Moore was a further car length back, determined to recreate the battle from
They held those positions for a couple more laps before Graham Moore sneaked past Mutch to claim fifth. He wasted no time slotting in behind Armstrong, plotting an overtake for fourth. Mutch was still struggling with his brakes, and couldn”t hold on, slipping back from the battle for third between Trevor Allen, Jonny Armstrong and Graham Moore. Jonny Armstrong managed to make a move past Allen for third, outbraking him into the hairpin, only to have Allen undercut him, getting a better drive on the exit, and overtaking him past the start/finish line to reclaim third. Graham Moore then got in on the out braking action, pulling alongside Armstrong into Colonial, holding the inside line, forcing Armstrong wide and having to surrender fourth. Up at the front, Davidson had opened a gap, but his pace slowed as he began to have gearbox issues, fourth gear becoming hard to select. Luckily it happened late enough in the race for him to defend his lead from Boal and bring home another win. Boal was clear in second, his car clearly not handling at it should after the big off at Cairncastle, but earning solid points to keep his challenge for the title alive. Third place, however, was anything but clear cut. Armstrong managed to get back past Graham Moore for a final time, but couldn”t make it past Allen, who claimed the final podium place. As they crossed the line, a generous blanket could have covered all 3 cars. Even back down the field there was fierce racing, Richard Munnis had a race long battle with Alex McConnell, swapping places on a lap by lap basis. Eventually Munnis ran out on top to take Eighth. It was a great day”s racing, and very encouraging that even in these tough economic times the NI Sevens were able to bring 11 cars to the grid and put on such close racing.
UsedCarsNI Sevens Challenge
July Race 1 Results
- Alan Davidson (Average Speed 84.214mph)
- Jack Boal
- Jonny Armstrong
- Graham Moore
- David Mutch
- Trevor Allen
July Race 2
- Alan Davidson (Average Speed 83.759mph)
- Jack Boal
- Trevor Allen
- Jonny Armstrong
- Graham Moore
- David Mutch
UsedCarsNI Sevens Challenge Points Table after 9 of 14 rounds
- Alan Davidson 146
- Jack Boal 138
- Trevor Allen 123
- Graham Moore 89
- David Mutch 71
- Jimmy Dougan 59
Words and Photos: Alister Jackson