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Stewartstown’s Steven Ferguson got his 2024 autotest season off to a flying start, as he took the win at the first round of the McMillan Specialist Cars NI Autotest Championship. The Autotest Drivers Club hosted this event at the Transport Training Services, Nutts Corner on Saturday 2nd March. With thirty cars lining up to start, it was poised to be a day of stiff competition and proved to be so.

It was Ferguson who would finish the day on the top step of the rostrum in his Mini Special, with Peter Grimes 14.5 seconds behind in second and Andy Blair a further 18.7 seconds a drift in third.

Grimes gave chase to Ferguson in Class A in his Mini Special but was unable to catch him, finishing behind the reigning NI champion, but with Ferguson claiming the Overall Win, this elevated Grimes to first in Class. James Wilson and Chris Grimes battled it out for the runner-up spot in class, with Wilson finishing second, just 0.3 of a second ahead of Chris. 

Scotland’s Willie Keaning made the trip across the Irish sea for the event, but a slow first test and a penalty later in the day cost the visitor dearly and forcing him to settle for the runner up spot in Class B for Sports Cars in his Sylva Striker. Andrew Blair would claim the class honours finishing some 64.7 seconds ahead of Keaning and Trevor Ferguson would take third in this class in his Silvia Stryker.

Andrew Earney would take the Class C win in his Mini Saloon, with Jack Lowry finishing second as he continues to get to grips with driving his newly built car.

In the Large Saloon Class, David Thompson and Mark King continued their battle from the previous season in their Vauxhall Nova’s, seeing both drivers trading times throughout the day. King would have to settle for the runner up spot on this occasion after a gearbox issue on the third test of the day left him playing catchup, as Thompson claimed the class honours. It was a two-way scrap for the final podium place in Class D, between Damien Mooney and championship sponsor George McMillan. It would be Mooney who would take the final class award, after a couple of penalties during the day cost McMillan valuable time.

In the Clubman Challenge, Class A was won by Jimmy Dougan in his Vauxhall Nova, as well as sealing the Overall Clubman win on this occasion, with Ian McCann finishing behind Dougan in both class and category and Taylor Gribbon taking the final spot in Class A. Gordon Buckley in his Westfield taking the Class B win. Class D was a battle of the Mazda MX-5s, with Lawrence Baird taking the win ahead of James Mansfield and Derek Harrison in third. 

In the Advanced Challenge Adam McMullan in his Toyota Starlet Special would take the Class A win, with Jordan Burns in his Fiesta Special taking second, having moved up to the category following his Clubman Challenge Overall win in 2023. The class C winner was Robert Dickson in his immaculately prepared Mini Saloon, with Robert Robinson in his Toyota Yaris taking the runner up spot in class. Ashley Lamont would take the win in Class D, alongside the Overall Advanced category win in his MG Midget.

All had an enjoyable day, and despite the changing weather conditions, a fantastic display of driving skills from all competitors made it enjoyable to watch by the spectators who turned out to see all the thrills and spills the event had to offer. 

The boys now head to the next round of the championship hosted by the Larne Motor Club on Saturday 13th April at The Junction Retail & Leisure Complex, Antrim, where they will battle it out once more to see who will be fastest on the day. If you cannot wait to then for more action from the Autotest NI, visit their Facebook and Instagram for video highlights from this event.

McMillan Specialist Cars Northern Ireland Autotest Championship Round 1

Overall Winner – Steven Ferguson

Championship Category

Class A – Peter Grimes

Class B – Andy Blair

Class C – Andrew Earney

Class D – David Thompson

Clubman Category

Class A – Jimmy Dougan

Class B – Gordon Buckley

Class C – No Competitors

Class D – Lawrence Baird

Advanced Category

Class A – Adam McMullan

Class B – No Competitors

Class C – Robert Dickson

Class D – Ashley Lamont

 

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Graham is a photojournalist and motoring writer with over 20 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and motoring events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and Ulster Motor Writers Association.