After the hottest Easter since records began, came the most unpleasant weather imaginable in the form of Storm Hannah and it landed right in the middle of the Derek Walker Memorial Classic.
This year the hard yards and planning came from Noel Cochrane (struggling with a broken arm) and Richard McCracken who have been seeking out new test sites on the Ards Peninsula.
A completely new event was created with a new start and finish venue too, in the form of Echlinville Distillery, located in the vicinity of Kirkistown Racing Circuit. What a beautiful setting it is too, reminiscent of the old retro days with grand hotels as our headquarters.
The owner and staff of the Distillery, which makes premium brands of liquor such as Feckin whiskey and Jawbox gin, could not have been more accommodating and so our task was made much easier, thank you Shane Braniff and Peter Rogan, for all your help.
Scrutineering took place in wet, freezing conditions and soon, everyone was signed on, fed with a bacon bap and good to go.
The first test in the Distillery yard was simple and got the event off to a start, it was then off to an old disused airfield in Ballyhalbert for some more forwards only fun tests (the most basic form of the sport, and ideal for beginners).
Soon however, the nature of the tests changed, with some throws at Steele’s Farm and then a more challenging test at NG Bell’s. There, the entire yard was used for one test, the first part being technical, with the second part being a good blast around the timber.
There were however, changing levels of grip that demanded good driving skills before heading back to the farmyards, airfields and lanes, with a super slippery test at Rowreagh Farm that included a loop inside a shed with a surface akin to that of Dancing on Ice.
It was then a return to the Distillery for lunch and a check of the midday results.
With a warming feed and a cuppa tae, another lap of the same varied and challenging surfaces awaited with everyone glad to have got back to the finish without any serious mishaps.
The smiles on everyone’s faces told the story – one of a really fun day’s motorsport.
Our former club enthusiast and friend, Derek Walker, would have been splashing through the mud and laughing his head off, he would also have approved greatly, the healthy number of Midgets, B’s and Frogeye Sprites among the field.
As the event unfolded, it became clear that history was repeating itself as Will Corry, with Pete Moreland-Moore acting as perfect ballast, made it three-in-a-row aboard the amazing K-Series engined Midget which was borrowed back from generous owner, Jordon Fox.
Corry said after his win “I built this car from a shell for my Dad and it’s now owned by a great friend, Jordon Fox, who has kindly loaned me the car back for a bit. The wee car works so well and gets all its power down thanks to our suspension set up”.
“I love driving the car” Corry continued “it’s just an extension of me and I don’t have to think about anything, it’s just all automatic and the power available was bang on for the slippery conditions.
Just enough as they would say, it is magic how you can drive this car on the loud pedal. Just mighty. Nothing beats a good lane and yard in this special little Midget”!
Second place went deservedly to a hard-charging David Cochrane, accompanied by girlfriend Ruth Steele whilst third was clinched after a stellar drive by Christopher Evans, former British Rallycross Champion and expert autotester, in an immaculate MkI Escort Twin Cam.
All three leading drivers displayed the most impressive car control in the most testing surfaces and conditions, with flamboyance from Evans that probably shouldn’t have seen him so far up the time sheet, yet would have scored Tens all round, if it were dancing on ice!
Congratulations to them and to the class winners who were as follows:
Class 2: Lloyd & Samuel Cochrane (MGB GT)
Class 3: Peter & Nathan Mann
Class 4: David & Robbie Gomes
Class 5: David Cochrane & Ruth Steele (in lieu of overall winner)
Class 6: Ben & Dean Colhoun
Class 7: Christopher Evans & Laney Fitzpatrick
Class 9: Simon & Juanita Brien
Congratulations are due to Robert Dickson who holds the accolade of having competed in all 30 Derek Walker events up to this anniversary, unfortunately for him however, he had to retire this year with low oil pressure in the immaculate replica Monte Mini.
Commiserations also go to Andrew Earney, Mark Brien and Crawford Ewing who also succumbed to mechanical woes and were forced to retire.
On the positive side though, Willie Skelly & Kevin McGlynn were able to sufficiently slow down a leak in a radiator to be able to make it to the finish line – well done to them.
The MG Ulster Centre is enormously grateful to all competitors for their support, especially those who travelled a long distance, one in particular from Tipperary, to take part in our event.
However the greatest thanks must go to our terrific marshals who stood out in the bitter wind and rain to make this terrific day possible.
Words: Gordon Buckley