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An area of around ten miles surrounding First Kilraughts Presbyterian Church came alive to the sights and sounds of classic MG’s on Saturday 17 February 2024 with the thirty-fourth running of the Derek Walker Memorial Classic motorsport event.

Organised by the MG Car Club Ulster Centre, with event HQ based at the Stranocum place of worship, around 45 drivers started the event in an eclectic mix of machinery from classic MG’s to original Mini’s, a handful of very nimble Toyota’s, and an abundance of MX-5’s. 

With a huge range of experience competing on the day, from novices to multiple autotest champions, it was great to see so many female entrants in the navigators seat keeping track of time and guiding drivers along the road book between the eighteen tests.

It was also great to see two of the countries longest serving and globally successful rally navigators compete together, as Allan Harryman joined forces with Chris Patterson for the event. Chris, who’s now retired from professional World Rally co-driving, swapped his usual notes for the steering wheel of his Vee Dub Bug, a car that he’s used on this event in the past.

The inclement weather led to an wealth of slippery lanes and yards, where the slightest of mishaps would lead to a heavy time loss. Though right throughout the classes, times were incredibly close.

Dublin’s Richard Meeke got the holeshot in his Toyota Starlet, swapping tenths with Eamonn Byrne’s Toyota Yaris all day. After the last test, Meeke won by a mere 1.7 seconds from Byrne. The fastest rear-wheel-drive crew of the day was a further 24.5 seconds adrift, as Lawrence Baird rounded off the rostrum in his MX-5.

Robert Robinson (Toyota Yaris) finished fourth, with Noel Cochrane (MG Midget) in fifth, Tim Tomalin (MG Midget) in sixth, Robert Dickson (Mini Cooper S) in seventh, Philip O’Reilly (Toyota Starlet) in eighth, Paul Lowther (Mazda MX-5) in ninth, and David Cochrane (MG Midget) in tenth.

Class 2 went to Jody Patterson (MGB GT), with Simon Corry (MG Midget) taking Class 3, Noel Cochrane (MG Midget) took Class 4, Tim Tomalin (MG Midget) took Class 5, Robert Dickson (Mini Cooper S) took Class 6, Arthur McMullan (Ford Anglia) took Class 7, and with fastest time of the day, Meeke forfeits his class allowing Eamonn Byrne (Toyota Yaris) to  grab the Class 9 win.

Of all the starters, there were just five non-finishers. Four or five time event winner, Will Corry retired when a brake line failed, while others not making it past the halfway mark include Anthony Devine, Matthew Bradley, Matthew Walsh, and Willie Skelly.

Commenting after the event to a small army of volunteers, MGCC’s Carol Willis said, “We wish to thank you one and all for the wonderful help you gave us on Saturday past being an Official on The Derek Walker Memorial Classic.  

“Without your help we definitely would be unable to run the event, be it as a marshal, time-keeper, recording times on the tablet or an observer, each role is equally important.

“It’s amazing just how many people we need and also amazing how many volunteer to help.  In spite of the steady rain in the middle to the day smiles prevailed and the craic was mighty!

“Thank you to Claire Brogan and her team for organising the breakfast and lunch in the Hall and to Suzanne Reynolds for preparing all the lunch bags for Marshals.  Thanks to Derek, Adam and Mark Brogan for their help on Friday and setting up the Hall for  Saturday’s refreshments, Tom Richmond and Mervyn Getty and Derek for taping off the car park and numbering spaces for Scrutiny and for parking up the competitors cars.  Too many to mention individually but you know who you are.

“Thank you all again for your help in setting up on Friday and Saturday and also taking down on Saturday and helping clear the tables and chairs in the Hall at the end to make it ready for Church on Sunday.”

 

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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.