Covid has been immensely disruptive in clubman motorsport. From lockdown to tentatively run autotests and sprints, everything became more difficult. We couldn’t have bits of paper passed between marshals and competitors.
We couldn’t take paper-based entry forms. We couldn’t scrutineer competing cars. Results were problematic too. But, astonishingly, there is no end to certain people’s resourcefulness and imagination.
To the rescue comes Rallyscore and, latterly, Stopastride run by Richard Earney. Everything is done electronically from entry to final results, the running total times being available live during the event for anyone to see, even from a sunbed in Alicante should it take your fancy.
So, with the technology, motorsport is safely up and running again and, with it, the Derek Walker multivenue is back with a bang after a year’s absence. Joint Clerks of the Course, Noel Cochrane and Richard McCracken, managed to put together a set of nine tests, done twice, and no two tests were held on the same kind of surface.
It was a true test of both driving skill and bravery or, in some cases, perhaps, sheer dumb luck to avoid rearranging the front of the car.
The first test was at our base, Echlinville Distillery, where walls seemed to jump out unexpectedly and where straying on to the grass on the well-groomed main driveway would have meant maximum penalties. And yet, the fast Midgets and MX5s were drifting at maximum revs like on a rally stage.
Thanks in no small part to Targa Rallies, the sport has taken an upward leap in terms of power and driver skill, mainly in MX5s and MR2s. However, fastest on Test 1 was David Cochrane in the Toyota powered Midget, just pipping the opposition by a couple of tenths.
On then to Warnock’s Lane which was a perfect targa lane. Getting the power down on this greasy surface proved difficult but David claimed this one too.
Two tests followed at the old airfields near Ballyhalbert. These required lots of raw power but plenty of skill was also needed for the nose and tail throws to keep the momentum flowing. Robin Lyons in the Mini excelled in these tests, from a hard-charging Will Corry (A Series Midget) and Gareth Dillon (MX5).
Next came a very grippy farmyard with nose to tail throws and where the weight of a passenger didn’t help at all when changing direction. Will Corry had this one covered by a full second.
In complete contrast, the test at Cochrane’s Farm was an eye-opener. One part on slurry, another on loose hardcore and another part on grippy concrete has left me, for one, needing counselling. Robin Lyons and Robert Robinson (MX5), however, had no such problems and were immensely brave and quick here.
Then on to the Digester on the Ballyblack Road. Incredibly slippy here but its character changed as the test dried up throughout the day. David Cochrane again took the honours here, finding grip where there was none.
On to Lyttle’s Farm, where an unfortunate Alex Lyttle could only watch as others competed because his recently acquired K Series Midget wasn’t going anywhere due to a misbehaving differential. Which is a pity because this was a test to die for. A blind test, it started with a blast up a concrete lane, a turn inside a shed, circling a steel girder and finishing practically airborne. There were quite a number of wide-eyed navigators during that one! Will Corry claimed that test when Robin Lyons picked up a 5 second penalty.
Back then to Echlinville Distillery where the terrific first test was run in reverse. A quick bite of lunch was in order and out we went to do it all again except, that is, for the final test at Echlinville which had to be cancelled to prevent damage to the main driveway.
So, how did the times stack up at the end of the day? Well, Will Corry once again won the Derek Walker by a resounding 19 seconds, from Robin Lyons, David Cochrane, Gareth Dillon, Robert Robinson (MX5) and Ashley Lamont (Midget).
Class winners were as follows:
Class 1 – Angus Johnson (Austin Ulster)
Class 2 – Lloyd Cochrane (MGB GT)
Class 3 – Ian Regan (Non LSD Midget)
Class 4 – Andy Johnson (Frogeye Spite)
Class 5 – David Cochrane (Toyota Midget)
Class 6 – Robin Lyons (Mini)
Class 7 – Bryan Mutch (Morris Oxford)
Class 9 – Gareth Dillon (MX5)
The Fastest on the Tests award was also won by Will Corry.
Well done to Will for another fantastic performance and indeed to all our competitors. Great to see some elderly cars taking part and giving it all they have got.
Angus Johnson in the newly rebuilt Austin Ulster had his share of woes when a metal tool box shifted in the car and shorted out his battery terminals, thus frying some of the wiring. With a borrowed length of wire they were soon back in business.
Terrific also to see Bryan Mutch in the Morris Oxford, the huge sixties taxi lurching from pylon to pylon in an undignified but effective manner as they took first in class, getting the better of Tony McLaughlin in the BMW 2002.
Sadly, Robert Dickson had more than his share of bad luck, reportedly breaking not one, but two, driveshafts on his impeccable Mini.
Causing many a double-take was Kevin McNamee ably steering what appeared to be a DAF 55. The secret is the platform and running gear belong to an MX5 and it explains the power and agility. What a fun spectacle!
Unfortunately, we had three retirements in Terence Bradley, Simon Woodside and George Johnson.
Thanks to all our marshals and helpers, some of whom came a long way to help the MGCC run the event.
Finally, the event would not have been possible without the generosity of the landowners who let us use their lanes and yards. In that regard, a special word of thanks must go to Echlinville Distillery who have been hugely supportive in every way.
The weather held out for us and the atmosphere was reminiscent of the old Retros, with everyone enjoying the sport and camaraderie. I think we deserve it after the past two years of deprivation.
Article by Gordon Buckley