Festival Of Motorsport at Loughgal Country Park

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Money raised for Marie Curie Cancer Care last weekend is still being calculated after hundreds of spectators flocked to Loughgall Country Park for the inaugural Armagh Lions Club Festival of Motorsport!
 
The all family affair was a huge hit with spectators as Armagh Lions Club and North Armagh Motorcycle & Car Club Ltd (NAMCC Ltd) pulled out all the stops to create a truly successful event.
 
The Historic Rally Car Challenge marked the highlight of the proceedings and amidst stiff opposition which included former Irish, British and World champions, it was the local crew of Seamus O’Connell and Gabriel Campbell who emerged victorious. They swapped seconds with John Keatley and Maurice Beckett throughout all four stages, but it was Keatley who held the advantage going into the final test.
 
O’Connell lost time with a spin at the end of stage three, and he was determined not to let victory slip from his grasp. In a win or bust effort through the final 2.75 mile stage, he emerged clear of Keatley by an impressive 8.6 seconds!
 
"I’m amazed we managed to beat all of the former World, British and Irish champions!" O’Connell said after the finish. "We just had a small spin towards the end of the third stage, I think I lost about six seconds but we got away with it. It was definitely a great event – I would go back next week!"
 
With Keatley forced to settle for second position, Stephen and Jaye Nevin arrived home in third ahead of Cahal Curley and Elkin Robinson. The former Circuit of Ireland winner was reunited with a magnificent Porsche 911, and the crew also topped class C3.
 
Fifth overall, Raymond and Chris Nelson also grabbed class C2 spoils in their Mark 1 Escort, while Glenn Williamson and Mervyn Hawthorne just pipped Alan Jardine and Jonathan MacDonald to sixth position on the final stage. Jardine was rueing a costly problem at the start of stage one but was safe in the knowledge that he had finished ahead of many leading lights of the past.
 
Those leading lights included Roy Cathcart and Harold Montgomery, who were eighth in their Escort RS1800. Billy Coleman, a former Irish Tarmac Champion and British Rally Champion, finished ninth with navigator Colm Quinn, while 1979 World Rally Champion, Sweden’s Björn Waldegård, completed the top ten with Kevin Toner calling the notes.
 
The slippery conditions took their toll on competitors and not everyone safely reached the finish line. While Drexel Gillespie and Bill Blair had a small incident during the familiarisation run, Philip McDowell and Mark Stirling rolled out of the event near the end of the opening stage. They were caught out at a tightening right-hand corner, sending their Mark 1 Escort off the road and onto its roof.
 
Former British Rally Champion, Russell Brookes, lost time when he understeered into a metal post with his borrowed Talbot Sunbeam. He still arrived home to record 13th overall but former Circuit of Ireland winner, Tony Fall, was not so lucky. Navigated by Raymond Donnelly, the crew lost an argument with a tree in their borrowed Mini Cooper S during the final stage, spelling an abrupt end to their day.
 
Competitors in the Apple Blossom Autotest also displayed some spectacular precision driving and on this occasion it was Ken Irwin who took the spoils. ‘Speedy’, as he is also known, is a former British, Northern Ireland and Irish champion, and he mustered together all of his experience to emerge victorious from five times N.I. Champion, Robert Dickson, while Stephen Ferguson was third.
 
The static car displays were also a huge hit with spectators, and included a variety of vehicles, both old and new. Combined with the Red Bull display team, spectators enjoyed a wide range of entertainment throughout the day.
 
With the inaugural Festival of Motorsport hailed a resounding success, Armagh Lions Club and NAMCC Ltd are now looking forward to make the festival even bigger and better next year. With sponsorship from The Donnelly Group, the future of the event is secure, and charities will continue to benefit in the coming years.
 
<strong>Historic Rally Car Challenge top ten results</strong>
 
1 Seamus O’Connell/Gabriel Campbell (Escort MkII) 14m 14.2s
2 John Keatley/Maurice Beckett (Escort RS1800) 14m 22.8s
3 Stephen Nevin/Jaye Nevin (Escort) 14m 36.4s
4 Cahal Curley/Elkin Robinson (Porsche 911) 14m 43.3s
5 Raymond Nelson/Chris Nelson (Escort RS2000) 14m 45.8s
6 Glenn Williamson/Mervyn Hawthorne (Escort RS2000) 14m 48.7s
7 Alan Jardine/Jonathan MacDonald (Escort MkI) 14m 49.9s
8 Roy Cathcart/Harold Montgomery (Escort RS1800) 14m 53.6s
9 Billy Coleman/Colm Quinn (Escort RS1800) 14m 54.2s
10 Björn Waldegård/Kevin Toner (Escort RS1800) 14m 55.0s
 
<strong>Apple Blossom Autotest top three results</strong>
 
1 Ken Irwin
2 Robert Dickson
3 Stephen Ferguson

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Graham is a professional photographer and motoring writer with over 15 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and rally events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. See more at grahamcurry.com

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