Kirkistown Race Day, Sat 25th August

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Saturday 25th August saw one of the most packed car racing programmes in a long time play out, in good weather, at Kirkistown Race Circuit. Originally there were seventeen races scheduled but this was deemed unworkable and two were postponed until the final meeting of the year on 29th September.

The opening race was for Roadsports. The big rivalry all season has been between Dromara’s Mike Johnston in his Opel Tigra and Newtownabbey’s Jim Larkham in his Radical PRO6. However it looked as if this would be thwarted, as Larkham had a major problem in qualifying. His car only managed two slow laps, while Johnston was on pole, with a 59.476 second lap!

When the lights went out, Larkham was on a mission. Lisburn’s Paul Conn jumped Johnston off the line but retired almost immediately. Meanwhile Larkham scythed through the field and took the lead on lap two. Johnston was surprised but not defeated and he harried Larkham for the next nine laps. Behind them, Holywood’s John Benson and Greenisland’s Maurice McClay were having their own high speed battle. McClay got the advantage on lap four and held it to the finish.

On the eleventh lap, Larkham made a mistake and spun, letting Johnston through. He recovered quickly and set off in pursuit but two laps were not enough to challenge for the lead again. Kent driver, Steve Morris, brought his Crosslé 42S home fifth and Donaghadee’s Mark Francis was the first of the Class B runners in sixth place.

Eamonn Matheson image

Race Two was the first of two Ginetta Junior races. Although there was a small field of just five cars, just 1.5 seconds covered them in qualifying. Dunloy’s Se Og Martin dominated entirely. Matthew Nicholl, from Limavady, fought hard to secure second place, with Ballina’s Robbie Parks finishing third.

In the later Ginetta Junior race, Martin dominated again but this time Parks got the better of Nicholl, who had had to fend off the close attentions of Baltinglass driver, Christopher Grimes, and Strangford’s Megan Campbell. Until the final corner, when Campbell had a last chance shot at Grimes and spun, the four had been nose to tail.

Race Three on the day was the race that many of the older spectators had come to see and listen to! This was the BOSS Ireland and Formula Sheane race. The main attractions were two famous F5000 cars from the 1970s. Swiss driver, Alain Girardet, was driving a 5.0L McLaren M10B, previously raced by Howden Ganley. Another Swiss driver, Gislain Genecand, was meant to be driving a 5.0L Surtees, previously raced by David Hobbs, but unfortunately it had developed electrical problems.

Pole position had been secured by Eamonn Matheson, from Newcastle, in his 2.0L MM Honda. He duly took off like a scalded cat and was never headed, although he had a close call as he lapped the slower cars later in the race. The closing speed of his car was often so high that the lapped driver didn’t know he was there until the last split second.

Saggert’s Sam Mansfield had a mishap on the first lap that dropped his Radical SR8 to ninth place. By the end of the lap, Girardet had brought the big V8 McLaren into second place, where he would remain. The noise of his car as he blipped down the gears entering Maguire’s Hairpin and the acceleration as he left the same was music to the ears of all listening. Dublin’s Barry Rabbit and

Ballyvaughan’s Sylvie Mullins were having a great battle for third until it got too close on lap six and they both retired. This allowed Patrickswell driver, Paul O’Connell into third with his Dallara F3 machine but Mansfield was on a brilliant recovery drive and he demoted O’Connell on lap nine. Bangor’s John Stewart brought his Mygale M12 home in fifth place, just ahead of Peter Dwyer’s Dallara F3.

Jonathan Taylor image

David Parks was the first of the Sheanes home ahead of Richard Kearney and Leslie Shaw.

Anthony Cross, from Bohernabreena, had put his Sheane on pole for the only Formula Vee race. For three laps he had a fierce battle with Ashford’s Lee Newsome, the lead swapping four times before Newsome overcooked it and spun away. Gavin Buckley took up the chase but he was having his own battle with Skerries driver, Ken Brown. They swapped places regularly but this was letting Cross get away. Meanwhile, Newsome was charging back. He caught Buckley and Brown on lap thirteen and dispatched them both. However, there simply wasn’t enough time to catch Cross, who won by over eight seconds. Newsome was second. Brown got the better of Buckley for third. Shane McBride was a lonely fifth and Max Hart was sixth.

Great things were expected in the Legends races from Dundrod’s very own legend, Ivor Greenwood. Ivor has recently been in victorious form in the class in Scotland. However, car problems eliminated him in the first race, which was won by Naas driver, Paul O’Brien. O’Brien was just 0.045 seconds ahead of Kilkenny’s Ian Conroy, as they crossed the finish line. Only half a second further back was Suffolk’s James Holman.

O’Brien was the “in form” driver again in the second Legends race, beating Conroy by a scant 0.096 seconds but setting a new lap record in the process! Holman was third again, just 0.26 seconds behind. Greenwood was still having car issues but managed to finish in sixth place.

The final Legends race provided the locals with what they wanted. Greenwood had got his car sorted and the seventy three year old driver beat Holman by 0.35 seconds. This time O’Brien had to settle for third, 0.066 seconds behind Holman.

Championship leader, Matt Round-Garrido had put his Medina JL17 on pole for the first of the Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 races. Ballymena driver, David McCullough was second and his brother Ivor was third. Round-Garrido’s race never got going and David McCullough led from start to finish. The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson, had a largely untroubled run to second, some five seconds back from David. Ivor McCullough, after a few laps battling with Lisburn’s Will Herron, maintained third to the finish. Herron had to dispute fourth with Stonyford driver, Scott Finlay, on laps four, five and six before securing the place. Another Ballymena man, Ryan Campbell, took sixth place.

Megan Campbell image

The first Saloon race saw Shane Murphy, from Cork, put his 2L Seat Leon on pole. However, Eoin Murray, in a similar car, got the lead off the line and held it all the way to the finish, finishing 3.8 seconds ahead. Barry English, in yet another Leon, was third. Newtownards driver, Stephen Potter, was the first of the local drivers to finish, taking fourth in his Honda Integra. Belfast’s Stephen Traub was fifth in another Integra, ahead of Downpatrick’s Ciaran Denvir in a Honda Civic.

The Fiesta Zetec Championship was the other class to lose a race to the September meeting. However, the one race that they did put on was a cracker. Newtownards driver, Ricky Hull, was on pole. He had already won this season. Another winner, Belfast’s Paul Stewart, was beside him. Nutt’s Corner girl, Eórann O’Neill, who was second in the Championship going into the meeting, had electrical problems and could not qualify, relegating her to the rear of the grid.

At the start, Hull took the lead, in a four-car train. Stewart was second, Belfast’s Desi McGlade was third and Lurgan driver, Malcolm McKeown was fourth. By the end of lap one, McKeown had passed McGlade and O’Neill had passed Scotsman, Stephen Walker, and Newtownards driver, Craig Brown. As Stewart, McGlade and McKeown squabbled, Hull increased his lead. By lap nine, O’Neill had caught the tail of the leading group, setting fastest lap in the process. McKeown made a move on Stewart and moved into second place. A lap later, O’Neill got past McGlade for fourth. At the finish line Hull had a 2.44 second advantage over McKeown, who was half a second ahead of Stewart. O’Neill was a further 0.7 seconds behind and only 0.15 seconds ahead of McGlade. Walker was sixth.

The second Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 race was a tighter affair than the first, even though David McCullough, once again, led from start to finish. This time Matt Round-Garrido was in the mix and after initially dropping to fourth on the first lap, he quickly recovered to second and harried McCullough all the way to the end, finishing just 0.212 seconds behind. Brother, Ivor, was third, just 0.065 seconds in front of Will Herron. Alan Davidson had dropped to eight on lap one but he fought back to take fifth ahead of Scott Finlay.

The second Roadsports encounter was a redemption race for Jim Larkham. Mike Johnston led from the start, while Lisburn’s Paul Conn tumbled from second to sixth in his Crosslé 47S. Maurice McClay briefly took his Westfield into second place on lap two before Larkham, who had been coming from sixth, demoted him. A lap later Larkham passed Johnston for a lead he would not lose. Conn was making a recovery and he passed Steve Morris for fifth on lap two. Two laps later he relieved John Benson of fourth place and on lap six he passed McClay for third. He continued to close on the leaders but ran out of laps to improve his position. At the end, Larkham was 2.8 seconds ahead of Johnston, who was 2.65 seconds ahead of Conn. McClay was fourth, Benson, fifth and Morris sixth.

Eórann O’Neill image

The final Saloon race was red flagged on lap five after Eoin Murray had a big off at the exit of Maguire’s Hairpin, scattering tyres all over the circuit. At the restart, Stephen Potter took the lead and kept it to the end, finishing 13 seconds ahead of Stephen Traub. Ciaran Denvir was third. Nutt’s Corner driver, Donal O’Neill was fourth and Niall Maher, from Dublin, was fifth.

The final race of the day was the second for BOSS Ireland and Formula Sheane. Once again, Eamonn Matheson took the lead from the start but was involved in an accident with a back marker on lap eight that resulted in a red flag. At the restart Barry Rabbit took the lead and held it to the end. Paul O’Connell moved into second place and Sam Mansfield took his Radical SR8 to third. Sylvie Mullins dropped to fourth. Peter Dwyer moved up to fifth and Laois driver, Leslie Shaw, momentarily moved into sixth. A lap later John Stewart relieved Shaw of this position. On the final lap O’Connell dropped to fourth, promoting Mansfield to second and Mullins back to third. Dwyer went out and Stewart took fifth. David Parks brought his Sheane home in sixth.

The next race meeting at Kirkistown is the final of the season on Saturday 29th September. It will feature championship deciders, as well as stand-alone races for the Martin Donnelly Trophy in FF1600 and the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy for Formula Vee.

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Saloon class race competitor and partner organiser of Trackskills track days at Kirkistown Circuit.

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