The weather gods looked kindly on Kirkistown, as the final car race meeting of 2019 took place on Saturday 28th September. Sunshine and blue skies dominated the day.
Gerard O’Connell had the only GT car present and he joined the NI Saloons grid. Circulating almost 3 seconds faster than anyone else, he put on a great show in the first race of the day, lapping everyone bar the NI Saloons winner, Downpatrick’s Ciaran Denvir. Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, was debuting his Seat Leon Cupra and he was the second saloon home. Third was Lisburn’s Greer Wray, fractionally ahead of Derry’s Gavin Kilkey. Matt Lynas, from Dromore, was fifth, ahead of Donal O’Neill, from Nutt’s Corner.
The second GT and NI Saloons race, later in the day, had a familiar feel about it. O’Connell romped clear again. Denvir upped his pace, this time finishing only five seconds in arrears. Peter Baxter again took second, this time ahead of his son, Luke, in a VW Golf. Roger McMahon, from Milford, brought his Alfa Romeo home as fourth Saloon. O’Neill was fifth and Kilkey was sixth.
The 2019 NI Saloon champion is Donal O’Neill. The BMW 330i Championship, which is run concurrently, was won by Greer Wray. Gavin Kilkey won the Trackskills Rookie Of The Year for 2019.
The second race on the programme was the first Formula Vee race. Anthony Cross, from Bohernabreena, had already claimed the 2019 Championship and he demonstrated his class by winning. However, he was pushed very hard by Philip Sheane, a driver in his first year, who finished just 0.3 seconds behind. Dan Polley, from Killiney, was a further 1.3 seconds behind, which is a lot in Formula Vee terms. He was a micro-second in front of Jack Byrne, from Tinahely. A further tenth of a second back was Jimmy Furlong, from Rathfarnham.
The Legends were visiting for three races. These are 5/8th scale replicas of 1940s stock cars, powered by 1,200cc motorbike engines. They have the aerodynamic qualities of a brick and usually provide wonderful slipstreaming races. Paul O’Brien, from Naas, has become a legend himself this year, winning over 70% of the races he has entered. He duly won the first two races. However, Geoff and Greg Richardson kept him honest in both encounters, Geoff taking second in Race 1 and Greg taking second in Race 2. All eyes were on Race 3. Could anyone depose O’Brien? Lots are drawn for start positions and O’Brien started fourth. By lap 2 he was third behind Geoff Richardson in first and Greg Richardson in second. On lap 6 it all changed and O’Brien took the lead. However, on the last lap Greg Richardson managed to grab the lead from O’Brien. He kept it to the end. Geoff Richardson was third. 0.855 seconds covered all three!
The Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 Championship is the richest club championship on these islands. It always produces close racing. This season, County Antrim men have dominated. McCullough brothers, David and Ivor from Ballymena and Randalstown man, Alan Davidson have shared the majority of the podiums. However, there were a few dark horses in the mix this time.
The first of two races saw Davidson take the lead before Ivor cCullough squeezed past on lap 2. Try as he might, Davidson could not get back through and he finished just 1.4 seconds behind at the end. A long way back was David McCullough but he was miles clear of David Parks, from Killaloe. Noel Robinson, from Portadown, was coming from dead last and fought his way up to fifth at the end, less than 0.1seconds behind Parks. Sixth was Andrew Blair, from Doagh.
The second Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 race saw the Randalstown Rocket in the lead for three laps before, once again, Ivor McCullough went through. The gap at the end was even closer than in Race 1, just 0.1 seconds, in McCullough’s favour. Behind these two a battle was raging between David McCullough and Lisburn’s Will Herron. Herron took the advantage on lap 5 but McCullough stole it back on the last lap, crossing the finish line just 0.03 seconds ahead! Fifth place went to Scott Finlay, also from Lisburn. David Parks took sixth.
David McCullough is the 2019 Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 Champion.
The Kirkistown Fiestas and Mazda MX5s have shared grids this year. David Cousins, founder of the Mazda class, blew his engine in qualifying. On the warm-up lap, Robert Kennedy’s bonnet came up over his screen. He stopped at the Crosslé Chicane for assistance from the marshals and rejoined at the rear of the grid. Donal O’Neill, driving the car usually piloted by his daughter, Eórann, shot into the lead but was quickly passed by Tandragee’s Stephen Murray and Cullaville’s Jim Kennedy, Kennedy taking the lead on the second lap. Meanwhile, Robert Kennedy was scything through the Fiestas. By the end of the first lap he was back on the tail of the Mazdas. William Kellett, from Kells, led the Fiestas from start to finish but behind him, a mighty battle was going on between Belfast brothers Mark and Paul Stewart and Strangford’s Megan Campbell. Megan ran as the second placed Fiesta for the first six laps before being passed by both Stewarts. Meanwhile, on lap 3, Robert Kennedy passed O’Neill for third in the Mazdas. A lap later he took second from Murray and on lap five he passed his father Jim for the lead. Murray also got past Jim and a lap later so did O’Neill. That sealed the finishing order. In the Fiestas, Megan got back past Mark Stewart to secure third place but could do nothing about Paul Stewart in second.
In the second Fiesta/Mazda race, O’Neill got a great start, passing pole sitter, Robert Kennedy for the lead. He held this for a further lap before Kennedy retook the place. Things remained static until Stephen Murray passed O’Neill out of Maguire’s Hairpin on lap 8. O’Neill retook the place into Colonial One but lost it once again at the Hairpin. In the Fiestas, William Kellett was coming from a poor start position. On lap 2 he passed Stephen Walker, from Helensburgh. A lap later he passed Megan Campbell. By lap 6 he had passed Paul Stewart and was in second place and one lap later he passed Mark Stewart for the lead, which he would hold until the end. Mark came home second and Paul was third.
Mark Stewart is the 2019 Kirkistown Fiesta Champion.
The Roadsports Championship, similar to 2018, was going into the final meeting with either of two drivers capable of winning overall. Last year it was Newtownabbey’s Jim Larkham and Dromore’s Mike Johnston. That was resolved in favour of Johnston, in the final race. This time Larkham was in the frame again but it was Dundrod’s Ivor Greenwood who was his challenger. Both were out to win the first of two races but Mark Crawford, from Banbridge, had not read the script! He took the lead on lap 1 and stayed there for the next 11. Larkham had dropped as low as sixth on lap 1 but was fighting back. On lap 2 he took third place from Holywood’s John Benson and continued to close on the leading duo. Greenwood knew Larkham was coming but he could not get past Crawford. By lap 11 the three were together. Greenwood made a move but it didn’t come off and he spun! In the melee, Larkham passed Crawford. He remained in front until the end. Greenwood recovered but he could not catch Crawford and had to settle for third. Greenwood took a 1 point Championship lead into the second race.
In the second Roadsports race, again Crawford made a blistering start and went into the lead. However, his car expired at the end of the lap! Greenwood moved into the lead but Larkham was coming from his customary slow start. By lap 3 he was on Greenwood’s tail. Second place would lose the Championship. On lap 12, at Maguire’s Hairpin, Larkham made his move. It didn’t work and he spun, stalling his engine. The race was lost and so was the Championship. John Benson came home second and Lisburn’s Trevor Allen brought his Westfield Honda home in third place.
Ivor Greenwood is the 2019 Roadsports champion.
And so to the two Trophy races:
The first was the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy race for Formula Vee. The favourite for victory had to be newly crowned 2019 F Vee champion, Anthony Cross, especially with previous winner Dan Polley missing. Right from the start it was a typical Formula Vee battle with Cross, Philip Sheane and Jack Byrne swapping places for the lead. By lap 2, British Formula Vee Champion, Ben Miloudi was mixing it with the first three. Meanwhile, Jimmy Furlong wanted a slice of the action and he moved into fourth place on lap 4. The lead changed on each of the first six laps! There was a period of stability for the next four laps, with Cross leading from Byrne. Furlong borrowed third from Sheane for two of those laps. On lap 11 Byrne took the lead but lost it again a lap later. Then he had his hands full defending second from Sheane. These two places swapped three times before the end. At the line 0.55 seconds covered the first four cars. The winner was Anthony Cross, 0.021 seconds ahead of Philip Sheane. A further 0.35 seconds behind was Jack Byrne, just ahead of Jimmy Furlong. David O’Loughlin, from The Neale, was fifth and Ben Miloudi was a very credible sixth.
Could the FF1600s put on a similar show in the Martin Donnelly Trophy race? The answer was, yes. Replace Cross, Sheane, Byrne and Furlong with the two McCullough brothers, the Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson and dark horse, Portadown’s Noel Robinson. Robinson was fractionally in the lead at the start but got swallowed by the other three on the run to Colonials. It was Davidson who lead at Fisherman’s with Ivor McCullough giving chase. However, the four of them were travelling as one. On lap 5, Ivor made his move on Davidson and took the lead. A lap later Ivor slipped, letting Davidson back through but David passed the both of them! Robinson was waiting to pounce. On laps 9, 11 and 12 Davidson and Ivor swapped places, with Ivor getting second place. On lap 13 Robinson got past Davidson for third place and was eying second. However, on lap 15 it all went wrong for Robinson at Maguire’s Hairpin and he rolled his car, finishing up side down. The race was stopped and the positions at the end of lap 14 declared as the final result. Thus, David McCullough won, Ivor McCullough was second, Noel Robinson was third and Alan Davidson was fourth. Noel Robinson was able to extract himself from his car but was referred to the medical personnel for observation.
It was a frightening end to a season that has seen some great highs and some terrible lows. With with a collective sigh of relief it was great to find out that Noel was unhurt.
Our next meeting is on Saturday 28th March 2020. That’s when it all starts again at Kirkistown. Hopefully, we will see you there.