What a difference six days makes! On Easter Monday a massive crowd enjoyed beautiful, hot and sunny weather, while watching some great motorbike racing at Kirkistown Race Circuit. On Saturday 27th April, the sun and heat had been replaced by torrential rain and high winds. However, the common factor was great racing! It was car racing this time.
The first race of the day was a combination of two classes, Kirkistown Fiestas and Mazda MX5s. Seven Fiestas and four Mazdas took the start.
In the Fiesta class, 2018 Champion Paul Stewart, his brother Mark and close friend Desi McGlade, all from Belfast, battled closely at the front. All took turns at leading but at the end it was Mark Stewart who won from Paul by 0.119 seconds, with Desi McGlade a further second behind. Megan Campbell, from Strangford, has bought Eórann O’Neill’s car that finished third in the Championship last year. She has really got to grips with it and came home a very good fourth. Elliot Hayes, from Larne and Stephen Walker, from Helensburgh in Scotland, rounded out the top six.
In the Mazda MX5 class, Eórann O’Neill, from Nutt’s Corner, took her first win in the class, after some confusion for Stephen Murray, from Tandragee and Craig Brown, from Newtownards. Brown retired, as did Robert Kennedy, from Crossmaglen.
The second race of the day saw a packed grid of 22 Saloon cars from three classes. To make matters more confusing, within those classes there were further classes! However, that didn’t take away from the excellent battles on track. Dungiven driver, Gerard O’Connell, in his 2.8 Ford Escort Mk 1 silhouette, was the only GT machine and he was massively quicker than anyone else. He started from pole and disappeared into the distance. He was a great source of entertainment as he quickly began lapping the slower cars. Donal O’Neill, from Nutt’s Corner, was in the quickest Kirkistown Libre saloon and Gareth Thompson, from Armagh, was the quickest Super Future Classic. O’Neill briefly lost second place to Alan Stewart, from Bangor, into the Colonial Complex but he took it back through Fisherman’s and remained in second to the end.
Thompson was down in fourteenth place at the end of lap 1 but made steady progress, taking third place from Navan man, Aidan Byrne, on the final lap. Stewart had an incident on lap 2, which demoted him to twelfth place but he fought back to fifth at the end, just passing Lisburn’s Greer Wray on the final tour.
The third race of the day was another combined affair, this time featuring the Roadsports and the visiting Global GTs. The 600cc Globals require a rolling start, so the whole field began in this fashion. Global driver, Peter Drennan, from Navan, took the lead from the start and would hold onto it until lap 7, when Dundrod legend, Ivor Greenwood, in a Radical Prosport, came past. This also dropped Blackrock’s Conor Farrell, who had been shadowing Drennan, to third. Mark Braden, from Harpenden, and Jake Byrne, from Naas, disputed fourth place for the whole race.
Byrne was ahead at the finish. James Thompson, from Chalfont St Peter, had an incident on lap 2 which dropped him to twelfth place, from which he had a great comeback drive to sixth. Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, was the second Roadsport home, ahead of Paul Conn, from Lisburn.
Races 4, 9 and 14 were for the incredibly fast SuperKarts. Comber driver, Stuart Coey, was unbeatable in his 250cc PVP, winning all three races. Bangor veteran, Colin Menary, was second in the first two races. In the third race Millisle’s Alan Witherow took second place. Liam Fox, from Lisburn, was third in race one, while Colin Armstrong, from Armagh, took third in the other two.
In the 125cc class Ballygowan’s Aaron Newell took a first and two seconds. Comber’s Alan Crossen took two firsts and a second. Carrickfergus driver, Jack Irvine was third twice and Banbridge driver, Robert Martin had one third.
The overall winners on the day are decided by a combination of the results, so Stuart Coey was the 250cc winner and Alan Crossen was the 125cc winner.
Races 5, 8 and 13 were for the Legends. These are 5/8 scale replicas of early post-war American Stock cars and are powered by 1,200cc Yamaha engines. They have the aerodynamic properties of a brick! This usually leads to very close racing and great slipstreaming. Like the Global GTs, they have a rolling start.
Naas driver, Paul O’Brien, was unbeatable, taking three wins out of three. Dundrod driver, Ivor Greenwood was second in Race 1, fourth in race 2 and retired after contact in race 3. Kildangan driver, Jonathan Taylor, was third in race 1, eighth in race 2 and did not start race 3. Geoff Richardson, from Dublin, was second in race 2, having not been classified in race 1, due to a faulty transponder. He was also second in race 3. Ian Conroy was third in the latter two races, having finished fifth in race 1.
Race 6 was the first of the Dawson-WAM N.I. FF1600 Championship races. The weather was still very poor and this did not suit the car of Championship leader, Alan Davidson, who hails from Randalstown. He had qualified on the front row beside pole setter, David McCullough, from Ballymena. From the start, Davidson was struggling, dropping as low as fourth, before fighting back to finish third. Will Herron, from Lisburn, was in great form and took the lead on the second lap. It was only on lap eight that McCullough could get back in front, where he stayed until the end. Herron finished second. Doagh driver, Andrew Blair, put in a wonderful drive to pip Lisburn’s Scott Finlay for fourth. Ballymena’s Ryan Campbell started sixth and finished there.
Race 7 was the second combined Fiesta and Mazda race. Craig Brown spun to the rear of the field in his MX5 on lap one. He would recover to finish third of the Mazdas. Eórann O’Neill led on lap one, only to spin and let Robert Kennedy through. However, he spun on lap three, letting O’Neill back into the lead. Meanwhile, Stephen Murray was making steady progress and chasing O’Neill. At Maguire’s Hairpin on the final lap, O’Neill made a mistake and Murray was 0.19 seconds in front at the line. Brown was third.
In the Fiestas, a great battle ensued among Mark and Paul Stewart, Desi McGlade and Megan Campbell. After many changes and the odd spin, the result was that Paul Stewart won from brother, Mark. Campbell was third.
Race 10 was the second Saloon/GT and Future Classics race. Once again, Gerard O’Connell disappeared into the distance. Donal O’Neill maintained second place throughout, although his Seat developed a misfire towards the end. He lost 10 seconds to Alan Stewart on that lap but still kept his second place. Lisburn driver, Greer Wray, finally got his BMW 330i going well and he finished fourth ahead of Gavin Kilkey from Derry. Gavin Thompson rounded the top six in his Celica.
Race 11 was the second Roadsports/Global GT encounter. James Thompson took the win from Conor Farrell. Peter Drennan was third, just ahead of Jake Byrne. 2.17 seconds covered these four! The first Roadsports home was Paul Conn, from Lisburn, in his Crosslé 47S. Donaghadee driver, Mark Francis, was sixth in his Locost Honda.
Race 12 was the second Dawson-WAM NI FF 1600 Championship race and it was a cracker from start to finish. Alan Davidson took the lead and held it from David McCullough until lap 2, when McCullough squeezed through. Will Herron was a close third. For the next twelve laps Davidson did everything he could to get past. Both drivers drove superbly and with great respect for each other. It was wonderful to witness because it would have been so easy for something to go wrong. Herron would have loved either of the two to make a mistake, as he was ready to pounce, but it didn’t happen and he had to be content with a very good third. Once again, Andrew Blair took fourth, this time ahead of Allan McBurney from Newcastle. Mike Todd, from Ballyclare, who was making his first outing this season, was sixth.
The next meeting is on Saturday 25th May and will feature two rounds of the Scottish Mini Cooper Championship. The last time this championship was at Kirkistown, the racing was spectacular. The 500MRCI is also making this meeting a celebration of 60 years of The Mini. Special concessions at the gate will be available for anyone who arrives by Mini!