With the motorsport season pretty much concluded for the year, a question many ask is what happens at the end of the competitive racing season? 

“Well, some drivers are not ready to put their cars away for the winter,” explains Donal O’Neill. 

 “Some have bought new cars and want to try them out.  Some just want to have fun, without the pressure of having to win. For these reasons the 500MRCI, who run Kirkistown Racing Circuit, put on a Rally Test Day in December and another in January/February.

Donal, who’s the circuit manager, continued, “At the most recent one on 10th December, a very special guest arrived.  No, not Santa. He’s too busy right now!  

“It was Councillor Karen Douglas, who is the current Mayor of Ards and North Down, and is also very busy, but found time to avail of the prize, for which she won the bidding, at a recent charity auction.  It was donated by Olivia Chambers and involved a passenger ride in her Rally Ford Anglia!

“Karen was thrilled with her run.  However, much to her delight, two other champions offered her a passenger ride in their machines.  James Kennedy kept Karen looking out of the side windows, while going forward, in his MK2 Ford Escort, while Derek McGarrity assaulted her senses with his state-of-the-art Ford Fiesta R5!

“The 500MRCI were extremely pleased to have been able to host such a successful event. Karen (and Santa) are welcome back to Kirkistown at any time.”

As part of her drive to raise money for charity during her term as Mayor, Councillor Douglas is raising money for Bangor Foodbank and Community Support, Newtownards Foodbank, and North Down and Ards Women’s Aid.  

A number of events are taking place throughout the year to raise money for the charities and at a recent quiz and charity auction, the thrill-seeking Mayor was the highest bidder for a passenger ride in a fully prepared rally car. 

The Mayor of Ards and North Down, Councillor Karen Douglas, said: “I have always had an interest in cars and motorsport so when Olivia Chambers kindly donated the prize for the charity auction, I was determined to win it. 

“She is a fabulous driver and I was delighted to have my first taste of motorsport with her at the excellent Kirkistown Race Circuit. Then to have an experience with champion drivers Derek McGarrity and James Kennedy in their more modern cars was the icing on the cake!”  

To date, the Mayor has raised over £4000 through various charity events. All funds will be split between her three chosen charities at the end of her term. For more information or to make a donation, visit .



Graham is a photojournalist and motoring writer with over 20 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and motoring events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers and Ulster Motor Writers Association.