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After a slightly reduced championship last year due to ongoing government restrictions at the start of the season, the 2022 SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship returned to its full calendar this year.

With over 130 registered competitors battling it out across 19 classes on a total of 9 events, with 7 of these counting towards the final championship points table, it looked set to be one hell of a racing season.

Despite only visiting two venues, different circuits within these, as well as variations of these circuits gave drivers a new challenge each and every round.

Here is a breakdown of how the season unfolded.

Round 1, North Ulster Car Club, Nutts Corner:

After what seemed like an eternity, this increasingly popular championship got off to a start on Saturday the 5th of March with a credible number of 79 starters.

Although dry, cold temperatures meant that grip was as hard to find as an appointment within our Health Service and recovery was required a few times in the early part of the event.

Rob Dwane took the win from reigning champion, Alan Cassells, with Tim Woodside rounding off the podium. Steven Gault and George Stevenson making up the top five.

Conor Hamill took the road going saloon category win from Michael Clarke. In the modified category it was Ian Lancashire who brought home top points ahead of Dan Campbell.

Scott McMullan had a great start to the season in a new car by taking the specialist category win from David Hawthorne. Within the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy it was reigning champion, Emma Campbell who took the win ahead of relative newcomer, Amy Hawthorne.

Round 2, 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland, Kirkistown:

Saturday 19th March saw the championship head into County Down for the first of many times this year. A total of 78 entrants were blessed with sunshine for this, the Saint Patrick’s sprint.

At the helm of his OMS 25, Rob Dwane set the fastest time of the day on his first timed run, and in a repeat of round one, the podium was filled by Alan Cassels and Tim Woodside respectively, with less than five seconds separating this trio. Simon Woodside and John Donnelly making up the top five.

Andrew Robb returned to the top of the time-sheets in the road going saloon category ahead of Conor Hamill, both driving BMW M3’s. The Colbert family topped the modified category with Stephen taking the win from his father, Ken, in their shared Talbot Sunbeam.

David Hawthorne drove his Westfield Megabusa to the specialist category win, ahead of a hard charging Jim Hutchinson. Catherine Donnelly took her maiden Heaslip ladies challenge trophy win in her Delta T91, with Sheryl McBride finishing second.

Round 3, North Ulster Car Club, Nutts Corner:

A cold and damp start at this County Antrim venue on Saturday 2nd April left driver’s searching for grip all morning. A drying track and a no-nonsense, get it done attitude by the organising club led to an enjoyable day for over 70 drivers.

Tim Woodside brought his Pilbeam MP82 home in first place on what would be classed as his home circuit, less than three-tenths of a second ahead of his brother, Simon, driving a similar car. Steven Gault was just two seconds adrift in third, with Ryan McGimpsey and George Stevenson making up the top five.

The road going saloon category battle was once again dominated by a brace of BMW’s with Andrew Robb again coming out ahead of Conor Hamill. Stephen Colbert increased his lead in the modified category by taking the win from Stewart Strain.

Jim Hutchinson brought his RSR Escort home ahead of Stephen Hawthorne in the specialist category. In the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy it was Emma Campbell who once again took victory ahead of Sheryl McBride.

Round 4, Larne Motor Club, Kirkistown:

With the sun splitting the newly planted trees at kirkistown racing circuit on Saturday 7th May, almost 70 drivers basked in perfect conditions waiting thier slot on the start line.

A dominant force on this year’s championship, Rob Dwane, from County Clare made sure his 15-hour round-trip and overnight stay counted by taking yet another outright win with an absolutely blistering time on his first run.

Second overall was Tim Woodside, with Jim Hutchinson in his space-framed Escort having an incredible drive to round off the rostrum. Newcomer to the sport, Ethan Faulkner, held off an experienced Gerald O’Connell making up the top five.

In a repeat of previous events and with less than two seconds separating them, Andrew Robb yet again got the better of Conor Hamill in the road going saloon category. Dan Campbell in a Toyota Starlet took the modified category win, just 1.64 seconds ahead of Garry Campbell.

Another battle that was separated by less than two seconds was in the specialist category which was won by Jim Hutchinson, with Gerard O’Connell pushing him hard all day in a similar car. Sheryl McBride took her first win in the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy finishing ahead of Amy Hawthorne.

Round 5, Enniskillen Motor Club, St. Angelo:

A trip West on Saturday 4th June wasn’t to be for this year’s competitors as the organising club were unable to secure the unique active airfield venue normally used.

Round 5 – Take Two, Reserve Championship Sprint:

Joining forces, the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland and the Ulster Automobile Club announced that this reserve round scheduled for Saturday 9th July would take place at Kirkistown, in lieu of the cancelled event in Enniskillen.

On what turned out to be a scorcher of a day, 68 drivers lined up to take on whatever course it was that the clubs had laid out. Steven Gault took an early lead from Tony Greenan, with just two-tenths of a second splitting this pairing after the first timed run.

Ryan McGimpsey was also on a charge, though it was Rob Dwane on his second timed run who cemented yet another commanding victory. Steven Gault and Tony Greenan swapped tenths all day to finish second and third respectively. Ryan McGimpsey and Ethan Faulkner making up the top five.

Having changed his Renault Clio for a BMW M3, it was Aaron Vance who took his first road going saloon category win this season ahead of the consistently flat out Gerry McGarrity in his Mini Cooper. Oliver Cormican took top modified category points in his Mitsubishi Evo from the Talbot Sunbeam of Ken Colbert.

The RSR Escort of Jim Hutchinson gathered up more top points in the specialist category finishing ahead of the Westfield Megabusa of Andy Hawthorne. Driving her Peugeot 106 to top points in the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy was Emma Campbell who finished ahead of the Honda Civic of Kathy McDade.

Round 6, 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland, Kirkistown:

Welcoming a plethora of British Sprint Championship competitors to the paddock on Saturday 6th August, local championship contenders had the opportunity to mix it with some of the best cars and drivers from GB in this unique sporting discipline.

Rob Dwane proved unstoppable across the two-day event in his turbocharged OMS 25 to be unofficially crowned the King of the British Isles when it comes to sprinting.

With just the Saturday counting towards the Northern Ireland championship, Tim Woodside got to within five seconds of Rob’s fastest time to finish second, with Ryan McGimpsey a further five seconds adrift, in third. Ethan Faulkner and Brian Fitzmaurice making up the top five.

Conor Hamill claimed vital points by winning the road going saloon category, but he was pushed hard all day by Crawford Ewing Jr in his Renault Megane. Ryan Murray finally got his Subaru Impreza singing to its full potential and took his first modified category win of the year ahead of Garry Campbell.

The specialist category was split by around two seconds with Jim Hutchinson once again coming out on top, ahead of Andy Hawthorne. Sheryl McBride blasted to a Heaslip ladies challenge trophy win by finishing ahead of Emma Campbell.

Round 7, North Ulster Car Club, Nutts Corner:

After a short break in the championship a total of 82 drivers headed to the County Antrim circuit of Nutts Corner on Saturday 24th September where 10-time hillclimb champion, Graham Thompson, was waiting in his GTR Turbo.

A mere three seconds split the top four on this tight and technical circuit, such was the pace. Although not registered for the championship, Thompson had a blast to finish second on the day, but his experience was no match for the youthful and fearless Rob Dwane who finished some two seconds ahead.

Steven Gault and Tim Woodside brought home second and third championship points respectively, split only by a hair. This duo were a spectacle to watch on the day.

Crawford Ewing Jr took the road going saloon category honours in his Renault Megane with his father, Crawford Ewing Sr finishing second in the same car. Ryan Murray took another win in the modified category ahead of the Citroen Saxo of Alan Roddy.

Jack Boal made a big impression on this, his first sprint of the season by bringing his GTR Hayabusa home to a specialist category win ahead of Scott McMullan. In the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy Sheryl McBride picked up from where she left off at the previous round and took another category win ahead of second placed Kathy McDade.

Round 8, Ulster Automobile Club, Kirkistown:

With over 70 entries received, all eyes were on Rob Dwane on Saturday 8th October as all he needed was a top five finish to be crowned the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Champion of 2022.

After a rapid start by Gerard O’Connell, who brought his Dallara World Series car out to play, Dwane set out on a masterclass of showing us why he is a worthy champion by wiping two seconds off Gerard’s best time. Placing him first overall, Rob made sure that he brought the title home in the commanding way he has driven all season.

Tony Grennan and Gerard finished behind Rob on the day, however when it comes to championship registered points Tim Woodside would be third overall, with Steven Gault and Ryan McGimpsey making up the top five.

Conor Hamill claimed maximum points in the road going saloon category from Crawford Ewing. In the modified category Dan Campbell took victory from Ryan Murray.

Jack Boal returned to the championship for the second time this season and took victory in the specialist category by less than half a second from Jim Hutchinson. Sheryl McBride brought maximum points home in the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy with Kathy McDade finishing second.

Round 9, 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland, Kirkistown:

Having managed to avoid a properly wet day all season, the weather gods made up for it on Saturday 29th October as over 50 drivers braved torrential rain that was blowing side-wards across the venue.

Standing water around the bottom end of the circuit, especially at the Crosslè Chicane, caused the derrière’s of many drivers to twitch like a rabbit’s nose. Especially those pirouetting down the circuit like Torvill and Dean, as nothing more than passengers.

After a short break between practise runs, several sighting laps from event officials and a drivers briefing, it was agreed to try and get two timed runs in the bag to finish the season.

Gerard O’Connell claimed fastest time of the day in his Dallara World Series which was shared on the day with Stephen Colbert who finished third. As neither were registered for championship points in this vehicle, it was once again Rob Dwane that would claim maximum championship points.

Aaron Vance got the better of Conor Hamill to take maximum road going saloon category points. This result was enough for Conor Hamill to bring home the 2022 road going saloon category championship with his BMW M3.

Taking advantage of his four-wheel-drive system, Ryan Murrray finished the day in the top five and brought home maximum modified category points securing second overall in the 2022 modified category championship. Daniel Campbell was the category runner-up on this event, but that was enough to secure his victory of the 2022 modified category championship with his Toyota Starlet.

In the specialist category it was Jim Hutchison to bring home maximum points on the day securing his victory for the 2022 specialist category championship with his RSR Escort.

Emma Campbell brought home maximum points in the Heaslip ladies challenge trophy securing second overall in the 2022 Heaslip ladies challenge trophy championship. Second on the day was Amy Hawthorne who secured fourth overall in the ladies championship, whilst Kathy McDade was third on the day and third overall in the ladies championship. Having already won the 2022 Heaslip ladies challenge trophy championship, Sheryl McBride was able to sit out the final round.

2021 S.W. Adair Northern Ireland Sprint Championship Standings.

Top 10:

1 – Rob Dwane, OMS 25

2 – Tim Woodside, Pilbeam MO82

3 – Steven Gault, Dallara F301

4 – Ethan Faulkner, Jedi Mk4

5 – Ryan McGimpsey, Jedi Mk1

6 – Jim Hutchinson, RSR Escort

7 – George Stevenson, Force PT

8 – Alan Cassells, OMS 25

9 – Tony Greenan, Dallara F317

10 – Simon Woodside, Pilbeam MP82

Road-going saloon category:

1 – Conor Hamill, BMW M3

2 – Crawford Ewing, Renault Megane

3 – Aaron Vance, Renault Clio

Modified category:

1 – Daniel Campbell, Toyota Starlet

2 – Ryan Murray, Subaru Impreza

3 – Stephen Colbert, Lotus Sunbeam

Specialist category:

1 – Jim Hutchinson, RSR Escort

2 – Scott McMullan, Reis Aero

3 – Steven Hawthorne, Westfield Megabusa

Heaslip Ladies Challenge Trophy:

1 – Sheryl McBride, Global GT

2 – Emma Campbell, Peugeot 106

3 – Kathy McDade, Honda Civic

Class Winners.

Class 1 – Paul Forsythe, Peugeot 106

Class 2a – Conor Hamill, BMW M3 V8

Class 2b – Paul Magill, Mazda MX5

Class 3 – Alfred Robb, Toyota GR Yaris

Class 5 – Richard Munnis, Westfield Megabusa

Class 6a – Karl Johnston, Mini Cooper

Class 6b – Ken Colbert, Sunbeam Lotus

Class 7 – Scott McMullan, Reis Aero

Class 8 – Jim Hutchinson, RSR Escort

Class 9a – Dan Campbell, Toyota Starlet

Class 9b – Sheryl McBride

Class 10 – Dermot O’Hagan, Honda Civic 

Class 11 – Derek Robinson, Talbot Sunbeam

Class 12 – Oliver Cormican, Mitsubishi Evo

Class 13 – Henry Campbell, Reynard FF89

Class 14 – Ryan McGimpsey, Jedi Mk1

Class 15 – Rob Dwane, OMS 25

Class 16a – Gerry McGarrity, Mini Cooper

Class 16b – Robert Coulter, Lotus Cortina

(Results provisional at time of writing)

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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.