The car race meeting at Kirkistown on Saturday 27th July 2109 was marred by the death of a popular competitor, Dr Paul Conn, in the second Roadsports race. However, partly as a tribute to Paul, here is a synopsis of the races, prior to the fatal incident.
The first race of the day was for the Dawson-WAM NI FF1600s and what a race it turned out to be!It naturally divided into two groups.At the front were Ballymena brothers, Ivor and David McCullough, Lisburn’s Will Herron and The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson. Ivor and Herron had locked out the front row and they swapped places constantly for the first four laps. Meanwhile Davidson passed David McCullough on lap one. There was nothing between the four of them. Between laps four and seven David shot from fourth to first, Herron went from second to fourth and back to third. The positions remained stable until lap eleven, when Herron, Davidson and Ivor McCullough swapped positions constantly. This let David McCullough have a straight run to the finish in first place but on the last lap there was contact between the others and Davidson emerged from the melee in second place, with Ivor McCullough third. Herron retired with a missing wheel. Meanwhile, there had been a titanic battle behind the front four. Trevor Delaney, from Carrickmacross, Andrew Blair, from Ballyclare, David Nicholl, from Markethill and Henry Campbell, from Ballymena, all wanted to be fourth. Positions swapped constantly throughout the race. In the end, Delaney prevailed, just ahead of Blair. Nicholl completed the first six.
The next race was for Roadsports and Strykers. Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, had edged Lisburn’s Paul Conn for pole. Mark Crawford, from Banbridge, was making a welcome return for the first time this year and he lined up third ahead of Ray Moore, debuting a Crosslé 9s. After a very close battle between Conn and Larkham, which lasted until the latter went off, causing a red flag, the race was declared in Paul Conn’s favour, with Crawford second and Holywood’s John Benson third. Gregg Kelly, from Baltinglass, won the Strykers from Kilcock’s Stephen Ross and Dublin’s Andrew D’Alton.
Race three was a combined Libre Saloons, GTs and ASK Supercars event. Gerard O’Connell disappeared into the distance, never to be headed, in his 2.7 SHP Escort GT. Behind him, Charlie Linnane, from Kilmaconogue, maintained second place on the road and first of the Supercars. Paul Parr, from Hiltown, rose from sixth on the road at the start to finish second of the Supercars, just ahead of Gary Corcoran, from Kilcoole. In the Libre Saloons, Nutt’s Corner’s Donal O’Neill took the win from Bangor’s Jonny Smith and Gavin Kilkey, from Derry.
Race four was for Ginetta Juniors. Karl O’Brien, from Naas, started fourth but quickly got up to third, while chasing Sean McGovern and Matthew Nicholl who were having a mega-battle. These two were holding each other up and on lap five O’Brien passed both of them. On lap ten Nicholl went off at the Crosslé Chicane but could not stop his car from coming back across the track. McGovern was unable to avoid contact and he was sent into the barriers before rolling. The race was stopped. O’Brien was declared the winner, with Jack Byrne, from Ballinaboola, second and Chris Grimes, from Baltinglass, third.
Race five was for Kirkistown Fiestas and Mazda MX5s. Nutt’s Corner girl, Eórann O’Neill briefly took the lead in her MX5 at the start before Crossmaglen driver, Rob Kennedy retook it around Debtor’s Dip. He was never headed again, although he did have a temporary excursion at Colonial One on lap nine. O’Neill maintained her position to the end. David Cousins, from Ballywalter, passed Tandragee’s Stephen Murray for third on lap two. Eugene McCann, from Loughgall, was having his first Mazda outing and he had good battles with Murray and Jim Kennedy from Crossmaglen. He finished sixth but acquitted himself well. The Fiestas were less composed. A frenetic first lap saw Strangford’s Megan Campbell in the lead, just ahead of Belfast’s Mark Stewart. These two swapped places constantly for the next six laps. This let Paul Stewart, who had been punted off on the first lap, catch back up to them. On lap eight he passed Megan but she came back at him, repassing on lap eleven but losing out again a lap later. From that point on, positions were fixed.
Race six was for Furture Classics. Dungannon’s Gareth Thompson won in his Toyota Celica, from Dubliner Aidan Byrne’s similar car. Conor McElmeel was third.
The second Dawson-WAM NI FF1600 race was next and another mega-battle was expected. Unfortunately Will Herron could not repair the damage inflicted from race one, so he was missing.
An intense battle took place between brothers Ivor and David McCullough. Alan Davidson had trouble and was coming from tenth place. By the end of lap one, he was third! However, that was as good as it would get for him. Apart from the inter brother rivalry at the front, which was eventually resolved in David’s favour, the mesmerising battle was for fourth place between Andrew Blair, Trevor Delaney, Cameron Fenton, from Greystones, Henry Campbell and David Nicholl. Places swapped lap by lap in this entertaining scrap. It was eventually resolved in Blair’s favour, with Fenton fifth and Campbell sixth. Nicholl was seventh and Delaney eighth.
Sadly, the next race was the second Roadsports/Stryker race. It was red flagged due to Paul Conn’s horrific accident. He was in second place at the time.
The meeting was abandoned from that point.