Charity is the winner at Ferguson’s Autotest.
With coronavirus measures still in place, and Steven Ferguson on barbecue duties, Mark King drove his Vauxhall Nova to first place overall at the annual Autotest Drivers’ Club Charity Autotest. This year the chosen charity was the NI Chest, Heart & Stroke Association, in memory of the late Gilmore Magee, a founder member of the Autotest Drivers Club.
On a near perfect evening, nineteen drivers tackled two tests five times at Norman Ferguson’s yard near Stewartstown. The Ferguson family had laid on a fabulous barbecue menu for competitors and officials, as well as other signed-on guests who were keen to support the Chest Heart and Stroke charity.
Test 1 was “all-forward” with plenty of pylon-circles on the smooth concrete surface. The constant squealing of tyres is a feature of this event, and the first group to tackle it was made up of sports cars, mostly MX5s, but including an interesting entry which was that of Chris Patterson (Yes – of WRC’s Gus Greensmith fame) driving a very nice looking beach buggy.
Test 2 had two short reverse sections, and made multiple passes round and through a box garage. The group that was first to take on this test was mostly large saloons, Vauxhall Novas, plus the host for the event, Norman Ferguson in his Mini Saloon, and here too was a surprise entry in the form of a Mini Special driven by Declan McAleer, more normally associated with timing equipment for special stage rallies.
Most folks would have predicted that overall honours would go to either Mark King or Trevor Ferguson, although Norman Ferguson might have been in with a shout by virtue of being at home in his own yard. With Mark King and Trevor Ferguson in different groups, it was not going to be clear who was winning until quite late in the evening.
Whilst the competition for overall win was going on, the battles for the class places threw up some really close encounters. In particular the cluster of four large saloons behind mark King were covered by just 10 seconds after the ten tests. Ben Colhoun jumped out into the lead after the five runs over Test 2, but collected a fail (20 seconds penalty) on his first run on Test 1, scuppering his chances in this close battle.
Brendan Mooney came out as runner up to Mark King, despite a fault on his last run over Test 2. Gary Campbell ran him very close all evening. After the five runs through Test 2 he was 11 seconds ahead of Mooney, but when they switched to Test 1, it seemed to suit Mooney better, and Campbell returned the favour by collecting a fault of his own. Just 1.7 seconds separated them at the end in Mooney’s favour, with Colhoun taking fourth just 0.5 second ahead of Jack Gillis.
The largest class on the evening was Class F for Mazda MX5 and Toyota MR2 sports cars. Adam Brogan managed to pip Gareth Dillon by just 1.6 seconds, with Ben McKee leaving his Nissan Micra at home to share an MX5 with his father Wallace. Young Mark Ferguson, son of Trevor, who is preparing to take his driving test for the road, was fourth in this Class. I wonder if doing circles around pylons is good training for a driving test?
So, what of the interesting entries from Declan McAleer and Chris Patterson? Declan explained that his Mini Special was hastily re-comissioned after sitting outside for almost 15 years. There were a host of teething troubles, least of which was a handbrake that didn’t seem to work the same on each side. Worse still, having replaced the twin SU carburettors with a single one, the car struggled to run cleanly around a whole test, and he eventually attracted a host of test maximums.
Chris Patterson, after a shaky start on Test 1, was on the pace in his class, which included Trevor Ferguson in his Striker, and managed to top the class on his second run over Test 1. However, his clutch gave way on the final run and he had to call it a day.
When everybody had completed all the tests, it was clear that Mark King had taken the overall win with a margin of 26.2 seconds over Trevor Ferguson. Norman Ferguson was third, only 0.5 second ahead of the Mooney / Campbell duo.
The real winner on the evening though was the Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke Association. Donations came to over £1500, and was a fitting tribute in the memory of Gilmore Magee.
Overall Winner – Mark King (Vauxhall Nova)
- Class A – Declan McAleer (657.9)
- Class B – Trevor Ferguson (349.9)
- Class C – Norman Ferguson (354.7)
- Class D – Mark King (323.7)
- Class F – Adam Brogan (386.0)
Full results here ====> Stopastride