After choosing not to compete in the first round of the 2016 Bowden Garage Services Autotest Championship, Steven Ferguson from Stewartstown came back with an emphatic win at the Loughry College Campus on March 19th. It was the Dungannon Motor Club’s round in the new series, sponsored by JRS Cookstown, and held at one of the competitors’ favourite locations.
Twenty one drivers turned out on a crisp Saturday morning to tackle three tests performed four times. The biggest class was the Front Wheel Drive Specials with eight entries, while the smallest, Saloon Cars under eleven feet eight inches, had just two.
With five entries, the Rear Wheel Drive Sports Cars featured the reigning N.I. Autotest Champion, Paul Blair, as well as his arch-rival Ashley Lamont, and these two would battle all day for the Class win. The Saloon car class over eleven feet eight inches is populated by Novas. Here, Mark King continues his return to form while David Thompson continues to be the man to beat. On this occasion, two competitors from Scotland made a welcome addition to the class, sharing a car and putting in a fine display.
After the first run over the three tests, Steven Ferguson had grabbed the lead in the Specials class in his Mini Special, just 0.2 seconds ahead of Paul Mooney’s innovative Vauxhall engined car. Dubliner Peter Grimes was third, a further 1.6 seconds behind Mooney. Paul Blair in the Sports Car class was keeping Ashley Lamont at bay although Ashley was quicker on two of the three tests. Norman Ferguson, despite making a mistake on the first test, was ahead in the Small Saloons class, and Mark King was in front of Davy Thompson by 1.8 seconds in the Nova class.
The second loop saw Mooney in trouble with a loss of power on the fourth test. This let Peter Grimes into second place behind Ferguson. In the Sports cars, Lamont was now tied with Blair on exactly the same time, and the pair were now over thirty seconds ahead of third placed Trevor Ferguson. Norman Ferguson was driving a lonely competition against Semi-Expert James Mansfield and was now forty seconds ahead. David Thompson had jumped ahead of Mark King thanks to two mistakes by Mark costing him ten seconds, and dropping him to just 10.6 seconds ahead of young Andrew Blair.
On loop three, Mooney had a pylon fault to keep him behind Ferguson and Grimes, and letting Robin Lyons into the picture only 4.4 seconds behind. Paul Blair had moved ahead of Ashley Lamont again but by just 1.5 seconds, and Tom Devaney was now third thanks to a disastrous string of pylon faults by Trevor Ferguson. In the Nova class, Mark King was pulling back the deficit on David Thompson but it still stood at 3.4 second and just three tests to go.
The final loop saw Paul Mooney’s Special again suffer power loss on test 10 and Robin Lyons pounced to take his third position in class. Ashley Lamont just couldn’t pip Paul Blair in the Sports Cars, despite taking fastest time of all on test 11. Tom Devaney took a fine third place ahead of Trevor Ferguson. Norman Ferguson was the winner of Class C, but he made life difficult for himself with another failed test along the way.
Mark King drove his heart out to try to catch David Thompson. He was faster on two of the three remaining tests, and just 0.1 second slower on the third. It wasn’t enough however, and he ended in second place by just 0.6 second. Andrew Blair finished in third place. Mark King is back, and we are all glad to see he has lost none of his competitive spirit.
1. Steven Ferguson (Mini Special) 650.5
2. Paul Blair (Stryker) 656.5
3. Peter Grimes (Mini Special) 657.1
4. Ashley Lamont (Westfield) 660.1
5. Robin Lyons (Mini Special) 675.4
6. Paul Mooney (Vauxhall Special) 684.7
7. David Thompson (Nova) 684.7
8. Mark King (Nova) 685.3
9. Patrick Power (Mini Special) 715.0
10. James Wilson (Mini Special) 728.6