29 August 2015 – Championship Autotest organized by Coleraine & District Motor Club Ltd.
Eighteen drivers turned out at the NW200 paddock for this penultimate round of the 2015 Championship sponsored by Aughrim Filling Station. With eight rounds completed coming into the Coleraine event, Paul Blair was holding the Overall Championship lead with a 5 point advantage on Robin Lyons, and 7 points on Ashley Lamont. In the Classes, Peter Grimes was in control of the “Specials” class with 5 points on Guy Foster and 8 on Steven Ferguson. Paul Blair lead the Sports car class by 4 points over Ashley Lamont, and Robin Lyons was 10 points clear of Norman Ferguson in the Mini Saloons category. Paul Mooney from Coagh was leading the Large Saloons class, and as it’s name suggests, is also the class with the largest number of championship competitors. Mark King was in second place just 5 points behind, with David Thompson in third a further 6 points adrift.
For a change, the sun shone for most of the day at the NW200 paddock area, just outside Portstewart. There was no rain to speak of, and the omni-present prevailing wind stayed fairly gentle as the drivers circulated round three tests four times. There were a few regulars missing due to other commitments. Norman Ferguson, David Thompson and Guy Foster all gave this round a miss, but a hearty welcome went out to Alan Coyle who brought his Mini Special out.
After the first loop of three tests, Steven Ferguson led the Specials class from Peter Grimes, Ashley Lamont was ahead of Paul Blair in the sports cars, Robin Lyons was all on his own in the Mini Saloon Class, and Paul Mooney was in charge of the Large Saloons with Mark King in second.
After two loops, Peter Grimes was ahead of Steven Ferguson thanks to a clipped pylon by the Stewartstown man, but Ashley Lamont was still ahead of Paul Blair in the sports cars. Being the only Mini Saloon in the competition, John Lyons was having a lonely day, and looking instead at the overall honours. Halfway through the day and he was in second place overall to Ashley Lamont, and just 4.7 seconds adrift.Paul Mooney was keeping a grip on the “Nova” class with Mark King now 13 seconds behind. This popular and very competitive class had it’s fill of pylon penalties on this second loop with every competitor picking up at least one along the way and some of them had two!
Loop three saw no change in the class leader positions, but it did spell an end for David Jenkins. Strange sounds coming from the rear axle of his Westfield made it wise to put the car on the trailer and avoid further damage. A pylon fault for Peter Grimes would leave Steven Ferguson with a healthy 10.5 second lead going in to the last loop of three tests. Another fault for Peter on the tenth test would seal it for Steven and he finished the day 18.9 seconds clear in the class.
Ashley Lamont and Paul Blair battled it out to the bitter end, both avoiding pylon faults all day, and Ashley coming out 15.9 seconds ahead of Paul, and Overall winner of the event as well. Robin Lyons naturally won his class, being the only entrant on this event, and had to settle for third place overall after Steven Ferguson put in two blistering times on tests 11 and 12. The margin at the finish was just 0.2 seconds!
In the Nova class, or Large Saloons as it is properly known, Paul Mooney held his lead to the end with Mark King a close second. The standard of driving by these two drivers was such that the gap to third placed Jamie McMillen was 84.6 seconds. Paul Mooney would be placed 6th Overall, with Mark 7th.
This popular venue was at it’s best thanks to the fine weather, and being close to the holiday locations of both Portrush and Portstewart, it did attract a reasonable number of spectators who wisely stayed behind the wire and had a look at this fantastic sport. Also in attendance as a marshal on the day was NW200 Race Director Mervyn White, finding it a bit less stressful than his normal job when he is at the Paddock! Also in attendance was former multiple Autotest Champion Sam Bowden. Great to see Sam out inspecting the current Autotest talent. The final round of the Championship will be held at Loughry College, and hosted by the Autotest Drivers Club on Saturday 12th September.
For Overall Results Click Here –> Overall Results
For Class Results Click Here —->Class Results