Autotest Championship Round 2 – Loughry College.
Peter and Paul battle it out.
When it was decided to introduce electronic timing beams for autotests, many thought it was like using a heavy hammer to crack a nut, but the competition on Saturday showed that it was absolutely the right thing to do. Hand-held watches just would not have been good enough to confidently split the top competitors. So close was the competition that it wasn’t clear until the final test who was going to come out on top. No longer are outright wins the sole preserve of the Mini-Specials, the winner can come from almost any class.
20 competitors lined up at the DMC round of the 2015 Autotest Championship, this year sponsored by Aughrim Filling Station. Returning yet again to the excellent location at Loughry College, Jewellery Repair Services Cookstown sponsored our local event, and what a great day it was all round. Bright sunshine created very consistent conditions for drivers as they completed the three tests four times. Getting under way just after mid-day, four hours of intense competition was to unfold, and Paul Blair to emerge as overall winner.
On the first loop of three tests, some of the fancied runners hit trouble right away. A difficult test 3 cost Steven Ferguson, Robin Lyons and Tommi McDaid maximum times, with Robin Lyons having to replace a broken drive shaft on his Mini. It was apparent at this early stage that the main fight for overall honours was between Paul Blair in his Striker sports car, and the 2014 Autotest Champion, Peter Grimes in his Mini Special. Paul was only 1.1 seconds behind Peter, while Ashley Lamont was knocking on the door just 1.6 seconds behind that.
The second loop saw the gap close at the top with Paul blair just 0.6 seconds behind Peter Grimes. Ashley Lamont touched a pylon on test 4 and was now 5.3 seconds adrift. Steven Ferguson and Mark King fell foul of the pylons too on this loop, while Paul Mooney from Coagh was starting to build a lead in the large salon class in his Vauxhall Nova. At the mid point in the competition he was 6.1 seconds clear of Mark King’s similar car, and in fourth place overall.
Loop 3 was another disaster for Robin Lyons thanks this time to a failed drive shaft joint, and it was back to the toolbox for another replacement. Paul Blair heaped on the pressure as Peter Grimes still held the lead, but now by only 0.2 seconds. Mark King was only able to claw back 0.2 seconds from Paul Mooney’s lead in the Saloon class, and so it was all going to be decided on the final set of three tests.
Test ten went to Blair, taking another 0.1 seconds from Peter Grimes so the gap was unbelievably close at just 0.1 seconds. Pretty soon we will have to time to one hundredths of a second if this level of competition continues! On test eleven, Paul blair moved ahead by 0.6 seconds, and added a further 1.2 seconds on test 12. A fantastic competition between the best autotest drivers in the Country, and probably the World.
Robin Lyons recovered to win the Mini Saloon class, despite his two maximum times, and Paul Mooney completed a near perfect day with first in Large Saloons, and fourth place overall. Ashley Lamont was lamenting over his early 5 second pylon fault, as he finished just 5.2 seconds behind Peter Grimes in the end.