Byrne Masterclass at Cookstown Autotest.
The Autotest Drivers Club have found the perfect format for multi-venue events, and the third running of the Lee Lucas Classic Trial, sponsored by Reid Engineering Cookstown, ran like clockwork. Based at the Glenavon Hotel, forty five teams tacked eight tests, three times each, in what would become a brilliant display of organization. Such is the reputation of this event that competitors came from Dublin and beyond to take part, and it was Dubliner Eamonn Byrne who showed everybody a clean pair of heels on the day.
At first, the splitting of the entry into two groups, each heading to a different set of four tests, seems complicated and destined for problems, but when things got under way, the success of the formula became apparent. For each loop, divers and navigators only had to remember four tests, making it easier for them, and all the more enjoyable. The smiling faces said it all.
As the event progressed, it became clear that Eamonn Byrne, partnered on the day by “Legend” Ken Irwin, was in a class of his own. He was steering his Toyota Starlet with such precision and speed that he was seven seconds clear of Mark Faulkner and Maureen Shields after Tests 1 to 12, and held the lead. Seven seconds may not sound like a lot, but considering that Eamonn had a drive shaft break on Test 6, and missed Test 7 to have it repaired, his time therefore included two Test maximums!
At the lunch stop back in Cookstown, groups switched over to compete on the other four tests. With the two groups having completed different sets of tests, it wasn’t possible to determine who was in the overall lead, so the suspense kept everybody guessing until the very end.
After a day spent in both the Loughry / Sherrygroom area, and the Moneymore area, thirty seven crews completed the event across all six classes, and were all back at the Glenavon Hotel by 5pm. In Class 1, the Mini of Norman Ferguson and Brendan Mooney came out tops, almost fifty seconds ahead of the similar car of James Mansfield and Adele McKenna. Norman and Brendan were placed fifth overall.
In Class 2, mostly made up of Toyota Starlets, the overall winners, Eamonn Byrne and Ken Irwin, were eighty one seconds clear of John Nolan and Aoife Ryan, with Frank Lenehan and Tim Faulkner third. Class 3 saw Harold Hassard and Melissa Donaldson pip Ron Mullan and Linda Carroll for top place, both of the driving Nissan Sunnys.
The largest class of the day, making up over half of the entry, was Class 4 for rear wheel drive sports cars. Apart from an MG Midget and a Toyota MR2, the entire class was made up of Mazda MX5s. David Crothers and Barbara Kane were again on top form to win the class, and ran out second placed crew overall. Just 3.2 seconds separated Crothers and Kane from hot favourites Robert Woodside Jr and Scott McBurney, with Mark Faulkner and Maureen Shields just 2.0 seconds behind them.
Darren Fleck and Gary Wilson were the only competitors in Class 5 in their BMW Compact, but that didn’t mean they were taking it easy. They hustled the large saloon car round the tests like it was a sports car, and their enjoyment of the tests was obvious, finishing up fourteenth overall.
There were no finishers in Class 6. Mervyn Getty and Richard McFaul in an Austin Healey Sprite, and Martin Boyle and Alistair Brown in their Ford Anglia, managed to complete twelve and fourteen test respectively before retiring with car problems.
The format for multi-venue Autotests has been refined over the years and we have now arrived at what must be the most successful point. A slick event that ran more-or-less to time, and competitors who thoroughly enjoyed the day’s Club Motorsport, made this a highly successful day for the Autotest Drivers Club.
For full results click here: RESULTS