The Autotest Drivers Club have found the perfect format for multi-venue events, and the fourth running of the Lee Lucas Classic Trial, sponsored by Reid Engineering Cookstown, ran without fault. Based at the Glenavon Hotel, sixty crews tackled eight tests, three times each, in what would become a brilliant display of organization. The club had devised a system to split the competitors into two groups, and have different starting points for Group 1 and Group 2. This would allow the event to move more smoothly during the day, although results would be a bit more challenging to calculate.
Nevertheless, with the sun soaring and the soft tops down on the sports cars, Eamon Byrne and Mark Fitzsimons led the first thirty cars to Loughrey College in their trusty Starlet while Paul Mooney and Mark Bell would lead the second group of thirty to Hastings Yard in Moneymore.
All crews were permitted to walk each test on their first lap, but thereafter would be expected to perform the test on arrival. This was quite a challenge for some drivers as they have to rely on the co-driver to assist in taking the correct route. This was especially important with the introduction of two brand new joker sites. This meant that crews were not allowed to walk the test at all. They would go into the test blind and have to put all trust in their navigator. Many drivers at the end of the day said that the two joker sites were the best tests of the day as they plunged into the unknown.
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.
As the event progressed after lunch, it became clear that Eamon Byrne, partnered by Mark Fitzsimons, was in a class of their own. He was steering his Toyota Starlet with such precision and speed that he was thirty three seconds clear of MX5 master Eric Patterson, partnered with his faithful and expert navigator Raymond Donaldson who made their way to second place overall. Robert Woodside Jnr was battling with Eric Patterson and Eamon Byrne but with a crash at Fultons Yard and a handful of pylons faults, Robert would have to settle for third place overall.
After a day spent in both the Loughry / Sherrygroom area, and the Moneymore area, fifty two crews completed the event across all six classes, and were all back at the Glenavon Hotel by 6.15pm. In Class 1, the Mini of Norman Ferguson and Gavin Nicholl came out tops, almost seventy five seconds ahead of the similar car of Sam McCurry and Mark McNerlin. Norman and Gavin were placed fifth overall.
In class 2, mostly made up of Startlets and Novas, the overall winners, Eamon Byrne and Mark Fitzsimons, were thirty eight seconds clear of Eddie Peterson and Kevin Fagan, with local man Damien Mooney having an incredible drive to third place in class.
Class 3 saw Harold Hazzard and Melissa Donaldson take an incredible class win with almost 1.2 minutes ahead of Jonathan MacDonald and Nadine McAllister with Ron Mullan and Lynda Carroll rounding up the top three.
The largest class of the day, making up over half of the entry, was Class 4 for rear wheel drive sports cars made up entirely from Mazda MX5’s. Eric Patterson and Raymond Donaldson would do what they do best and have a perfect drive with consistency being the winning factor for Eric.
Just 0.3 seconds separated Patterson and Donaldson from hot favourites Woodside Jnr and Drummond with Piers MacFheorais and David McAuley rounding up the top three. Local star Trevor Ferguson despite taking 15 seconds worth of penalties achieved a creditable result in fifth place in class 4 with two of the days youngest crews Brendan Mooney and Ciaran McNally, and Gareth Miller navigated by Hannah Warwick battling for the top ten position in the class.
Richard McCartney and Lisa Haveron were the only finishers 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 seventeenth overall.
There were six finishers in Class 6 with Michael and Erin Reid taking first place 17 seconds ahead of Noel Cochrane and Trevor Reid with Matthew and Mark Walsh taking third place. All which were driving MG Midgit’s.
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 despite being exhausted thoroughly enjoyed the day’s Club Motorsport. This was a highly successful day for the Autotest Drivers Club.