Larne Motor Club gets N.I. Motorsport back on its wheels.
Steven Ferguson picks up where he left off!
Saturday 24th April was a landmark day for Northern Ireland Motorsport with the resumption of competition after that long Covid-19 lockdown. The lay-off didn’t blunt Steven Ferguson’s edge at all and he pretty much picked up his winning ways where he left off, coming out top of the timesheets at the Larne Motor Club Championship Autotest held at TTS, Nutt’s Corner.
The Larne club took care to comply with the MSUK guidelines with a limit on the total number of people at the venue, encouraging mask wearing and social distancing without getting antagonistic about it. The running order kept the categories in their own “bubbles” with each category completing each of the three tests the required number of times before moving on to the next test. The terrific weather made it a very pleasant day out.
There was an impressive turnout of 14 “Expert” drivers, the regular McMillan Specialist Cars Championship competitors, 21 “Clubman” drivers who had simpler tests using the same pylon configuration, and 10 “Advanced” drivers, among them the legend that is Robert Dickson.
Test timing was using the “stop-astride” system which allowed for a contactless process with no timecards, the availability of test times on stopastride.live as the competition progressed during the day, and the availability of final results pretty much as soon as the last competitor finished the last of their tests.
Nowadays, the “specials” don’t necessarily have it all their own way, and on the first run over Test1 it was Mark King who topped the times in his beautifully prepared “Large Saloon” (Class D) Vauxhall Nova. Mark clearly enjoyed this test as he set best time on the third run over it as well. On all the other ten tests Steven Ferguson proved impossible to beat, being pressed by Robin Lyons in a similar “special”, but Robin’s tidy drive still saw him 17 seconds behind at the finish
Trevor Ferguson was the only Sports car (Class B) on the results list after Paul Blair was unable to complete the preparation of his car in time. Always exciting to watch, Trevor would finish in sixth place overall, while Paul Mooney in the small saloon class would take the hard working Ferguson Mini to fourth place overall and a win in Class C.
Paul was one of several Experts to pick up a penalty on the first test, his only indiscretion of the day. Jonni McDaid was runner up to Paul, and just behind him in the overall standings in 5th place.
What can you say about Mark King in his immaculate Vauxhall Nova? Class winner by almost 50 seconds from the ever-improving Andy Blair, although 20 seconds of this was courtesy of a slip on the last test and collecting a fail. That almost dropped Andy into the clutches of the tight battle for third place between Damien Mooney and series sponsor George McMillan. These two traded seconds all day, and a stall on the last test cost George about 6 of the 9 second gap at the end.
The Clubman category, who tackled the tests three times, was dominated by the four in Class A, three Vauxhall Novas and a Toyota Starlet, and it saw a tight tussle between Jack Gillis and Ian McCann, the former giving himself a mountain to climb with a fail on his first run over test 3. One tenth of a second would separate these two at the end in McCann’s favour.
Next up in the overall standings were the Class D competitors, all of them in Mazda MX5s. A penalty free run by Dickie Curran paid off dividends for him as he took the class by just 4.1 seconds, and left George McMillen (Downpatrick) regretting those two penalties that cost him 10 seconds.
Kyle Adair was also in regret mode because his third place came despite the expense of one test fail (20 seconds) and two pylon penalties (10 seconds), so he too could have been class winner. Angus Johnston was another thinking “what-if” as he looked at two fails (40 seconds) and just 21 seconds behind the class winner.
Clubman Class C (Minis, Micra, Yaris etc.) was all Ben McKee in his Nissan Micra. Despite a fail on the first run over test 2 and one pylon fault, he not only won the class, but was 10th place overall in the category. Brendan Mullan took his 1275GT round in style, picking up only one pylon fault during the day and second place in the class. Sam Baird avoided any failed tests and took third place in his class in his lovely Wolseley Hornet ahead of others in the class who logged up many test fails, six others falling foul of test 2 along with Ben McKee. Despite this, everybody looked to be having a load of fun.
This category is designed to take experienced competitors from former times out of the Clubman category, and leave it for newcomers to the sport. Looking down the list is like a “who’s who” of drivers from a few years ago; Robert Dickson, Noel Cochrane, Gareth Dillon, David Jenkins, Michael Workman to name a few.
The whine of straight-cut drop gears heralded the arrival of Robert Dickson’s latest “reCOOPERation”, a delightful Tartan Red / Old English White Cooper S with white down to the waistline, as yet another Dickson tribute to the Paddy Hopkirk 1969 Circuit of Ireland car. It wasn’t just the looks and the sound that impressed. Robert has lost little of his speed, despite what he says, and he revelled in the simpler tests to win the category by over 30 seconds.
Noel Cochrane upheld the Class D and MG Midget honours with second place in the category, narrowly pipping Gareth Dillon’s MX5, David Jenkins and Michael Workman both in Westfields, with less than 5 seconds covering these three in the end. Ashley Lamont initially took the fight to Robert Dickson in his Midget but three runs over that first test was all he could manage until the oil pressure disappeared due to suspected bearings failure. The “Brien competition”, between Simon and Mark, both in MG Midgets, was resolved in Simon’s favour, having “only” had one failed test and one pylon fault all day.
David Jenkins and Michael Workman slugged it out in the sports car class (Class B) with Michael leading handily until a fail on the last run over Test 2. This let David take the class win by just under 4 seconds.
Larne Motor Club did a great job of kicking off motorsport in N.I. again and it was just a pity that Covid-19 circumstances prevented the faithful Southern competitors from coming up to join in. Sadly, it seems it could be some time before that is permitted.
EXPERTS – Overall Winner – Steven Ferguson (Mini Special)
- Class A – Steven Ferguson (Mini Special)
- Class B – Trevor Ferguson (Stryker Salvia)
- Class C – Paul Mooney (Mini Saloon)
- Class D – Mark King (Vauxhall Nova)
CLUBMAN – Overall Winner – Ian McCann (Vauxhall Nova)
- Class A – Ian McCann (Vauxhall Nova)
- Class B – No Competitors
- Class C – Ben McKee (Nissan Micra)
- Class D – Dickie Curran (Mazda MX5)
ADVANCED – Overall Winner Robert Dickson (Mini Cooper S)
- Class A – No Competitors
- Class B – David Jenkins (Westfield Sports)
- Class C – Robert Dickson (Mini Cooper S)
- Class D – Noel Cochrane (MG Midget)
Full results here ===> https://stopastride.live/eventresults.php?eventid=5