Mooney Keeps Championship Title Hopes Alive.
Coagh driver Paul Mooney might not have been the outright winner at the Omagh Motor Club Autotest, but second overall still keeps him in with a shout for the 2016 title. A close battle all day with Peter Grimes came down to who would make the least errors under pressure, and with just one pylon fault over the twelve tests to Mooney’s three, it was a win for the Dublin driver.
The arrival of Mooney with his Vauxhall-engined Mini special into the premier class of Autotesting caused quite a stir, and a string of top results have put him in the driving seat in the 2016 Sam Bowden Garage Services Championship.
At Omagh, Mooney’s pylon woes began on the first loop of the three tests, and that 5 second penalty left him 3.8 seconds behind Peter Grimes. A clean run on the second loop saw him edge ahead by just 0.9 seconds. The third loop was a damaging one for Mooney where, despite Grimes collecting a 5 second pylon fault, Paul also made a pylon error and was back in second place by 1.8 seconds.
It was all to play for on the final loop but the pylon curse struck the Coagh man again on test 11 and the final gap was 7.1 seconds to Overall winner Peter Grimes. A triumph for the Mini engined specials, but ominously, running down the order on the day, was Stewartstown’s multiple Champion Stephen Ferguson, having a development day in his own Vauxhall-engined special. Watch out everybody!
In the Sports Car class, 2015 Champion Paul Blair set off at a cracking pace and was in fourth place overall after the first loop with just 0.6 seconds advantage over Ashley Lamont. On the second loop, Ashley reduced this margin to 0.3 seconds with both drivers avoiding the dreaded pylon faults. By the end of loop three, the Westfield of Lamont was ahead of Blair’s similar car, but Paul drove the final loop perfectly with a scintillating time on the final test to pip Ashley by 1.7 seconds.
In the Saloon Car class, the anticipated battle between David Thompson and Mark King turned into a catch-up day after Mark managed to clip a pylon on each of the first three tests. The penalties for this were just too much to try to make up and it was a disheartened Mark King that rolled into second place in the class.
Robin Lyons was in a class of his own in the Mini Class. A mechanically reliable, and error-free, day saw him finish in third place overall and well ahead of second in Class driver Norman Ferguson.
Omagh Motor Club had laid out a challenging set of tests at the GAA grounds on the Mountjoy Road, and a fitting seventh round of the 2016 Sam Bowden Series. Taking a dropped score into account, Mooney still leads the overall series by four points, with 2015 Champion Paul Blair in second place. Peter Grimes’ fast consistency keeps him in third spot just two points adrift of Paul Blair.
With just three rounds to go, eyes are already starting to turn to the classes and the selections for the “World Cup” of Autotesting – the Ken Wharton Memorial Trophy competition. The Top Northern Ireland drivers in each class at the moment are: Paul Mooney, Paul Blair, Robin Lyons and Mark King. Now that would be quite a team!
Sam Bowden Garage Services Championship Positions here => C’Ship Positions