COMBER MAN WITH WINNING WAYS
This report by Richard St. John Young is reproduced from Motorweek 22 March, 1969.
To race a saloon car these days requires a great deal more in the way of preparation and expense than many people realise, and in fact, the saloons you can see racing at circuits like Kirkistown and Bishopscourt during the season, have very little in common with their more mundane brothers in the spectators’ car parks.
Among the top flight of drivers in this highly competitive class of racing is Andrew Kane, 25-year-old son of Comber, BMC (sorry, I mean British Leyland) dealer Ernest Kane. Andrew has been racing regularly since 1966, always in Minis, and with a great deal of success.
Initially, he used a 1275 Cooper S fitted with various Downton “goodies”, but retaining the standard body panels (Kane of Comber have been agents for Downton tuning equipment for some time), and this car brought him his first taste of success with a class win at Craigantlet Hill Climb, as well as a couple of class placings at Kirkistown and Bishopscourt. The car proved relatively trouble-free, and during the first part of the season, the only problem encountered was when it lost a wheel at Kirkistown.
In August 1966, the decision was made to change to something a little more potent, and Downton Engineering’s own car was purchased from the “Works” in England. This car, a full 1293cc “racer“ was extremely quick, a fact borne out by Andrew’s second place in the saloon race at Bishopscourt on his first outing with the car. He also managed second and the overall handicap that day.
At the final Kirkistown meeting in 1968, Andrew finished first in the saloon event, scoring his first ever win in the scratch race, and then followed that up with FTD at Knockagh Hillclimb. Andrew Kane had “arrived”.
JIM McCLEMENTS ARRIVES
In October 1966, Jim McClements had come to work at the Kane Emporium, looking after the tuning end of things which was expanding rapidly by this time, and it was decided to field two cars in 1967, Jim having brought his 1293 Mini, also powered by Downton, with him. After some thought, the ex-Downton car was sold to Dick Grace, and work began on a completely new Mini for Andrew to drive in the 1100cc class, while Jim contested the large category with his “1300”.
The new car again used all Downton bits and pieces but was something of an unknown quantity as the field left the line at Kirkistown for the opening meeting of 1967. They needn’t have worried though, since the car proved to be ultra competitive and, in fact, one the 1100cc class by a comfortable margin, lapping quicker than his previous year’s car at the same meeting.
Throughout the 1967 season Andrew was seldom out of the winners list, scoring class firsts at Kirkistown (five times) and Bishopscourt (twice) while also being involved in a rather spectacular shunt at the start of the final Bishopscourt meeting which rather put paid to his chances of scoring a third victory. Andrew’s Kirkistown wins also earned him first place in the 1100cc section of the Sunday News championship, and in addition, he gained awards at both Spelga and Craigantlet Hill Climbs.
1968 proved to be nearly as successful, although the class opposition was considerably stronger than the previous year, and Andrew had Eddie Bleming snapping at his heels all season, being beaten into second spot on a couple of occasions by the aforesaid gentleman.
At Spelga in May, he contrived to tip the car over, which did little to improve the shape, but it was back on form shortly afterwards, and it was “business as usual” from then on, with a couple of Mondello wins thrown in for good measure.
In August Jim McClements got married and, since he wasn’t using his “racer” during the ensuing fortnight or so, the 1300 engine was “borrowed” and dropped into Andrews car. With this power transfusion the little blue car went even quicker, and Andrew had a couple of very good races at Bishopscourt and Mondello Park before Jim returned to the fray.
For this coming year (1969), Andrew plans to go 1000cc in order to be able to take in a couple of Southern events, and the new engine is almost ready to go. He has no great ambitions in the sport, and has a definite preference for saloon racing. Like many drivers, Andrew feels that some people are getting a bit too serious about the whole thing these days, and I must say I agree with his observation that the sport is not as “nice” as it used to be. Still, that’s progress I suppose.
On the road, he drives a variety of cars, his current mount being an MGC GT, and lives with his Wife and 10-month-old son in a very pleasant bungalow, just outside Comber. Don’t let that domestic exterior fool you though; on the race circuit, Andrew is a real “tiger”, and he’ll be in there fighting with the best of them again this year. Well, he should be, he is one of the best of them.