2021 Autotest Season Review

Steven Ferguson made history by winning every round of the 2021 Autotest Championship on his way to his seventh crown.

Seven for Steven

Words by Grace King.

Saturday 24th April 2021 was a landmark day for Northern Ireland Motorsport with the resumption of competition after that long Covid-19 lockdown, the day that saw the 2021 McMillan Specialist Cars NI Autotest Championship rev back into action after its thirteen-month hiatus.  

The lay-off hadn’t blunted Steven Ferguson’s edge at all and he pretty much picked up his winning ways where he left off in March 2020, coming out top of the timesheets at all eight rounds of the championship – an immense achievement which secured the Stewartstown man his seventh overall championship win. 

Nowadays, the “specials” don’t necessarily have it all their own way, and at three rounds it was Mark King in his beautifully prepared “Large Saloon” (Class D) Vauxhall Nova who pushed Steven right down to the final test of the day for the top spot on the podium.

Mark King dominated the large saloon car class and took third place overall in the series. Photograph by Derek Smyth

With Steven taking the Overall Championship, Robin Lyons settled for second overall in his Mini Special, with Mark finishing third overall just one point behind Robin, as well as sealing the Large Saloon Championship.

Ferguson and Lyons made it a Class A one-two with James Wilson rounding out the class places in third.

In Class B for the rear-wheel drive sports cars, it was another Ferguson who took the top honours. Trevor, is his Stryker Silvia was the pace setter in this class, winning the class at 5 of the 8 rounds. Paul Lowther in his Westfield would be the class runner-up, with Darren Quille making the trip north of the border to finish third.

The exciting Trevor Ferguson in his Stryker Silvia. Photograph by Derek Smyth

Class C saw a battle of the Mini Saloons, with Omagh’s Jonni McDaid taking the class win from Andrew Earney and autotest veteran, Norman Ferguson, who finished the season a commendable third in class.

Mark King secured the Class D (Large Saloon) Championship with class wins at 6 of the 8 rounds. Andrew Blair would be runner-up in the class, with championship sponsor George McMillan clinching the third place.  

Andrew Blair was runner up in the Large Saloon Car Class. Photograph by Derek Smyth.

The Semi-Expert Championship would be an all-Vauxhall Nova affair, with Damien Mooney sealing the win, with Dungannon’s Gary Campbell second and Ben Colhoun in third.

Damien Mooney. Photograph by Derek Smyth

In the Clubman Challenge it would be Jack Gillis in his Vauxhall Nova who would claim the overall win. Ben McKee in his Nissan Micra had a season-long battle with Adam McMullan in his Starlet Special for the runner-up spot in the series. By season’s end, McKee had done enough to hold onto the runner-up spot, with only 1 point between the two young drivers in the end. 

The Advanced Challenge would see ten highly experienced competitors pitted against each other. Robert Dickson in his immaculate Mini Saloon would take the overall win, with Gareth Dillon taking the runner up spot and Robert Robinson rounding out the top three, both of these men in Mazda MX5 sports cars.

Robert Dickson’s latest ‘reCOOPERation‘ swept all before it in the Advanced category. Photograph by Derek Smyth.

As the autotest championship and challenge continue to go from strength to strength, seeing 23 competitors registered for the championship and a further 45 registered for the challenge, it is testament to the work and promotion put in by Championship Co-Ordinator Mark King and the Autotest Specialist Committee. 

Autotest Championship Sponsor George McMillan (left) and series co-ordinator Mark King. Photograph by Graham Balham-Curry.

Championship Sponsor, George McMillan of McMillan Specialist Cars, said “I am delighted that this year’s championship got to go ahead and was such a success. Congratulations and a massive thank you to all the clubs, marshals and site owners involved, without whom we wouldn’t have a championship to compete in. I am very much looking forward to next year, when all being well, we will be able to run a full, ten-round championship.”

The Awards Night.

With continued Covid-19 restrictions forcing the Association of Northern Ireland Car Clubs to cancel their annual awards night, Autotest Championship Co-ordinator Mark King decided, in conjunction with Championship Sponsor George McMillan, to host a Social Evening and Prize-giving at McMillan Specialist Cars premises in Antrim on Saturday 12th February 2022. During the evening over seventy attendees took the opportunity to mingle, catch up with old friends and enjoy time among the fantastic cars on display (with some food and beverages for good measure). Award winners were presented with beautiful pieces of Dublin Crystal by George and ANICC Chairman Wilson Carson. 

Stephen Ferguson won all eight rounds in 2021 to take the Championship. Photograph by Graham Balham-Curry.

A great night was had by all in attendance, and now the Autotest competitors can look forward to the first round of the 2022 Championship and Challenge which is due to take place on Saturday 5th March. With preparations well underway, the cars will soon be back out revving and wheel spinning at a venue near you soon. 

Championship Co-ordinator Mark King highlighted that, “It has been great to see some new, younger competitors join our ranks over the last couple of years since we introduced that Clubman Challenge. I would encourage anyone to give it a go; the Clubman tests are designed to be simpler in order to give competitors an introduction into the sport with the hope that they enjoy it enough to stick with it!” 

So why not head down to the next event and give it a go!!!

2022 Championship Dates

05th March – Autotest Drivers Club

26th March – Ulster Automobile Club

09th April – To be confirmed

23rd April – Larne Motor Club

14th May – Enniskillen Motor Club

28th May – Coleraine & District Motor Club

11th June – Omagh Motor Club

06th August – Dungannon Motor Club

27th August – Coleraine & District Motor Club

03rd September – Autotest Drivers Club