9 in a Row for NI Team at Ken Wharton Memorial Trophy
REPORT by Grace King, and photos by kind permission of Trevor Foster.
Reigning Northern Ireland Autotest Champion, Steven Ferguson, helped the NI A Team to yet another win at the 2022 Ken Wharton Memorial Autotest in Worcester, England on Saturday 8th October. Following a professional performance from the team which also included Newmill’s Mark King, as well as Andrew Blair and Robin Lyons, they took the NI total wins at the event to thirty-nine, with this win being their ninth in a row.
Ferguson, who continued his winning streak in the NI championship for an eighth time this season, again proved to be the man to beat at this international event and claimed the Fastest Time of the Day (FTD) by 10.1 seconds from Scotland’s Willie Keaning. Andrew Blair on his debut in the NI Team, showed maturity beyond his years to finish seventh overall, with Lyons ninth overall and first in class, and King tenth.
The NI B Team, though somewhat more inexperienced at the event than most others, put on a sensational performance to finish fourth team overall behind runners up England A and third placed Republic of Ireland. Andrew Earney put a challenging season in the NI championship behind him to finish sixth in Class A, whilst Dungannon’s Gary Campbell in his Vauxhall Nova, having only taken up the sport a mere five years ago showed great promise for the future, as he finished fifth in Class B whilst helping his team mates to their fourth spot overall. The veteran of the team, Coagh’s Trevor Ferguson, also took fifth in Class C, and James Wilson showed fantastic pace in his Mini Special to finish third in Class A, behind Ferguson the NI Champion and British Champion Alastair Moffett.
“The weekend went better than we had initially thought, after a few stumbling blocks along the way,” highlighted NI Championship Co-Ordinator Mark King, who took second place in Class B at the event.
“Everyone seems pretty happy with the result. Especially for the B team, with Andrew, Gary and James, all having never competed at this type of event before and to finish fourth is pretty good going. They were up against guys who have all driven on teams before and it’s hard to explain to them how important that experience is until they are there because it’s a different approach when you’re competing on your own.”
“As for the A team, what can I say? Steven did what Steven does so well… win! I tried my best to keep my cool and do what I had to do, and Andy drove like I’ve never seen him drive before. He did himself proud and was a real asset to the team. And as for Robin, always a late comer to a party, but it’s never a proper party without him. He really did drop everything and pull us out of a hole.”
Whilst the event went as well as anyone could have hoped for the NI team, who extended the country’s record of being the most successful in the history of the Ken Wharton Memorial Autotest, the run up to the event was a little trickier than they had expected.
Even before they had set sail for England, their plans were thrown into chaos when Castlederg’s Jonni McDaid, their Mini Saloon driver, tested positive for Covid on the Thursday and was therefore ruled out of the event. King immediately set about drafting in Lyons having consulted reserve Mini driver Earney, who advised he was happy to stay with his B team competitors. That also meant that the team had to get the Ferguson’s Mini Saloon prepped for the journey as Lyons has been driving it this season.
“There was a lot of things that needed to be done but we got there, we got packed up and hit the road!”
With a late night of final prep before a very early start on Friday morning to make the Dublin to Holyhead ferry and while not overly dramatic, it served as a warning for what lay ahead on their journey home on Sunday.
Five mile from Holyhead, their van went into limp mode, leading to a very slow and cumbersome arrival at the port, which is where things went from bad to worse as the journey across the Irish Sea was anything but smooth sailing!
“Before we had even got fully out of the port, the ferry began to roll and bounce, it was up and down like a rollercoaster,” King explained. “There were glasses breaking behind the bar and people around us were being sick. It was all the things you don’t want in a confined space for four hours!”
After disembarking at Dublin, the Republic of Ireland team would come to the rescue of the stricken van by helping to ‘reset’ the van’s brain so they would be able to travel home more swiftly. However, on the outskirts of Newry limp mode return, leading to them arriving back to Stewartstown nearly thirteen hours after they had left Worcester!
Another enjoyable and successful weekend for the guys from Northern Ireland, and now they prepare to take their winter break, where cars will be dismantled and prepared for the start of the 2023 ANICC McMillan Specialist Cars Autotest Championship, which will begin on Saturday 4th March.
Although one NI competitor will be back in action sooner than that! In just one weeks’ time Mark King will be starting his Auto Slalom competition at the FIA Motorsport Games in Marseille, France where he will be representing the UK. Best of luck Mark, hopefully the luck of the ‘Northern’ Irish is shining on you during this event!
- 1st – Northern Ireland A – 1807.3s
- 2nd – England A – 1855.0s
- 3rd – Republic of Ireland – 1882.1s
- 4th – Northern Ireland B – 1943.2s
- 5th – England B – 1988.9s
- 6th – Scotland – 2012.0s
- 7th – Wales – 2092.6s