Meeke Masters Lee Lucas
On Saturday 18th June, the Autotest Drivers Club Lee Lucas Autotest attracted a full entry for this annual multi-venue challenge. Top autotest drivers from across Ireland assembled at Lindsay’s Restaurant, just outside Loughry College gates, and got themselves assigned to one of the five groups that would rotate around the five tests during the day, each to be performed four times.
Since the tests each had a different characteristic, it was going to be difficult to determine who was going to win until everybody had completed all the tests. On the other hand, anybody who managed to mess up a test, or suffer some kind of car problem, would most likely have put themselves out of the running for the day.
There were four classes for competitors to choose. Class One was for classic cars, and in some cases classic drivers too. Here we had Minis, Midgets, and even a Ford Anglia. The largest class was Class Two for Sports Cars, all of which were rear-wheel-drive cars. Here it was either a Mazda MX5 or a Toyota MR2 that was the car of choice.
Class Three was for Saloon Cars and these were mostly front-wheel-drive cars. Although not as big as the Sports Car class, this class had a wider range of vehicles, including Toyota Yaris, Toyota Starlets, a Nissan Micra, Opel Corsa and a Nissan Sunny.
The fourth class only had one entrant. This was a class for young competitors who don’t yet have a driver’s license, and are in the 14 – 17 years age range. It is hoped that, over time, more young ‘would-be’ autotesters will come along and compete, and graduate into the sport as their skills develop. On this occasion, young Andrew Molyneaux and his Father completed the event in a Ford Fiesta, and finished in 34th place overall out of 44 entries. Not bad at all.
First drama of the day was down to Tyrone’s own Norman Ferguson. On a test set in the grounds of Loughry College, Norman managed to touch a gate and damage a wheel, thus costing him a maximum time for the test and a panic repair of some bent suspension. The ever-resourceful Norman was back on the road in no time, and still managed to finish third in the Classic Class.
Competing in the same Classic Class, Simon Brien and son Jack were planning that both of them would complete the tests in their 1970s MG Midget Atlantis. It became apparent during the second set of tests that this was going to be too stressful on the 50 year old car, and “Dad” Simon elected to let Jack complete the event. Jack didn’t disappoint, and finished second in the class.
What can you say about Robert Dickson that hasn’t already been said at some time? His performance on the day in his beautiful Cooper S, with Daughter Jennifer calling the directions, was simply amazing. Were it not for an error on one of his runs at the test at McIvor’s Yard, which cost him 30 seconds, he would have won the event outright. As it was, he easily won the Classics Class and finished third place overall.
The biggest class of the day was the Sports Car class with 24 crew lining up to tackle the tests. As is almost always the case, the avoidance of pylon faults and test errors is the key to success and it is hardly a coincidence that the top three drivers in the class were the only ones error free across all twenty runs.
Top Sports Car driver on the day was Belfast’s Paul Lowther and Mark Thompson in one of those Mazda MX5s. Paul is more regularly seen competing on the Autotest Championship in his Westfield, and put his experience to good use on this event. He finished over 16 seconds ahead of Adam and Mark Brogan in a similar car.
Third place in the class was Tyrone driver Trevor Ferguson. In the passenger seat with him was his son Mark, and after each test, the roles reversed and young Mark would drive the test. It can’t be easy doing the driving with your Dad sitting alongside, but he seemed to manage it OK, and the MX5 handled the 40 tests with no problems.
The first “Non-MX5” was Cookstown’s Caleb Cuddy with yet another Father, Robin, as navigator in his usual white Toyota MR2. Across the 20 tests he had just a single pylon fault in Hunter’s Lane and would finish fifth in class, only 0.1 of a second behind James Mansfield/Ian McCulloch, and a fine top 10 place overall.
Historically, front-wheel-drive cars have always done well in autotesting. It would turn out that the top four places on this event would be taken by FWD cars, and three of them from the Saloon Car class (Robert Dickson was the other one from the Classics Class).
14 drivers from the Republic of Ireland made the journey to Cookstown and six of them were in this saloon car class. Five of them were in Toyota Starlets, the exception being Eamonn and Zoe Byrne who were in their Toyota Yaris. Local honours were fought out between Harold Hassard/Melissa Donaldson (Nissan Sunny), Ian McCann/Brogan Lennon (Corsa) and Kevin and Dan McNamee (Nissan Micra).
The way things worked out, the saloon cars were to start their rotation round the tests at Fulton’s farm. This test was particularly slippy for the first cars to tackle it, and as the day wore on, the path would surely become more and more grippy as cars passed over it. There were long faces as the saloon car drivers scrabbled for grip on the muddy surface, fully expecting later cars to take a lot of time out of them.
They need not have worried. Although times did improve as successive groups tackled the test, it wasn’t enough to prevent Richard Meeke and Alex Lyone taking the win in their Toyota Starlet, with Eamonn and Zoe Byrne in the runners up spot in the red Yaris. Making it a complete Republic of Ireland podium in the class was John Nolan and Audrey McDonnell in yet another Starlet.
Not so lucky this time was Frank Lenehan and Tim Faulkner who had a power steering failure in Turkington’s yard at Sandholes, and they had to call it a day. Harold Hassard’s trusty Nissan Sunny had a handbrake cable fail on the same test and they were also unable to continue.
All through the field there were local rivalries to be resolved. In a four-way battle between Tyrone’s Colin Hazelton, Chris Nelson, Malcolm McQueen and Harry Barr, it would be Colin on top this time, with both he and Chris Nelson finishing inside the top 20 places overall.
Clerk of the Course, Steven Ferguson, ran a slick event with a simple format and a big emphasis on having fun. The army of marshals and timekeepers were kept entertained all day with fine displays of driving skill, and a few spills as well. Having let the cars away at 10am, the whole event was finished by 4pm back at Lindsay’s Restaurant where awards were presented and those who had travelled a long distance were able to get back on the road at a reasonable time. A great day of club level motorsport.
Results: 2022 ADC Lee Lucas Multi-Venue Autotest
Overall Winner: Richard Meeke and Alex Lyone (Starlet)
- Class 1: Robert Dickson and Jennifer Dickson (Mini Cooper S)
- Class 2: Paul Lowther and Malcolm Thompson (Mazda MX5)
- Class 3: Eamonn Byrne and Zoe Byrne (Toyota Yaris)
- Class 4: Andrew Molyneaux and Andrew Molyneaux (Fiesta)
Fastest times for each test:
- Test 1 John Nolan 65.8 sec
- Test 2 Eamonn Byrne 60.2 sec
- Test 3 Eamonn Byrne 57.2 sec
- Test 4 John Nolan 48.7 sec
- Test 5 Robert Dickson 62.0 sec
Full Results available here ==> Lee Lucas 2022 Results