2023 NI Autotest Series – R4

Photo: Trevor Foster
Steven Ferguson looks to be heading for a 2023 Coronation as "King of autotests" with another dazzling display.

Thoroughbred driving at NI Autotest Championship

Report by Grace King and photos by Trevor Foster.

The fourth round of the 2023 Northern Ireland Autotest Championship, sponsored by McMillan Specialist Cars of Antrim, took place on Saturday 6th May at the Dundrod Pits, Lisburn.  Organised by Thoroughbred Sports Car Club, with tight and challenging tests for the Championship contenders, and a little more open version of each for the Clubman, Advanced and Production categories. The venues surface would prove challenging for competitors throughout the field, as the grippy tarmac tested even the most seasoned of competitors.

Trevor Ferguson would be unfortunate this time with a mechanical issue.

It was Stewartstown’s Steven Ferguson in his Mini Special who was again the man to beat at this event, after another battle for the top spot of the podium with the large saloon of David Thompson and the rear-wheel drive sports car of Andy Blair. Blair would take the runner up spot with 16.1 seconds separating the top two drivers. Thompson was forced to settle for third place overall after a pylon penalty on the third test of the day cost the Manorhamilton man a valuable five seconds.

Peter Grimes gets a couple of wheels on the grass as he heads for another top place to take joint third in the 2023 series.

With Ferguson taking the overall win, this would elevate Peter Grimes to first in Class A, with a minor 6.1 second advantage over the runner up in class, James Wilson. Guy Foster had put on a promising performance early in the day but was forced to retire due to irreparable mechanical issues after completing only four tests. This left Chris Grimes Senior to take the third place in the class.  

Guy Foster gets that elbow working but he was to be unlucky in the reliability stakes and headed home early.

Class B was dominated by Andy Blair in his Westfield, as he took the class win by a significant margin, with Paul Lowther taking the runner up spot. The Coagh father and son pairing of Trevor and Mark Ferguson in his Silvia Stryker were forced to head for home early, after a mechanical failure forced them to retire early in the day.

Andy Blair had one of his best performances of the season, running out in second place overall at the Dundrod pits.

In the Small Saloon Class C, Robin Lyons continued his winning run, making it three class wins out of four for the Drumbo driver. The Earney brothers continued to battle it out for the runner up spot in class in the Mini Saloon. It would be Richard who would win the brotherly battle to finish second in class, ahead of Andrew.

Robin Lyons had another great run in the Small Saloon Class.

The Large Saloon Class again had five contenders, with David Thompson taking the class win. Mark King would take the runner up spot after an unusually troublesome day for the Newmill’s man. After clipping a pylon on the third run of test one, the base of the pylon would get lodged underneath his Vauxhall Nova cutting his rear brake lines and forcing King to slide through the finish line, forcing him to pick up ten seconds of penalties and have to finish the day with no rear brakes.

Dust was just about the only thing the other drivers saw of Davy Thompson in the Large Saloon class, and a fine third place overall was the result,

Ardboe brothers Paul and Damien Mooney battled it out for the third place in class, but it would be Paul who would get the better of younger brother Damien, who would have to settle for fourth place at this event. Dungannon’s Gary Campbell would have a frustrating day in his Vauxhall Nova, as he struggled with a gearbox issue, which forced the up and coming autotester out of the class podium places.

Gary Campbell probably felt like “Fona CAB” after an uncharacteristic day of pylon faults and test maximums.

In the Clubman Category, for those with limited experience of Autotests, Ian McCann again came out on top in his Vauxhall Nova despite picking up a pylon penalty early in the day.  Closest to Ian in the category was Jordan Burns in his Ford Fiesta Special with Jimmy Dougan taking third place overall.  

Another weekend, another event for Robert Robinson. A week after an excellent outing at the DMC Springfling Targa, Robert was back behind the wheel at Dundrod.

There was a small but highly experienced and competitive turnout in the Advanced Category.  Former clubman challenge winner Adam McMullan in his Toyota Starlet Special would take the overall category win. Robert Robinson in his Toyota Yaris would finish in second only 1.2 seconds behind McMullan, with Jack Gillis a minimal 4.5 seconds adrift in third.

In the Production Category, Coagh’s Adam Ferguson would take the win with Andrew Molyneaux Junior and Senior taking second and third places respectively. Omagh’s Ryan McAleer would make his debut in the production class, showing some impressive driving skills in his Ford Fiesta.

Ryan McAleer giving it a real go on his first outing in the Production Category.

With four rounds now completed Steven Ferguson leads the Championship category, with David Thompson in second and Peter Grimes and Andy Blair tied in third. In the Clubman Category, Ian McCann leads from Gordon Buckley in second and Jimmy Dougan in third. Robert Dickson holds the lead in the Advanced Category with Ashley Lamont second and Adam McMullan third.

McMillan Specialist Cars Northern Ireland Autotest Championship Round 4

You can view the full detail of the test times and results here ==> RESULTS

Overall Winner – Steven Ferguson

Championship Category:

  • Class A – Peter Grimes
  • Class B – Andy Blair
  • Class C – Robin Lyons
  • Class D – David Thompson

Clubman Category:

  • Class A – Ian McCann
  • Class B – Gordon Buckley
  • Class C – Brendan Mullan
  • Class D – Derek Harrison

Advanced Category:

  • Class A – Adam McMullan
  • Class B – No Competitors
  • Class C – Robert Robinson
  • Class D – No Competitors
  • Class P – Adam Ferguson