Can Anybody Touch Stevie?
Just two weeks have passed since Larne Motor Club held the first round of the 2012 Northern Ireland Autotest Championship in conjunction with McMillan Specialist Cars, Antrim. This weekend it was Coleraine Motor Club’s turn and what a challenge they laid on for 33 drivers at the North West 200 Paddock between Portrush and Portstewart. Nobody would have bet against Steven Ferguson ahead of the event, and so it turned out – a win by 13.1 seconds from Guy Foster. Mark King again brought his Large Saloon Car into a terrific third place overall.
A generally dry day, with just a few showers, served to make the grippy surface a challenge for this extreme test of car manoeuvrability, and just as much a mental challenge to remember the tests. Guy Foster made the trip North now that the Covid restrictions have been relaxed in the Republic of Ireland, but 70 weeks without competition was taking its toll on his sharpness, and as if to illustrate the point, he made a fatal error on the very first test, collecting a “Fail” penalty of 20 seconds.
In the Clubman category, with simpler tests done three times instead of four, Jack Gillis made no mistakes this time in his Vauxhall Nova, the only Clubman not to whack a pylon or attract a line fault all day, and he took a category win by 47 seconds.
It seems that Autotest drivers never retire, they simply join the ranks of the “Advanced” category, and this time it was Michael Workman who took the battle to Robert Dickson and pipped him by just 2.3 seconds. Dickson was uncharacteristically slow off the mark, finding his car’s handling a bit “jumpy” on this surface, and making adjustments as the day wore on. He just needed one more test!
Stewartstown’s Steven Ferguson is the benchmark for all Autotest drivers, and his performance in the Mini Special was almost 100% text-book stuff. He set fastest time on ten of the twelve tests on Saturday, conceding the other two to a very tidy drive from Guy Foster in a similar car. Robin Lyons and James Wilson battled it out for third and fourth, the advantage going to Robin by just 1.6 seconds. Robin’s day got off to a poor start with pylon faults on each of the first two tests of the day, but Wilson collected a couple as well later in the event which evened things up.
Paul Mooney switched to a sports car for this event (he was in a Mini Saloon last time) but the result was the same. The former Northern Ireland Autotest Champion took the class win from Trevor Ferguson and Paul Lowther, despite a couple of pylon faults along the way.
In the Small Saloon class, Jonni McDaid from Castlederg took his tidy Mini to a comfortable win from Andrew Earney and Norman Ferguson. His winning margin was 71.2 seconds.
The Large Saloon Class had six contenders, but as in Larne, Mark King took a convincing win by 22.6 seconds from Young Andy Blair. On five of the tests these two were less than 1 second apart, and Andy managed to deny Mark a clean sweep of fastest times by beating him on one test, albeit by only 0.1 second! Series Sponsor, George McMillan, was in third place, only spoiling a penalty free day on the very last test with a pylon fault, ahead of Damien Mooney.
Jack Gillis in his Vauxhall Nova made no mistake in Clubman A this time. An error free run saw him take the category win by 47 seconds, and ahead of his class rival Adam McMullan by 47.4 seconds.
Gordon Buckley joined the ranks of the Clubmen B Class this time in his Westfield and he spent the day playing himself back into the sport. He only made one slip to pick up a pylon fault, and he finished the day with an unopposed class win.
Ben McKee in his Nissan Micra is exciting to watch, and the runners-up spot for him in the category was just reward for his day’s work, even though he did pick up a couple of pylon penalties in the course of the day to win Clubman C. Poor Nathan Mann had a torrid time, struggling to remember the tests, but having a good go at it nonetheless.
Clubman Class D was all Mazda MX5 and Coagh’s Brendan Mooney came out on top from Adam Brogan and Lawrence Baird. Out on his first event was 17 year old Mark Ferguson (his birthday was just earlier in the week) and he showed that he can handle his Father’s MX5 with great aplomb. One worth watching.
This category had a small turnout this time. Noel Cochrane dusted off his home built sports car for Advanced Class B, complete with Ford Mexico engine on motorcycle carburettors. Unfortunately the fuel pump had difficulty keeping up with the fuel demands, and Noel spluttered frustratingly round the latter parts of most tests. He still took the trophy home for the class, and the problem will be fixed for next time.
After a dominant performance in Larne two weeks ago, Robert Dickson was wondering if he had the same car for Advanced Class C. On the grippy surface the car wouldn’t slide smoothly, choosing instead to hop and jump and make quick times impossible. He spent the day adjusting damper settings, and even removed the suspension bump-stops to try and improve things. Although he was unopposed in his class, he had to settle for the runners-up slot in the overall standings in the Advanced Category.
Top of the Category this time was Michael Workman in his very compact Westfield Sports car. A very agile car, and short overall length, was a joy to watch, and Michael steered it expertly all day. Just one minor slip cost him a pylon fault on the very first test he tackled, but he kept it clean from that point on and headed Robert Robinson and Gareth Dillon, both in MX5s.
EXPERTS – Overall Winner – Steven Ferguson (Mini Special)
- Class A – Steven Ferguson (Mini Special)
- Class B – Paul Mooney (Westfield)
- Class C – Jonni McDaid (Mini Saloon)
- Class D – Mark King (Vauxhall Nova)
CLUBMAN – Overall Winner – Jack Gillis (Vauxhall Nova)
- Class A – Jack Gillis (Vauxhall Nova)
- Class B – Gordon Buckley (Westfield)
- Class C – Ben McKee (Nissan Micra)
- Class D – Brendan Mooney (Mazda MX5)
ADVANCED – Overall Winner – Michael Workman (Westfield)
- Class A – No Competitors
- Class B – Noel Cochrane (Cochrane Sports)
- Class C – Robert Dickson (Mini Cooper S)
- Class D – Michael Workman (Westfield)
Full results can be found here ===> RESULTS