King Pollock Rules Again

King Pollock Rules Again

Words by David Evans.

After what has seemed like a long season, the final round of the SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship took place on Saturday 26 October at a cold but dry Kirkistown Race Circuit, with the 500MRCI Halloween Sprint. Thankfully, the Championship`s very own Weather Man’s predictions were 100% perfect, as the day was dry, windy but cold.

With 66 competitors, including 10 from the Irish Hillclimb Championship, and a few other non- regular competitors, beginning their timed runs on the long National Circuit, the action commenced around 10am with 2 practice runs and 3 timed runs completed for 1630, despite a couple of hold ups during the day.

As always, the circuit action was frantic and this was especially in class 6a, where, as usual, the competition mid field is frantic. This Saturday was no different and after the first timed run there was a mere 0.34 secs between third placed Karl Johnston and fifth placed Gary Milligan. Gary was only 0.03 secs behind fourth placed David Evans. In the second runs all 3 went faster again and the gap between third and fifth increased to 0.37 secs, still in Karl Johnston’s favour but with David Evans now a mere 0.08 seconds behind Karl and Gary a mere 0.29 behind David. David went early for his third run as he tried to eek an advantage over the 2 mini men and he went 1.09 secs faster, despite his father’s request for him to brake a bit earlier into the back kart chicane, as it was bad for his nerves, as David tried to see just how good his 4 pot Brakes were. David managed to find another 1.09 secs on the brakes and jumped to third in the class. Having done all he could, he watched as Gary Milligan and then Karl Johnston tried their best to beat his benchmark. Gary Milligan dropped to a 148.92, which saw him finish a mere 1.33 secs behind David. Then all attention focused on Karl Johnston as he headed off in his Midas. Karl drove a blinder of a run and pipped David to third by 0.4 secs, with a fastest run of 147.10. This was despite Karl having a moment or 2 on his last run. His on-board footage can be seen on the Sprint Facebook page.

I`ve only mentioned the battle for third to 5th in 6a because separately there was a huge family and championship battle ongoing at the front of 6a, 6 seconds or so ahead of the remainder of the class. David Strain, who has dominated the class all season, was coming under intense pressure from his nephew Jonathan Strain, in his 205gti. With a mechanical issue meaning that David missed his first timed run and Jonathan having fuel issues all day, it came down to the last run where David Strain went fastest in class by 1.22 secs, only to watch Jonathan take a further 0.43 secs out of his uncle David to take the class win. NOW…… Jonathans win meant that David and Jonathan were equal on points at the season end as Jonathan had to drop his lowest 3 point score. This created a class championship tie that was settled in David’s favour by means of count back, as David had 6 class wins as opposed to Jonathans 3 class wins. That is a way to end a season!!

Some other great tussles took place in 6b when Andrew Straney and Rudy Tate brought Andrew’s Vauxhall Astra out for a run. Rudy, who had never driven front wheel drive, was only 2.38 secs off Andrew at the end of the day and after his first run, he was only a mere 0.51 secs off Andrew’s pace. Andrew, who is consistently fast, managed to set identical times for his second and third runs. Yes I mean identical, the clocks showed 2 runs of 141.47 secs! When you consider that Rudy, on his first time out in the car, managed to beat seasoned competitor and multiple sprint and Hill climb champion, Ken Colbert, in his Sunbeam, by a mere 0.29 secs, it goes to show just how well Rudy was driving. Well driven folks.

The biggest, and most anticipated battle of the day was at the top of the time sheets. With Joe Courtney out in his Peugeot Powered Reynard and Adrian Pollock in his Dallara it was always going to be a battle Royale to take overall honors. Sadly Steven Gault chose not to compete at this round, as it would have been a tremendous 3 way tussle. For the first run Joe Courtney set the ball rolling with a clinker 112.30 secs run and Adrian drove outstandingly to set a 112.74 sec run, which was only 0.44 behind Joe. With Adrian enjoying the close battle, he rolled the dice for the second run and set a 112.00 sec run with what was, by that stage, a nearly non-existent clutch. Joe accepted the challenge and fought back with a 110.89 sec run, to remain at the top. As always Adrian prepped the car for his third run, then he disappeared to do whatever Adrian does when he needs to find time. Sadly another competitor had an issue mid-way through the third runs and lost the contents of his gearbox onto the track between Colonial and Fisherman’s, leaving a big oil line between the 2 corners. I went down to the chicane to spectate from there. Joe Courtney’s third run was fabulous to watch but sadly he didn’t manage to better his second timed run. However, Adrian Ignored the line of cement dust on the track and was unbelievable to watch through the chicane, as he drove the wheels of his Dallara in pursuit of Joe. On his second lap through the chicane he was on the limit and obviously trying but unfortunately he just couldn’t pip Joe’s 110.89 sec target and he finished second with a 111.51 sec run. No one can say he didn’t give it his all though. It’s also fair to point out that the pressure for the championship was well and truly off and that the win was purely for competition purposes. Alan Cassels had a superb drive to finish third in his radical, with his fastest run being his first run. Alan’s tyres clearly must have been done, as he got slower as the day progressed but Ryan McGimpsey had a mega drive to fourth in his little 1400cc Class 14 Jedi. His fastest run of 118.90 was only 8.01 secs off the FTD, which shows how hard he was pushing. I watched Ryan through the main chicane and he was incredible to watch and he clearly isn’t aware of what the brake pedal is for, as his approach and cornering speeds were incredible.

Gerard O`Connell had received some “team orders”, from team principal Lorraine, that he had to leave early, which he duly complied with. However, before going home early, Gerard left his stamp on the day by setting a time of 125.27 secs, which placed him 7th overall in his escort Mk1. He also took class 9a honours and maximum points in the Modified category. Second modified saloon on the day was Martin Cairns, who brought his fabulous 1600CC turbo WRC Fiesta to the sprint. Martin finished 9th overall and 4.75 secs behind Gerard. Third in the modified saloon category battle went to David Hunter in his white Subaru Imprezza. It’s great to see the Flying Doc back out again after a long layoff. He finished a mere 0.07 secs ahead of David Frances in his escort.

In the road Going category Paul Montgomery was the fastest road car, with 11th overall in his Imprezza. His fastest third run of 130.32 saw him finish 8.32 secs ahead of Andrew Robb, who steered his BMW M3 to eighteenth overall. Third in the road going category went to Stephen Robb, who was also driving the family BMW for the day, as their father, Alfred Robb, was sharing Stephen’s Clio with Andrew Robb in class 6b. Yes. I know that’s confusing but Andrew was driving 2 very different family owned cars in 2 very different classes. Fair play Andrew.

In the battle for Historic honours Gerry McGarrity took the win in his little green Mini, finishing in front of Vincent Rodgers with Mervyn Getty third. In the battle for the Fastest Mini In The West, Karl Johnston again took the honours and I believe the overall unofficial title of Fastest Mini in the West. Fair play Karl who has driven superbly all season. However, having spoken to Gerry McGarrity, Gerry is still adamant that he’s the fastest Mini man in the West, as Karl’s isn’t a mini, it’s a Midas and Gary Milligan’s wheels are too big and therefore as the only “proper” Mini with 10” wheels, Gerry is the fastest. This is 1 dispute that I won’t be getting involved in.

So after 27 timed runs, at 9 events over 5 different circuit layouts, at 3 different circuits, the 2019 SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint championship has finally come to a close. The defending champion Adrian Pollock has secured his second Northern Ireland Sprint Championship from second Placed Steven Gault and Trevor Roberts third in his little 1000cc class 14 Jedi.

Andrew Robb has secured the Roadgoing category in his BMW M3, from his father Alfred Robb, in the BMW M3 they share. Tom Lawther finished third in the Road going section but didn’t marshal at an event so third place honours go to Aaron Vance in his Clio.

In the modified battle, Oliver Cormican is the 2019 Modified Category winner, in his Mitsubishi Evo from Gerard O`Connell in his Mark 1 Escort. David Strain, who drove superbly all season and punched well above his weight, takes third in the modified category in his Peugeot 205.

The class winners for The 2019 SW Adair tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Championship are as follows – Class 1 – Andrew Straney, Class 2 – Andrew Robb, Class 3 – Tony Grady, Class 5 Richard Munnis, Class 6a David Strain, Class 6B – Dermot OHagan, Class 7 David Hawthorne, Class 9a Gerard OConnell, Class 9B Alan Cassells, Class 10 – Alan Roddy, Class 11 – Stewart Strain, Class 12- Oliver Cormican Class 13 – Henry Campbell, Class 14 Trevor Roberts, Class 15- Adrian Pollock, Class 16a Gerry McGarrity and Class 16b Alan Jardine.

See you all again on 29 February 2020 at Nutts corner when the 2020 season recommences. And to the classes now….

Class 1 small road going Production cars – Garry McClurg made a welcome return to the sprint scene on Saturday in the family AX and picked up again where he left off with a class win. Richard Beattie, who won the class in the first round at Nutts Corner, finished second with Irish Hillclimb regular, Keeva White, third. Rudy Tate and Andrew Straney, who have dominated this class this season, decided to drive Andrew`s Astra in class 6B as their Mazda MX5 is now for sale. Overall Andrew Straney takes the class 1 championship by 10 points from Rudy Tate with James Schofield a further 6 points back in third.

Class 2 larger capacity road going production Cars…. As usual, this season Andrew Robb topped the timesheets in his BMW, with a run which placed him 18th overall and due to championship registration he managed to score a top 10 point as well. Brother Steven Robb was second in the family BMW, as he had managed to oust his father out of the BMW and into Stevens class 6B Clio for the day. Third on the day went to Groomsport’s Conor Hamill,in his BMW M3 V8. Stephen Donnelly was fourth and the second of the regular class competitors in his Clio. In this year’s class 2 championship Andrew Robb takes class honours, as well as the Roadgoing category honours. Michael Clarke finished second in class 2, eight points behind Andrew and 8 ahead of third placed Alfred Robb. Stephen Donnelly had some successful results during the season but a late championship registration saw him miss out on a lot of points, which could have seen him further up the championship listings.

Class 3 4WD Road going Production Cars. Paul Montgomery proved to be the man to beat on Saturday, with a fastest run of 130.32 secs, which placed him 11th overall. Sadly, he wasn’t championship registered so didn’t get any points for the 2 great results he had this season. Second on Saturday went to this year’s Class 3 champion Tony Grady, who laughed, joked and bantered his way to a 157.58 sec run, to take top points for the class and the class title for 2019.

Class 5 road going specialist cars. Class 5 was a McNamee lock out with Kevin McNamee taking class honours by 1.68 secs over Redmond McNamee in the ST Mega blade they shared on the day. It was great to see these 2 competitors out in the mega blade and both of them improved as the day went on, especially Redmond. In the class 5 championship Richard Munnis took class honours with a straight 7 wins and a final score of 38 points. Gardiner McIlwaine finished second in class, 22 points behind Richard and 9 ahead of third placed Colin McBride.

Class 6a Limited Modified Production cars 8v. I went into more detail from this class above but basically it was a class of immense battles on Saturday. With Jonathan Strain piping his uncle David to the class win, miles ahead of the remainder of the pack. Karl Johnston was third in class and lead the second wave of 6a competitors. Overall David Strain wins class 6a on count back from Jonathan Strain, as both drivers tied equal at the end on points. Third place went to David Evans from Gary Milligan, William Hutton and Emma Campbell. Emma deserves a lot of credit in her first season in Motorsport. She consistently finished and improved as the year went on and managed to accumulate 10 points in her maiden year, which is not to be sniffed at, especially in such a competitive class. I know that it took me at least 3 seasons to accumulate 10 points or more, so well done Emma!

Class 6b Limited Modified Production Cars Multivalve. Irish Hillclimber Aiden Courtney brought his potent but unusual Peugeot 106 out for a day’s craic and finished at the top of the pile, a mere 1.53 secs ahead of Andrew Straney in his Astra. Third place went to Billy White, who was another of the Irish Hill climb visitors in the car he dual drove with Aiden Courtney. The top regular Class 6B contender was Ken Colbert who took maximum class points and fifth in class in his Sunbeam, finishing a mere 0.25 secs ahead of Colin Dine’s Clio. On a similar note, Andrew Kernohan, who has provided some superb video footage and pictures over the course of the season, shared a brilliant but informative video on Saturday evening, of his first practice run, during which his complete lack of rear grip caused him to experience adrenaline in its purest form at Colonial!! Dermot O`Hagan, who wasn’t competing on Saturday, takes the class 6b championship, 4 points ahead of Ken Colbert who finished 11 ahead of Colin Dines.

Class 7 Modified Specialist Production Cars. Usually this is one of the biggest classes but when the Hawthorne family decided not to play, it removes at least 4 cars from the class. Indeed only 1 person entered class 7 on Saturday and David McClurg made his season debut in his Locost Ford, fresh on his return from Australia. I was speaking to David on Saturday morning and whilst he was glad to get home again, he was seriously missing the Australian weather, as he stood with more layers on him than an onion. Anyway, David won the class with a 130.22 sec run, which saw him finish a fine 10th overall. If David would do a full season next year, I honestly think that he could give the regular class 7 competitors a run for their money. In the title clash, David Hawthorne proved to be the fastest Hawthorne, narrowly beating brother Steven by 1 point in the end. Tom Devaney finished third in his Locost, a mere 2 points in front of returning David McMullan. This class will be even more interesting next year, with the addition of a new 2 person team who have bought a Megablade to run next year, after a highly successful season in another class this year. Class 7 will definitely be worth a watching next season

Class 9a Libre Saloons and GTS. Gerard OConnell returned in his SHP Escort Mk1 and despite leaving early, he managed to secure class honours in his escort, with a 125.27sec run, which saw him finish 7th overall and fastest saloon. Donaghadees David Francis made a
welcome return in his phenomenal Escort turbo and he had a safe second,
ahead of Ben O’Brien’s amazing V8 BMW. I watched David Francis
last run from the inside of the main chicane and the car is fabulous to watch and listen to. Davids
laid back driving style was mesmerising as he came out of Fisherman’s
and accelerated all at the same time, as he was setting the car up for
the chicane. As he entered the chicane, it was like poetry in motion,
as he set the rear of the car up on the throttle before just
accelerating away like a rocket. Honestly it was a pleasure to watch
David and his car control, in what is a highly powerful rear wheel drive
car. It is well worth watching. So much so that there’s an American
“dude” on you tube who wears trainers and a cap who, in my opinion,
should take car control tips from David Francis! In terms of the
championship, Class 9a has been poorly supported this year due to
various reasons but hopefully this was just a glitch. Gerard O
Connell takes class honours with only he and his Nephew Tommy scoring points in the class all season. I saw Mr. Francis with a twinkle in his eye in the paddock on Saturday afternoon, so hopefully that wee twinkle was him saying “Im back”. It would also be great to see Ben O`Brien return with his BMW, as it definitely has unfinished business at Kirkistown.

Class 9b Sports Libre cars – At 1 point there were 5 radicals entered for Saturday but due to damaged gears and other mechanical issues, only Alan Cassells made it to the start line in his. Alan therefore took the class win and the big question as to who really is the fastest in a Radical round Kirkistown is still unanswered. It may well remain unanswered as Alan`s car is now for sale. Hopefully it remains in Northern Ireland? Alan’s win was his fifth of the year, as he secured the class 9a title, 17 points clear of Sheryl McBride and 19 ahead of third placed Lee Kirkwood.

Class 10 Smaller capacity rally cars – With Alan Roddy spectating, only George Bell was out in class 10, which he duly won with a 147.24 sec run. George is another of the Irish Hillclimb regulars who came up for a day’s craic. In the championship, Alan Roddy has secured yet another class 10 title, with an 18 point lead over Phillip Gault in his maiden season in his Nova.

Class 11 Large capacity Rally cars. Stewart Strain took another class win from Andrew Bushe on Saturday. I was speaking to Andrew and he intends to do more of the championship next year, now that his car is completed. Stewart took the class win with a 135.41 sec run, which saw him 15th overall and the fastest Strain. Sadly his day finished early after a gearbox failure. Championship wise, Stewart is the 2019 Class 11 champion with only 1 other driver scoring points. The rally car class used to be a more supported class which saw some tight battles in the past. It would be great to see this class increasing in size again.

Class 12 4WD Sports Libre Cars. A more unusual car came to play on Saturday when Strabanes Martin Cairns brought his 1600cc WRC Fiesta out for the run. It was great to see how such modern rally machinery could compete amongst the sprint stuff and Martin finished a fine 9th overall, with a run of 130.03 secs. He didn’t, however, have it his own way as David Hunter (The Flying Doc) gave him a good run in his Subaru. Hopefully these 2 will make more appearances next year, as not only were they fast cars which are good to watch but it would also be good to see someone giving Oliver Cormican a run for his Money. Oliver takes the 2019 Class 12 championship, with only 2 other drivers scoring points at 1 event each. Oliver also won the Modified Category as well in 2019 so it was a successful year for Mr Cormican!

Class 13 Formula Racing Cars. Ian Maple took a solid class win on Saturday, which was sufficient to give him second on the class championship. Regular Drivers Henry and Ryan Campbell were both at Brands Hatch for the Walter Hayes Trophy in their Formula Fords and Paul Mongan, who won the last round, was marshalling. John Whitley had also entered this class on Saturday but when he went to collect his car on Friday, he found that the garage in which it was kept was locked and that the garage owner had gone to Brands Hatch with the garage keys in his pocket! So John, rather than being defeated, came to Kirkistown anyway and marshalled the event. Fair play John. Championship wise Henry Campbell takes yet another class 13 championship win by 4 points from second placed Ian Maple who has, I believe, scored his first championship award. Third in class was Ryan Campbell, who took 4 class wins over the season, winning every round he did. Finally Paul Mongan finished a strong fourth in class, only 3 points behind Ryan, after what has to be his best season to date. Paul had 1 win and 2 thirds over the course of the year, as well as the award for the fastest rearward facing Formula ford in 2019.

Class 14 Small capacity Racing Cars. With Trevor Roberts opting to marshal on Saturday, the next instalment of the McGimpsey, Roberts battle will sadly have to wait until February 2020. Ryan took a fabulous class win on his way to 4th overall, 8.01 secs behind Joe Courtney`s FTD. Michael Roche took a fine second in class, ahead of John Stuart and George Stevenson. In the class championship Trevor Roberts secured the class win with 5 class wins over the year. He finished 6 points ahead of Ryan McGimpsey, who didn’t compete in the first 3 rounds. George Stevenson took a superb third, only 2 points ahead of fourth placed Lewis Wilson. It has been well muted across the paddock this season that class 14 is the closest and best class to be in, and assuming that everyone who competed this year, remains in class 14 next year, I would be in agreement with this statement as everyone in class 14 has the speed and ability to take a class win.

Class 15 All other race cars. Joe Courtney took his first class win of the year on his way to FTD with a 110.89 sec run which was a mere 0.62 faster than Adrian Pollock. Both drivers fought hard all day, which has been the way class 15 has been fought all year. Adrian takes the class 15 title as well as the title of 2019 SW Adair Tyres Northern Ireland Sprint Champion by 6 points from second placed Steven Gault. Joe Courtney takes third in class 15. This has been a very closely fought battle all season with times being split by very little over the course of the year.

Class 16a Road Going Historics – Gerry McGarrity, once again and for the 6th time this season, took the class win with another well driven run in his beautiful little Mini. It’s a shame to see such a lovely wee car driven so hard, but then again as Gerry would tell you, it’s built to be driven that way. Vincent Rodgers took a fine second in class, a mere 0.46 secs ahead of the car’s owner Mervyn Getty. It will be interesting to see if Mervyn lets Vincent drive it again, after he was cheeky enough to beat him in his own car. Championship wise Gerry McGarrity`s season total of 33 points saw him finish 6 points ahead of second placed Mervyn Getty, with Vincent Rodgers 1 point back in third. Ian McCullough finished fourth in class but, sadly, engine woes meant that he only completed the first half of the season. Hopefully he’ll be back on the line in February.

Class 16b Non Road Going Historics. Arthur Ovens made another appearance in his MG Midget and took class honours over Trevor McIlroy in his Sprite by a margin of 2.73 secs. Alan Jardine has secured the class 16b title with Trevor McIlroy second in the title chase.

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