It was doubles and trebles all round at Ballymena Raceway on Friday evening where the pleasant weather conditions made for some fast short circuit action on the Showground’s oval.
Mark Heatrick left the big names trailing in his wake to record an impressive hat-trick of wins in the opening Round of the National Hot Rod World Qualifying Series. Heatrick led the final from start to finish in a dominant display with Gary Wilson and Derek Martin the place men in the feature race.
Heatrick wasn’t the only hat-trick hero at the Broughshane Car Dismantlers sponsored meeting as Ballymena’s David Gillespie bounced back to form with a trio of victories in the Group Two Lightning Rod class. Gillespie made short work of the heat races from a yellow grade starting position and even an elevation to the blue grade for the final made no difference as Gillespie squeezed home just ahead of Andy McLeister with Nigel Doherty in third.
It was a case of ‘double top’ for Thomas Greer and Matthew Milliken in the F2 Stock Car and Junior Rod divisions. Greer recorded a heat win and then staved off a last bend assault from Conor Hughes in the final to lift the Norman Cromie Memorial Trophy in the F2 Stock Car division, while Milliken also took a heat win before registering his first ever final win at Raceway in the Junior Rod section.
Sixteen cars participated in the opening round of the PC Paints & Components World Series NI where Simon Kennedy looked poised to draw first blood until mechanical gremlins left the way clear for Mark Heatrick to open his account for the new campaign. Kennedy and Heatrick were the main protagonists in heat two as well where the pair fought out a keen side by side duel for the lead before Heatrick eventually eased his way around the outside to take his second win of the night.
In a change to the race format for the new qualifying campaign the final grid is now determined from the heat results and pitted Heatrick and Gary Woolsey together on the front row, with Gary Wilson, Thomas Dilly, Keith Martin and Adam Hylands next on the grid.
Wilson had to defend diligently from Derek Martin for a number of laps, but managed to maintain his position to the flag, with Derek Martin an eye catching third and the best of those who had started in the red grade.
Result: 1st. Mark Heatrick, 2nd. Gary Wilson, 3rd. Derek Martin, 4th. Keith Martin, 5th. Gary Woolsey, 6th. Adam Hylands
F2 Stock Cars: Thomas Greer led a long way into the opening heat before Conor Hughes blasted through in the closing laps to take the honours ahead of Craig McConnell and Greer. Hughes was a spinner in heat two and Greer took the opportunity to make his escape in this one to lead home Gordy McKee and McConnell.
The heat results determined the starting positions within each grade for the final and Greer quickly set about building up a handy advantage from the front of the yellow grade. Hughes was coming on strong again from the blues and the gap between the lead pair gradually reduced as the laps ticked down.
When the lap boards appeared Hughes had the leader in his sights and was right with Greer on the last lap. Hughes hammered in with the front bumper on the final bend in an attempt to dislodge the race leader, but Greer rode out the hit well to take the chequered flag and the Norman Cormier Memorial Cup. Irish Champion McConnell set the fastest lap of the night which earned him the £50 Hot Laps bonus which was kindly put forward by Matthew Curran of Buckna Autos.
Result: 1st. Thomas Greer, 2nd. Conor Hughes, 3rd. Craig McConnell, 4th. Bradley McKinstry, 5th. Ryan McCrory, 6th. Gordy McKee