New Raceway season bursts into life on Friday night

Aaron Moody ready for the new Ballymena Raceway stock rod class. INBT 13-850H

Aaron Moody ready for the new Ballymena Raceway stock rod class. INBT 13-850H

The new Stock Car season at Ballymena Raceway is poised to roar off the starting grid over the Easter weekend.

A total of 16 meetings have been planned during the year at the Showgrounds track.

Liam Irwin checks the tyres before testing at Ballymena Raceway test night. INBT 13-851H

Liam Irwin checks the tyres before testing at Ballymena Raceway test night. INBT 13-851H

The race action gets underway this weekend (March 25) with the traditional Good Friday meeting where the Stock Rods compete for their Yokohama Championship. The National Hot Rods resume their World Qualifying trail on Friday evening and the attractive opening night programme is completed by the Group Two Lightning Rod Challenge Cup and Junior Rod Top Teen Trophy. A welcome addition to the regular roster for 2016 will be the Micro F2s, which provide a starter formula for 7 to 11 year olds, and the Micros will make their Raceway debut in the Next Gen Cup on April 1, with further meetings scheduled for April 15 and 22.

The month of May will see racing on both May 6 & May 20, before the action switches to Nutts Corner Raceway for a fixture on May 21 where the hard hitting Saloon Stock Cars visit the province to contest their Irish Masters Championship. It’s back to The Showgrounds on June 10 where the main event is the 2016 Irish Open Championship for the F2 Stock Cars and the Heritage F2 Stock Cars return for another visit after their very successful debut in 2015.

The Norman Cromie Memorial for the F2 Stock Cars is the feature race at the fixture on June 24 before another former Raceway favourite, Richard Turtle, is remembered when the National Hot Rods start their new World Qualifying campaign on July 15. A big double-header over the weekend of August 26 and 27 features the prestigious European Championship for the Stock Rods as the headline event and the weekend is sure to provide some hectic action from the 1400cc rods. A full programme of support racing includes another World Qualifier for the National Hot Rods, the Group Two Lightning Rod World Cup and the F2 Stock Car Supreme Championship, making these two days of short oval racing not to be missed.

Another World Qualifying Round for the National Hot Rods provides the main attraction at the Raceway fixture on September 9, before the first domestic titles will be determined on September 23. Both the GP2 and Super Saloon Irish Champions will be crowned that evening before the Raceway season is wrapped up on October 7. What a spectacle lies in store that evening where the packed race card features the GP2 Champion of Champions, the Stock Rod Irish Championship and the F2 Stadium Championship plus the National Hot Rods on World Qualifying duty once again to provide a fitting conclusion to another season of top quality short circuit motorsport at Ballymena Raceway.

Ty Richardson in his first time out in his Junior Rod Vauxhall Corsa at Ballymena Raceway. INBT 13-852H

Ty Richardson in his first time out in his Junior Rod Vauxhall Corsa at Ballymena Raceway. INBT 13-852H

THIS WEEKEND

It’s all systems go for the new Stock Car racing season at Ballymena Raceway on Friday evening (March 25) where the eagerly anticipated opening fixture blasts off the starting grid at 7:15pm. Top of the bill is Round 8 of the National Hot Rod World Qualifying Series and it promises to be another thrilling season for the fastest cars on the local ovals, with a fierce battle raging to determine the drivers who will represent the province in this year’s World Final.

Mark Heatrick occupies top spot in the rankings at present, but only 16 points separate leader Heatrick and Keith Martin in fifth! European Champion Adam Hylands, Derek Martin and Adam Maxwell are all in the leading pack as well, with Glenn Bell, Gary Woolsey and Stewart Doak amongst those looking to make up ground on the leaders. A further seven qualifying rounds will be contested over the coming weeks before the top nine drivers in the points table at the end of the series go forward to represent the province in the 2016 World Final.

At the National Hot Rod’s last Raceway appearance on New Year’s Day it was 2005 World Champion Martin who motored home to victory in the Winter National Championship. Local favourites Jaimie McCurdy from Broughshane and Carl Sloan from Kells will harbour hopes of a strong performance on Friday evening to boost their qualifying bids.

Completing the packed programme of races on Friday evening are the Stock Rods, Group Two Lightning Rods and Junior Rods. The Stock Rod men contest their 2016 Yokohama Championship which is currently held by Steven McKane from Ballymena. The green flag drops to get racing underway in the Showgrounds at 7:15pm.