The province’s oval racers were put through their paces during two days of tough competition at Ballymena Raceway’s Speed Fest event last weekend.
All in all twenty six races were contested over the two days with a number of championship titles decided during the course of the weekend. Biggest winner was F2 Stock Car star Conor Hughes from Antrim. Hughes drove superbly in the slippery conditions on Friday evening to dominant the Supreme Championship event and was in the right place at the right time to capture the Irish Masters title when long time leader Christopher Kincaid blew his engine in the closing stages.
There was success too for Ballymena’s Johny Gillespie and Jason Clyde from Broughshane in the Group Two Lighting Rod division. Gillespie lifted the World Cup Trophy when on the road winner Noel Hazlett received a two place penalty from the race steward for nudging his way past early leader David Gillespie, while Clyde notched up a resounding flag to flag win in the Irish Open Championship on Saturday.
The Euro Stocks also enjoyed a brace of title events, with Philip Doherty from Garvagh successful in their Irish Grand Prix on Friday evening and Points Champion Lester McCloy taking the Gold Roof Challenge on Saturday.
Other major winners over the weekend included National Champion Glenn Bell in Round 3 of the PC Paints & Components National Hot Rod World Series NI and Peter Stewart, who captured the Junior Rod Irish Masters title.
NATIONAL HOT RODS
Fifteen cars took part in Round 3 of the World Qualifying Series with Ian McReynolds powering to victory in both heat races at the wheel of the Dilly Roofing Supplies Vauxhall Tigra. Davy Gurney went straight into the lead of the 30 lap final and the Londonderry man fought off challenges from McReynolds, Adam Maxwell and John Christie to preserve his advantage with some determined driving.
The pressure on the leader was relentless however and eventually Glenn Bell made a move stick just 4 laps from home to motor through and snatch his second final win of the new series. Northern Ireland Champion Andrew Murray followed Bell through to claim second with European Champion John Christie in third.
McReynolds was confirmed as top points scorer for the Round which earned the Lurgan based racer a new tyre as Driver of the Day from series sponsor PC Paints & Components.
PC Paints & Components World Series NI Round 3: 1st. Glenn Bell, 2nd. Andrew Murray, 3rd.John Christie, 4th. Nigel McCauley, 5th. Ian McReynolds, 6th. Adam Maxwell
F2 STOCK CARS
Friday evening saw the drivers contest their Supreme Championship with the heat wins falling to Conor Hughes and Gavin Fegan.
Conditions had worsened for the final where Hughes mastered the wet conditions majestically to sweep home for a clear victory. A splendid dice for second between Christopher Kincaid, Fegan and Craig McConnell kept the fans on the edge of their seats and eventually went the way of Kincaid, with McConnell in third.
The Irish Masters was down for decision on Saturday, with Fegan and Kincaid the heat victors this time around. The pair shared the front row for the final and it looked like Kincaid had this one in the bag until his engine blew just two laps from home. Hughes took full advantage to rake up his second title of the weekend, with Fegan and McConnell completing the podium finishers. A Grand National race was included on both evenings, with victories going to Kincaid on Friday and Fegan on Saturday.
Supreme Championship: 1st. Conor Hughes, 2nd. Christopher Kincaid, 3rd. Craig McConnell, 4th. Gavin Fegan, 5th. Thomas Greer, 6th. Sam McKay
Irish Masters: 1st. Hughes, 2nd. Fegan, 3rd. McConnell, 4th. McKay, 5th. Greer, 6th. Mark Rainey
GROUP TWO LIGHTNING RODS
Two reverse grid qualifying heats decided the line-up for the World Cup race and it was David Gillespie and Noel Hazlett who shared the heat wins and the front row of the grid for the feature race.
It was pole sitter Gillespie who took up the running until his Vauxhall Astra was knocked wide by Hazlett’s similar car at Fisherwick bend. That moved Hazlett through into the lead, but would ultimately cost him a two place penalty in the final result. That penalty from the steward meant that Johny Gillespie was declared the winner, with Kenny Carson the runner-up and a disappointed Hazlett relegated to third.
Johny Gillespie extended his good form with a tidy win in the first qualifier for the Irish Open on Saturday evening, before Carson continued his strong showing with a win in the second. The consistent Jason Clyde earned pole position following second place finishes in both heat races and the Broughshane man went one better in the feature race to take the Irish Open with a commanding flag to flag victory in his Vauxhall Astra. Gillespie had to settle for second in this one, with Carson amongst the silverware again in third.
World Cup: 1st. Johny Gillespie, 2nd. Kenny Carson, 3rd. Noel Hazlett, 4th. David Gillespie, 5th. Freddie Fleck, 6th. Daniel Norris
Irish Open: 1st. Jason Clyde, 2nd. Gillespie, 3rd. Carson, 4th. Hazlett, 5th. Rodney Fleck, 6th. F. Fleck
Philip Doherty and Trevor McFaul were the heat winners in the Irish Grand Prix event on Friday evening and it was Doherty who went on to secure the Grand Prix title from pole position, but only after a titanic struggle with Mark Frew.
Points Champion Lester McCloy took a flag to flag win in the first qualifier for the Gold Roof Challenge on Saturday evening before Johnny McCloy held off the combined forces of McFaul and Frew to take a hard earned win in heat two. Once again Frew provided a stiff challenge in the final, but the greater power of McCloy’s Toyota proved decisive as the Garvagh man wrapped up the title with a cool driver to head home Frew and Doherty.
Irish Grand Prix: 1st. Philip Doherty, 2nd. Nigel Doherty, 3rd. Mark Frew, 4th. Stephen Doherty, 5th. Lester McCloy, 6th. Ossie McMullan
Gold Roof Challenge: 1st. McCloy, 2nd. Frew, 3rd. Doherty, 4th. Trevor McFaul, 5th. Johnny McCloy, 6th. McMullan
An excellent entry of 16 cars gridded for the Irish Masters event where Peter Stewart displayed some top speed to win both qualifying heats in his Vauxhall Corsa.
That earned the Moneydig lad pole position for the final, with Niall McFerran alongside Stewart on the front row. The pair fought out a real ding-dong battle in the opening laps and they were soon joined by Jack Kennedy, Patrick O’Boyle and Aaron Moody to make it a five way contest out front. The rain arrived in the middle of it too, but Stewart survived everything his rivals and the weather could through at him to eventually pull clear and complete a splendid hat-trick of wins.
Irish Masters: 1st. Peter Stewart, 2nd. Aaron Moody, 3rd. Jack Kennedy, 4th. Patrick O’Boyle, 5th. Niall McFerran, 6th. Antony Kincaid
The Raceway action over the weekend was kindly sponsored by Auto-Tune Ballymena, Edwin May Car Sales, thedealer.ie Free Ads Paper, Foster Forklift & Plant, Nutt Travel, Sam McKay Contracts and Townparks Car Sales.
The next action at Raceway takes place on Friday September 12 and features Rd 4 of the National Hot Rod World Series, the final of the Speed Stocks Super Pole Series, plus Retro Rods, Euro Stocks and Group Twos.