Calm before the storm at Raceway!
IT was the calm before the storm at Ballymena Raceway on Friday as the drivers made their final preparations for the big Stock Rod World Championship and Speed Weekend spectacular at the town track this Friday and Saturday.
Main event on the programme was the Norman Cromie Memorial Trophy and it Ballyclare racer Sam McKay who added his name to the impressive list of winners who have previously held this trophy down through the years.
Fresh from his win in the National Hot Rod category at the previous meeting Dungannon’s Thomas Dilly returned to Raceway for the latest round of the Open Hot Rod SuperLeague Series and promptly reeled off a perfect hat-trick of wins in his Vauxhall Tigra. Paul Hosie romped to a heat and final double in Round 2 of the 8v SuperCup for the 1600cc Lightning Rod division, with the remaining silverware a the Ross Hyndman Motors sponsored meeting going the way of Ross Houston in the Saloon Stock Cars and Gareth McCrory in the Group Two Lightning Rods.
F2 STOCK CARS
Twelve cars contested the Norman Cromie Memorial Trophy, which has been held annually since 1984 to remember former Raceway driver Norman Cromie from Rathfriland.
Former European Champion Craig McConnell kicked off the evening with a good win in heat one ahead of Sam McKay. Current DK Series Champion Christopher Kincaid used his RCE car to good effect to take the honours in heat two, with McConnell showing well again in second.
The two heat winners were both in trouble at the start of the final however which threw open an opportunity for the rest of the field. McKay relieved Kyle Beattie of the lead to take up the running with Track Champion Conor Hughes in hot pursuit.
Hughes could not make any impression on the #24 car as a delighted McKay smoothly circulated the greasy track to confirm victory and add his name to the impressive list of previous winners. Hughes and Gary Blair finished second and third, while McConnell’s strong recovery drive dragged him back up to fourth just ahead of Ryan McCrory and Willie Murray.
Heat One: 1. Craig McConnell (Bangor), 2. Sam McKay (Ballyclare), 3. Christopher Kincaid (Antrim)
Heat Two: 1. Kincaid, 2. McConnell, 3. Dean McCrory (Antrim)
Norman Cromie Memorial Trophy: 1. McKay, 2. Conor Hughes (Antrim), 3. Gary Blair (Antrim).
SALOON STOCK CARS
Returnee Ross Houston clearly spelt out his intentions right from the start of the meeting.
Houston blitzed the opposition in heat one to romp home the length of the straight ahead of runner-up Ryan Wright with Stuart McCammon in third.
Houston was a non-finisher in heat two as Kieran McIvor glided home across the now damp track to take the win in his Ford Mondeo, with Wright just edging home in second after a very tight battle with Cargan’s Mark Dewar.
Houston was back up to speed for the final however and left the rest reeling in his wake to secure win number two of the evening. Anthony McIvor was the best of the rest in this one, with Ballymoney’s Matthew Stirling in third.
Heat One: 1. Ross Houston (Craigavon), 2. Ryan Wright (Cullybackey), 3. Stuart McCammon (Armagh)
Heat Two: 1. Kieran McIvor (Coleraine), 2. Wright, 3. Mark Dewar (Cargan)
Final: 1. Houston, 2. Kieran McIvor (Coleraine), 3. Matthew Stirling (Ballymoney)
GROUP TWO LIGHTNING RODS
Twenty-one cars took to the track for heat one which would be stopped early after a massive accident for Jonny Gillespie. The Galgorm racer was battling hard mid-pack when a tangle with another car forced his Vauxhall Astra into the wall and onto its roof!
Thankfully Gillespie emerged unharmed to a sympathetic round of applause from the crowd.
Gareth McCrory and Simon McLaughlin had been first and second across the line, but both were penalised by the steward for jumping the start which handed the win to Graham Young. Heat two featured a fantastic 5-way scrap for the lead between McCrory, Brian Edgar, Stewart Nicholl, Aaron McMillan and Samuel Montgomery which eventually went the way of Kilrea man Nicholl after a great around the outside drive in his recently unveiled new car.
The final was interrupted by a couple of caution periods before Montgomery motored through to cross the finish line in first position. His joy was short lived however as the eagle-eyed steward had spotted another jump start and Montgomery was demoted to third in the final standings with the silverware heading to McCrory instead.
Heat One: 1. Graham Young (Limavady), 2. David Megaw (Ballymena), 3. Gareth McCrory (Limavady)
Heat Two: 1. Stewart Nicholl (Kilrea), 2. Aaron McMillan (Ballymena), 3. Curtis Greer (Cullybackey)
Final: 1. McCrory, 2. Young, 3. Samuel Montgomery (Catlerock)
OPEN HOT RODS
There was a very cosmopolitan entry for Round 6 of the HSS Hire SuperLeague Series with the usual Open Hot Rod competitors joined by a brace of National Hot Rods, a 2-Litre Hot Rod and a couple of Stock Rods too.
An incident at the start of the opening heat unfortunately sidelined a number of cars from the remainder of the meeting.
Unsurprisingly it was the National specification car of Thomas Dilly which set the pace, the Dungannon man romping to an untroubled hat-trick of victories. Jaye Nevin was next across the finish line in the final, with Simon Kennedy’s Ford Fiesta in third despite spectacularly losing its bonnet mid-way through the race.
Heat One: 1. Thomas Dilly (Dungannon), 2. Robert Forsythe (Ballymena), 3. Derek Martin (Dungannon)
Heat Two: 1. Dilly, 2. Simon Kennedy (Dungannon), 3. Jaye Nevin (Coleraine)
Final: 1. Dilly, 2. Nevin, 3. Kennedy
1600CC LIGHTNING RODS
Eleven cars contested round 2 of 8v SuperCup which boiled down to a straight fight between Jerome Doherty and round one winner Robert McIlroy.
Doherty, a former Group 2 racer at Ballymena, put his track knowledge to good use and squeezed home just ahead of the fast finishing McIlroy.
Yellow grade driver Paul Hosie took a fine win in heat two and quickly worked his way to the front in the final as well. A yellow flag to remove the stricken Volkswagen Golf of Philip Campbell from Suffolk bend closed the rest of the pack onto the leaders back bumper, but Hosie steadily established an advantage again at the resumption to claim a very polished second win of the evening.
Second place in the final completed a solid night’s work for Doherty, with Owen Cunning, Stephen Boyd, McIlroy and Liam Irwin completing the top six finishers.
Heat One: 1. Jerome Doherty (Dunloy), 2. Robert McIlroy (Aghadowey), 3. Paul Hosie (Magherafelt)
Heat Two: 1. Hosie, 2. Stephen Boyd (Kilrea), 3. Doherty
Final: 1. Hosie, 2. Doherty, 3. Owen Cunning (Castlerock).