Changeable weather conditions required drivers to show their mettle as short circuit motorsport returned to Ballymena Raceway on Friday.
Scattered showers visited the Showgrounds track at various times during the evening and ensured variable track conditions for the racers throughout the 15 race programme of events.
The National Hot Rod drivers had to be on full alert when one of the showers corresponded with the start of their Matt Roach Racing backed Irish Masters event and it was John Christie who judged the conditions with aplomb to steer his Vauxhall Tigra home for a convincing win ahead of Carl Sloan and Gary Wilson.
The qualifying heat victories were split between Sloan and Christie and Christie’s best lap of 15.192 seconds in heat two proved to be the fastest of the evening and earned the Crumlin charger the £50 Hot Lap bonus award which was kindly donated by Ken Reay of krphotoimaging.
National Hot Rods Irish Masters Trophy: 1st. John Christie, 2nd. Carl Sloan, 3rd. Gary Wilson, 4th. Jaimie McCurdy, 5th. Davy McKay
Another racer on top form was Richard Taylor from Lisburn who took the honours in the Evans Waterless Engine Coolants sponsored Stock Rod Irish Grand Prix. Two reverse grid qualifying heats preceded the Grand Prix event and it was Irish Open Champion Gareth Bevan who took full advantage of a pole position start slotting to lead heat one from flag to flag. Matthew McKinstry briefly led heat two before Wilfie McNiece hustled his way to the front with Taylor his nearest challenger throughout.
Taylor’s consistent finishes in the two heats earned him pole position for the final with Niall McFerran for company on the front row and Taylor judged the start perfectly to slip into the lead as Bevan darted inside McFerran to grab second, with Adam Sloan in fourth. The lead quartet were very equally matched for speed and held position while McNiece motored through from this starting slot on row 5 to run in fifth.
Taylor continued to lead in confident fashion as the race entered its closing stages where the battle for second came to an untidy end on the penultimate lap with McFerran going for a trip across the grass while Bevan and Sloan collided at Suffolk bend! The race was stopped at this point and the result declared at the last completed lap under green flag conditions, with Taylor taking one of his best victories to date after a very controlled display. Bevan, McFerran and Sloan were classified in second to fourth, with the top six rounded out by McNiece and Ian Thompson.
Stock Rod Irish Grand Prix: 1st. Richard Taylor, 2nd. Gareth Bevan, 3rd. Niall McFerran, 4th. Adam Sloan, 5th. Wilfie McNiece, 6th. Ian Thompson
GP2 LIGHTNING RODS
The Group Two Lightning Rod racers competed for the Challenge Cup where Johny Gillespie added his name to the list of winners after a tough battle with Nigel Doherty. Two qualifying heats determined the positions for the Challenge Cup race and Gillespie’s bid for glory began with a second place finish in the opener, which was won in fine style by Broughshane’s Jason Clyde. Gillespie stepped it up a gear to bring his Vauxhall Astra home at the front of the pack in heat two and those results earned the local man pole position for the final with Clyde alongside on the front row. Clyde lost out during a frantic opening lap as Gillespie and Doherty took up the front running spots and the lead pair continued to stretch away from the main pack as the race progressed. Doherty began to apply the pressure on the race leader as the laps ticked down, but Gillespie withstood the onslaught to seal victory with a composed drive.
GP2 Challenge Cup: 1st. Johny Gillespie, 2nd. Nigel Doherty, 3rd. Rodney Stewart, 4th. Stewart Nicholl, 5th. Matthew Curran, 6th. Shane Gault
No such problems for Trevor McFaul in the Euro Stocks division where the Garvagh man strolled to a perfect hat-trick of wins in his rapid Honda to collect the Golden Helmet Trophy.
Junior Rods completed the classes on display and the youngsters put on some fantastic racing throughout the evening with series leader Shea Duff taking the final honours in Round 2 of the RPM Car & Commercial Gold Roof Series. Antony Kincaid accounted for the opening heat while local lad Joel McPeake earned his first ever victory at Raceway in heat two.
Euro Stocks Golden Helmet Trophy: 1st. Trevor McFaul, 2nd. Alistair Christie, 3rd. Johnny McCloy, 4th. Bobby Johnston, 5th. Colin Clifford
Junior Rods RPM Car & Commercial Gold Roof Series Round 2: 1st. Shea Duff, 2nd. Jack Kennedy, 3rd. Antony Kincaid, 4th. Jack Kearney, 5th. Cole McFall, 6th. Samuel Wilson