Ballymena Raceway ushered in 2015 with an entertaining programme of short oval racing for the holiday crowd to enjoy on New Year’s Day.
Persistent rain during the afternoon made for difficult driving conditions throughout the packed schedule of races, where the main event was the Winter National Championship for the high speed National Hot Rods.
Jaimie McCurdy enhanced his growing reputation once again to secure the Gilmore Engineering backed title with a faultless hat-trick of wins in his Vauxhall Tigra.
Another driver to enjoy a perfect hat-trick of wins on New Year’s Day was Johny Gillespie, the Ballymena man storming through the day unbeaten to collect the Group Two Lightning Rod Winter Supreme Cup.
NATIONAL HOT RODS
Two reverse grid qualifying heats determined the line up for the Winter National Championship and the first of these brought a well judged victory for Jaimie McCurdy, the local lad working his way from the back of the seven car grid. Newcomer Gary Wilson followed the winner home, with defending champion Keith Martin in third. McCurdy started heat two from pole position and was never headed in this one to lead home John Christie and Martin. Those brace of heats wins placed McCurdy on pole position for the 25 lap final with Wilson alongside on the front row. McCurdy eased ahead at the green flag and controlled the race from the front to secure the title after another strong showing in his Wilson McCurdy Haulage backed Vauxhall Tigra.
2015 Winter National Championship: 1st. Jaimie McCurdy, 2nd. John Christie, 3rd. Keith Martin, 4th. Gary Wilson, 5th. Ian McReynolds, 6th. Simon Kennedy
F2 STOCK CARS
Ten cars took to the track for heat one with Sam McKay from Ballyclare motoring through for a fine victory ahead of Christopher Kincaid and Dean McCrory. The second heat belonged to Antrim’s Conor Hughes and the results from the two qualifiers pitted the heat winners together on the front row for the final. Hughes made a breakaway at the green flag and withstood some early pressure from McKay to romp home a clear winner at the finish. McKay had to be content with second on this occasion, with Ryan McCrory in third.
EURO STOCKS/STOCK RODS
The Euro Stocks contested two reverse grid qualifying heats to determine the grid positions for their Winter National Championship. Lester McCloy took the honours in heat one before County Donegal visitor Shaun Arbuckle steered his Honda Civic to victory in heat two. McCloy was back in form for the final to secure the Winter National crown in his Toyota, with impressive newcomer Raymond Gurney the runner-up and Arbuckle in third. The Stock Rods ran alongside the Euros with Steven McKane and class debutant Richard Taylor splitting the heat wins.
It was McKane who grabbed the final honours as well, and with it the Challenge Cup, with Taylor showing well again in second and another class debutant, Saloon Irish Open Champion Ross Houston, in third.
Euro Stocks Final: 1st. Lester McCloy, 2nd. Raymond Gurney, 3rd. Shaun Arbuckle, 4th. Paddy Hannigan, 5th. Jonny McCloy, 6th. Warren Martin
GROUP TWO LIGHTNING RODS
Two reverse grid qualifying heats determined the grid positions for the Winter Supreme Cup and the first of these went the way of Johny Gillespie in his rapid Vauxhall Astra. World Cup winner Gillespie was the man on form again in heat two where the Ballymena ace romped home to his second win of the afternoon ahead of Jason Clyde and Mark Turtle. These three would prove to be the class of the field in the final as well, where Gillespie made no mistake to complete a flawless hat-trick of wins. Turtle chased hard throughout, but could not claw back the gap to Gillespie, with Clyde in the places once more in third.
A fine grid of 13 cars lined up for the Challenge Cup where Jack Kennedy started the afternoon with a great win in the opening heat. Niall McFerran steered his Vauxhall Corsa to victory in heat two and the heat winners shared the front row for the final, with Sam Wilson and Antony Kincaid on row two.
When the final got underway, McFerran grabbed the initiative to build up a slight advantage over Kennedy and the Rasharkin lad, on his last ever outing in the junior category, never put a wheel out of place to ensure a winning farewell.
Kennedy tangled with a back marker on the final bend to drop to third, with Antony Kincaid nipping through to snatch second.