The temperature may have been cool, but the action was red-hot as the new season at Ballymena Raceway was ushered in on Good Friday.
The speed kings of the local tracks, the National Hot Rods, resumed their World Qualifying campaign at Ballymena where Portadown’s Glenn Bell emerged as top performer in Round 8 of the PC Paints & Components Series after a faultless hat trick of wins in his Vauxhall Tigra.
Meanwhile Scotsman Michael Bethune underlined just why he is the current Stock Rod World Champion by clinching the Yokohama Championship in his rapid Vauxhall Corsa. To put Michael’s victory into context it is only the third time that the title has left Northern Ireland in twenty-five years! Former Junior Rod ace Jack Kennedy produced a storming drive to follow the World Champion home, with another ex-Junior Rod star, Rasharkin’s Niall McFeran in third.
Group Two Lightning Rods and Junior Rods completed the programme at the Broughshane Car Dismantlers sponsored opening fixture. Cullybackey’s Mark Turtle captured the GP2 Challenge Cup after a well judged flag to flag win in his Vauxhall Astra, while Jack Patchett scampered home in a rip-roaring Junior Rod final to lift the Top Teen Trophy.
NATIONAL HOT RODS
Glenn Bell proved the star of the show with an immaculate hat-trick of wins in Round 8 of the PC Paints and Components World Series NI. Cullybackey based racer Philip McCloy made his World Series debut amongst the strong eighteen car entry, but Broughshane’s Jaimie McCurdy and Series Leader Mark Heatrick would not even complete a single lap before both were sidelined for the evening following a massive accident in the opening heat.
A brace of heat wins locked down pole position for Bell in the final and the 2012 World Champion made no mistake from there to complete a hat-trick of wins with a faultless drive. Derek Martin and Adam Hylands chased the winner home, but Hylands car would fail the post race weight check and the European Champion was subsequently removed from all results.
World Series Round 8: 1st. Glenn Bell, 2nd. Derek Martin, 3rd. Gary Woolsey, 4th. Gary Wilson, 5th. Carl Sloan, 6th. Adam Maxwell
World Champion Michael Bethune headed the starters for the Yokohama Championship where two qualifying heats decided the grid positions for the championship race.
Defending Champion Steven McKane from Ballymena and Kells based racer Adam Sloan split the heat wins, but Bethune’s consistent finishes earned the World Champion pole for the final with impressive newcomer Jack Kennedy alongside on the front row.
Bethune immediately took up the running at the green flag while McKane quickly manoeuvred himself into second spot ahead of Kennedy and Alastair Bolton.
The lead pair fought out a nip and tuck battle throughout, but Bethune kept his nose out in front all the way to take a polished win. McKane would drop out on the final lap and was later taken out of all the Stock Rod results as Junior Rod recruit Kennedy crossed the line in an eye catching second.
2016 Yokohama Championship: 1st. Michael Bethune, 2nd. Jack Kennedy, 3rd. Niall McFerran, 4th. Alastair Bolton, 5th. Adam Sloan, 6th Jason Clyde
Two reverse grid qualifying heats determined the line-up for the Challenge Cup race and it was Irish Champion Andy McLeister who made his intentions clear with a clear win in the 15 car opener. Broughshane’s Matthew Curran enjoyed a great run in heat two to lead home Nigel Doherty and Freddie Fleck, before Mark Turtle took the silverware in his Vauxhall Astra after a keenly contested final.
2016 Challenge Cup: 1st. Mark Turtle, 2nd. Nigel Doherty, 3rd. Andy McLeister, 4th. Freddie Fleck, 5th. Matthew Curran, 6th. Brian Edgar
A very healthy total of 15 cars arrived for the opening fixture and it was Jamie Hunter who roared to victory in both heat races. The final was action packed from start to finish with newcomer Matthew Nicholl the early leader, before Joel McPeake eased to the front in his Vauxhall Nova.
A couple of caution periods brought the star graders right into contention and set up a barnstorming finish as McPeake, Hunter, Antony Kincaid and Jack Patchett fought tooth and nail for the win. McPeake, Hunter and Kincaid went three abreast into Suffolk bend and none of them would make it out the other end as Patchett cannily sneaked through to snatch the win and the Top Teen Trophy ahead of the consistent Samuel Wilson and Shea Duff.
Top Teen Trophy: 1st. Jack Patchett, 2nd. Samuel Wilson, 3rd. Shea Duff, 4th. Leah Hughes, 5th. Joshua McKinstry, 6th. Cole McFall.
The Micro F2 Stock Cars make their official debut at Ballymena Raceway on Friday evening (April 1). The Micro F2s have been introduced by the BriSCA organisation over the past 12 months to provide a starter formula for 7 to 11 year olds and the fun formula is already proving popular on the UK mainland, with a full roster of events scheduled for 2016 across a wide variety of the BriSCA circuits. All the cars are identical in construction, with the emphasis very much on participation and enjoyment, and the class will enjoy regular meetings at both Ballymena and Nutts Corner during 2016.
The F2 Stock Cars also make their first Raceway appearance of the season on Friday evening to contest the opening Round of their Snap-On-Tools Series, with Irish Champion Christopher Kincaid the one they all have to catch. The programme is completed by races for the Stock Rod, Group Two Lighting Rod and Super Saloon classes, with the first race getting underway in the Ballymena Showground’s at 7:15pm.