Our Northern Irish compatriots greeted us by providing the best possible weather conditions, being hot and sunny throughout the weekend. It was a special weekend for them, as the Saturday event formed the basis for the ANICC celebrating their 50th anniversary. So besides visitors from throughout the Northern ireland region, we were also visited by the new MSA Chief Executive, Nick Bunting, together with his predecessor Colin Hilton. As has become customary, the weekend also benefitted from visiting competitors from Southern Ireland too.
The number of British Sprint Championship competitors entered was the largest number seen in Northern Ireland for 8 years(and that was a bit of a "one off", otherwise that number has not been seen for 15 years)but to see that number, including 3 who were on their first visit to Northern Ireland, was encouraging. Needless to say the three newcomers enjoyed the trip. It was also noticeable that the paddock was the fullest most folk could ever remeber for a Sprint. So 500MRCI had done an execellent job in accumulating its entry.
Terry Holmes' first timed run ended after less than 50 yards, having broken a transmission component, which took the remainder of the day to rectify. So Terrry Holmes and Graham Porrett sadly missed this day's opportunity to add to their points tally. Mike Musson too suffered with a transmission failure, but that was repaired in time for the timed runs. Steve Miles had to change seats when he did something, which I shan't repeat here in order to avoid embarassment, to his pristime new SBD engine which put his new investment at risk, so he shared seats with Bill Gouldthorpe for the weekend, which he found to be an illuminating experience.
In the absence of a complete repair to the Jaguar engine in his Juno, Jim Belt and Kurt Ramsden shared Kurt's Radical for the weekend. And what a tight battel it turned out to be with the pair rarely more than a second apart all weekend. Their opponent was the former owner of Kurt's car, Rory Stephens, who is now armed with a Radical SR8. Kurt Ramsden and Jim Belt qualified 5th and 6th respectively withn just a few tenths between them.They were over two seconds and a second and half clear of Rory Stephens' SR8 respectively
Grahame Harden had company in the 1100 fraternity in the form of Louise Calder armed with her Jedi, with which she is performing so well at home in Scotland, and also some Southern Irish visitors. Grahame, on his second visit to the province, improved steadily over the course of the day, and qualified 9th, although was beaten by one local, Mark Crawford. Louise, on her first visit, also made steady improvements over the day, to finish in the midst of a bunch of six cars covered by 3 seconds.
Because the local class structure splits single seaters at 1400cc, anything above that is in the "large" class, making it a pretty hybrid (and large) bunch. However amongst what we would term "the 1600 class" Steve Miles settled into Bill Gouldthorpe's car with enthusiasm and his final run was enough to qualify him in 3rd spot (and a large smile). Glyn Sketchley, another on his first visit took just one timed run (enough for an 8th place qualification) and with another could well have matched Smiles' time. Bill Gouldthorpe was also venturing to Kirkistown competition for the first time and had his second timed run followed on from the improvements he'd made up to then he'd have finished closer to the other two, but his first timed run time was enough to qualify 10th.
Amongst the 2 litre community John Graham finished top of the tree with a 4th place qualification, pursued by Tony Jarvis who qualified 7th. Then there was the local fast man David Hawthorne in the family FVL, closely pursued by Southern Irishman Dermot Nolan, in the ex Tim/Will Mason Reynard-Peugeot, with Martin Webb only a quarter of a second back. After these were two further FVLs with David's father Andy and Southern Irish girl Deirdre McKinley in close attendance.
Amongst the unlimited "class" was Simon McKinley who is a sight to behold. I have NEVER seen a single seater driven the way he drives his Connaught-built Warrior engined Lant. Picture a Mk11 Escort sideways on forest stages, all sideways around corners, well Simon's a bit more sideways than that! Nonetheless he is quick, his times being on a par with local John Morgan (in a 2.5 Millington engined Pilbeam MP82.)Colin Calder however was about 6 second ahead of these two on his sole timed run. Mike Musson despite haymaking on his second practice run, leading to him missing his first timed run whilst repairs were effected, nonethless managed to qualify second.
Towards the end of the day someone (the "culprit" was never identified) managed to drop oil all around Colonial, a little on the exit of Fishermans and throughout the chicane. After this head been treated a number of concerned competitors visited the site in road cars and felt it unsafe to continue. The MSA Steward concurred with their judgement and brought proceedings to an end for the day.