Untitled Document

RACEWAY PAST

1980's

 

Season 1980

McKendry and McAfee move up into the Super Saloons and continue their fascinating battles. It is McKendry again who comes out on top, taking his ex-Evans Vauxhall Chevette to both the Points title and Irish Title.

During May, Duffy Collard and Pete Stevens win the qualifying heats for the Irish G.P. at Raceway, before Stevens collects the final at Aghadowey. Davy Evans moves into the National Hot Rod class and his battles with Christie and Ivor ‘the Driver’ Greenwood has the crowds flocking to the Showgrounds on a Wednesday night. Evans clinches his first title in the class when he snatches Christies Irish crown at Raceway.Christie and Greenwood put Irish rodding on the World map, and give a hint of things to come, when the duo finish a superb third and fourth in the World Final at Ipswich. Collard returns to Raceway in August as World Champion for the qualifying heats of the Irish Open. Duffy and Ivor ‘the Driver’ share the qualifiers, but Christie beats them both in the final at Aghadowey. Rathfriland driver Ronnie Cromie pips Walter McNeilly to the 1300 G.T. Stock Car Irish title.

Season 1981

The Junior Production and Super Saloon classes are amalgamated under the title of Production Cars. World Champion Duffy Collard heads the entry for the Irish G.P. qualifying heats at Raceway during May. Ormond Christie and Pete Stevens win the heats before Christie steers his Toyota Starlet to a confident win in the final at Aghadowey. Christie becomes the first Ulsterman to win the National Hot Rod World Final when he collects the title at Ipswich in July. Fellow Raceway driver Davy Evans crosses the line first, but is docked one position for his corner-cutting manoeuvre when overtaking Christie on the final lap. The pair are paraded in front of a delighted Raceway crowd the following Wednesday evening, where the World Champ completes a great week with victory in the final ahead of Robert Robinson. Christie adds the European and Scottish Open titles to his collection before the end of the season. Evans gains some revenge when he takes Christies Irish Open title in August. A first for Raceway when the promoters secure the final of the European Superstox Championship. The two stock car classes in Ulster compete together along with a quality field of visiting drivers from England, Scotland, Belgium, Holland and Germany, which includes World Champion Neil Bee. Defending champion Dave Pierce from England retains the title on a night of torrential rain at the Showgrounds.

Mervyn McReynolds confirms his reputation as a future star when he beats all the big names to become National Hot Rod Irish Champion on another wet night at Raceway.

Season 1982

Raceway promoters introduce a new formula to their programme. Super Rods make their first Raceway appearance on Easter Tuesday with Sammy Downes winning the final. World Champion Ormond Christie is involved in a frightening early season accident at Raceway when he clips another car and barrel rolls down the back straight severely damaging his new Toyota Starlet and injuring himself. Raceway hosts the final of the National Hot Rod European Championship during May with visitors from England, Scotland and Holland. A packed crowd witness a win for Englishman Pete Stevens, while Norman Woolsey's race ends in the wall after a clash with John Edwards that leaves the Portadown star’s unusual Datsun 120Y a write-off.

Raceway favourite Davy Evans ensures the National Hot Rod World title stays in Ulster with a dominant win at Ipswich in July, then adds the British title at Buxton for good measure. Christie and Evans share the heat wins at Raceway for the Irish Open Championship in August before Evans retains the title in the Aghadowey staged final. Raceway promoters stage another first when they present an Irish Open Championship for the Production Car class. Scottish and English Stock Saloon drivers are invited over led by the legendary Keith Jarman and Bob Jones. The heavier mainland cars are no match for the nimble Productions and Portadown driver Stevie Morrison lifts the title in his rapid Mini. Ed McKendry is crowned inaugural Irish Champion in the Super Rods making it three Irish titles in three different formulas for the Cullybackey ace.

Season 1983

Once again Raceway is at the forefront of exciting new ventures as the promoters stage an International Team Event for the National Hot Rods. Davy Evans captains the Northern Ireland team with Barry Lee leading the English. The event is covered by the cameras of UTV and is shown nationally on the ‘World of Sport’ programme. Heavy rain does not deter a capacity crowd from packing the Showgrounds where the English team triumph despite a majestic win in the final for local star Ormond Christie. For the third year in a row the World National Hot Rod title returns to the province this time in the hands of Christie with defending champion Evans in third. The Northern Ireland National Hot Rod team consisting of Ormond Christie, Davy Evans, Norman Woolsey, Leslie Dallas, Robin Sloan, Richard Turtle, Adrian Christie and John Murray win the return leg of the International match with England held as a two day event at Wimbledon and Ipswich.

Norman Woolsey secures his first titles in National Hot Rod racing when the Portadown driver lifts the Irish Championship and the Irish Masters at Raceway.

Season 1984

National Hot Rod star Davy Evans tries his hand at rallying. His debut event is the prestigious Circuit of Ireland at Easter and the ‘82 World Champion stuns the rally fraternity by finishing third overall. Raceway stages the National Hot Rod British Championship for the first time in May. English driver Pete Stevens shows his liking for the venue again as he beats the locals in the final. Robin Sloan and Leslie Dallas are second and third, Sloan producing a remarkable recovery drive to come back from a first lap spin that left him dead last. New National Hot Rod World Champion Peter Grimer races at Ballymena in the qualifying heats for the Irish Open Championship. Ormond Christie retains the title in the final at Aghadowey. It’s the end of an era at Ballymena when, after poor turnouts for a number of years, the Raceway promoters decide to axe the Production Car class from the programme at the end of the year. Bushmills driver John Cochrane wins the final Stadium Championship for the class at Ballymena. William McGaffin is crowned Irish 1300 G.T. Stock Car champion at Raceway for the third year in a row. The Junior Rod class from Aghadowey Stadium make some guest appearances at Raceway during the season. The year ends on a tragic note when one of the true legends of Ulster oval racing Davy Evans and his brother Kenneth are both killed in a road accident while testing a rally car.

Season 1985

Raceway promoters add the Stock Saloon class to the programme to replace the Production Car class. Davy McDowell and Alan Kirkpatrick are the early pacesetters. National Hot Rods receive a welcome boast in numbers when a healthy influx of new recruits joins the premier class at the start of the season. Keith Martin, Paul Thompson and Paul Magee step up from the Special Saloon class, while Jimmy Stewart, Joe Brown and Davy Crockett move across from the Production Cars. World Champion Peter Grimer is back at Raceway to contest the National Hot Rod Irish Grand Prix and the Englishman returns home with the title after a fine drive. Raceway stalwart Ormond Christie wins his third National Hot Rod World title at Ipswich in July with Portadown driver Norman Woolsey in second. A special two-day memorial meeting is held at Aghadowey Stadium in July to remember and celebrate the lives of Davy and Kenny Evans. Among the visiting drivers from England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are ex-World Champions Gordon Bland, Duffy Collard and Barry Lee. Woolsey makes up for his disappointment at the World Final by lifting the handsome Davy Evans Memorial Trophy for the National Hot Rods. Banger driver Ronnie Purdy wins the Kenny Evans Memorial Trophy. The management of Raceway changes hands as promoters Robert Mathers and Ernie Kilpatrick stand down. The new management team at the venue consists of Tommy Shaw, well-known promoter at neighbouring Aghadowey Stadium and Englishman Gordon Bland, the 1979 National Hot Rod World Champion. The new management take over in August and their opening fixture features the qualifying heats for the National Hot Rod Irish Open Championship. Robin Sloan and Pete Stevens seal victories in the heats, but it is the consistent Woolsey who earns pole position for the final at Aghadowey. Torrential rain greets the competitors for the final. Woolsey is hot favourite with archrival Christie way back on grid sixteen after a non-finish during one of the qualifiers. Things look good for the Portadown star when he steadily pulls away at the head of the field, but gradually Christie works his way through the pack and closes in on the leader during the closing laps. There is no grandstand finish however as the World Champion comes to a shuddering halt after his Toyota Starlet is squeezed into the fence while attempting to take the lead. Woolsey continues on to the chequered flag, but is subsequently removed from the final result for this part in the incident, handing victory to Mervyn McReynolds.

The remaining Raceway fixtures of the season are moved from the traditional Wednesday night slot to a Friday evening. One of those remaining fixtures is the National Hot Rod Irish Championship when a superb seventeen-car turnout serves up some great racing. John Simms and Robin Sloan emerge as heat winners, but the final is another shootout between the class’s two gladiators, Woolsey and Christie. The Portadown star makes no mistake this time and brings his Sealink sponsored Toyota Starlet home ahead of the World Champion, with Leslie Dallas the best of the rest in third. Stock Rods make their Raceway debut in October with Irish Champion Darrell Hanna winning both races.

Season 1986

The 1300 G.T. Stock Car class at Raceway is changed to Superstox, with the regulations brought into line with that of the Spedeworth class on the mainland. Jack Adams and Robin Morrow are the first two drivers to make the switch to the two-litre powered machines. The season gets of to a disjointed start with the majority of hot rod drivers refusing to race over a dispute regarding start and prize money. When the action does get underway Norman Woolsey triumphs in the National Hot Rod Irish Grand Prix at Raceway. Woolsey wins his first World title at Ipswich in July after an epic, race long battle with defending champion Ormond Christie.

Also at the Ipswich Spedeweekend, Irish Stock Rod Champion Darrell Hanna lifts the International Cup, the first major trophy won by an Ulsterman in this formula. Christie gains some revenge when he collects his third Irish Open title in four years at Aghadowey during August after another titanic battle with Woolsey. Christie and Woolsey are the dominant force in National Hot Rodding at this time and complete their third one-two finish in a major Championship when Woolsey becomes the first Ulsterman to win the coveted National Championship at Hednesford.Northern Ireland Hot Rod drivers complete a clean sweep of all the major titles when Woolsey storms to victories in the British Championship and Leslie Dallas captures the European crown at Buxton. Raceway stage the inaugural Irish Open Superstox Championship where local driver Jack Adams emerges on top. Adams also finishes a fine second in the British Championship at Cowdenbeath in Scotland. Raceway favourite Wilson Hamilton is the first winner of the Irish Open Super Rod Championship.

Season 1987

Keith Martin clinches his first major title in National Hot Rods when the Dungannon superstar cruises to victory in the British Championship final at Raceway during May. Woolsey concedes his World crown to English hero George Polley. The Portadown veteran leads for a long time, but is held up by back marking traffic that allows Polley the opportunity to slip through. Martin produces the drive of the race from near the back of the grid to third at the flag. Martin creates history at the Irish Open qualifying heats in August when he becomes the first driver to win both races. Engine problems rob him of the title at Aghadowey handing victory to Norman Woolsey. Ormond Christie is unable to defend his Irish Open crown after injuring his back in a road traffic accident. World Champion Bob Jones heads a team of Scottish Stock Saloon drivers that includes the Burgoyne brothers and Gordon Barclay taking part in the support races at the Irish Open National Hot Rod Championship. The best from Raceway and Portadown are also in attendance and the drivers put on a terrific show of all-action saloon racing. The honours are eventually shared as Scottish star Ernie Burgoyne wins the heat and Irish Champion Ian Thompson takes the final, before things get a little out of hand on the friday evening at Aghadowey when the locals take exception to some of the Scottish tactics. Limavady based Stock Rod star Darrell Hanna continues to impress on visits to the mainland with a fifth place finish in the World Final at Armadale backed up with a third in the National Championship at Hednesford.

Scottish visitor Tommy Carruthers lifts the Irish Open Superstox title at Raceway.

Super Rod driver Wilson Hamilton wins the National Championship at Hednesford, but relinquishes his Irish Open crown to English visitor Stuart Donald at Raceway.

Season 1988

National Hot Rod World Champion George Polley is amongst the visitors challenging for the European Championship at Raceway during May, but the original hot rod hero has to settle for third behind local heroes Ormond Christie and Keith Martin. Scottish star Jim Harris wins the Irish Open Superstox title at Raceway during July. Controversy rages at the start of August when a clash between old rivals Ormond Christie and Norman Woolsey near the end of the National Hot Rod final at Raceway leaves Christie’s Toyota Starlet in the wall. Woolsey receives a two-month ban for his part in the incident while Christie faces a race against time to prepare a car for the upcoming Irish Open Championship. New World Champion Phil White heads the overseas entry at Raceway for the National Hot Rod Irish Open Championship heats. Local drivers Christie and Martin win the heats, but it is another visitor, Neil Facey, who beats them to the flag at the Aghadowey staged final. Robin Sloan retains the National Hot Rod Irish title at the Raceway Halloween meeting.

Season 1989

Raceway hosts the British Grand Prix for National Hot Rods during May where Norman Woolsey takes the title in his Royal Mail sponsored machine. There is international success for Raceway drivers as Woolsey and Wilson Hamilton are crowned World Champions in the National Hot Rod and Super Rod classes. Woolsey and Scotsman Andy Forrest win the Raceway staged Irish Open Championship heats before a controversial final at Aghadowey sees on the road winner Robin Sloan docked two places in the final result handing the victory to Ormond Christie. Sloan receives a ban from racing for his actions after the race when he rams Christie’s car leaving the track.

Veteran Raymond Clifford lifts the Irish Open Superstox title at Raceway. Hamilton confirms his dominance of the Super Rod scene at Raceway with victory in the Irish Open. A team of Northern Ireland National Hot Rod drivers, Keith Martin, John Murray, Adrian Christie and Kenny Thompson are invited to South Africa for a Test Match Series against the locals during the winter.

 

 

 

 

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