Stock-Rods 2013 Yokohama Championship & Irish Open Championship
Visitors from Scotland and the Republic of Ireland joined the local racers to form a 21 car entry for the Yokohama event on Good Friday. Irish Champion Stevie McNiece kicked off proceedings with a well taken win in the opening qualifying heat ahead of World Champion Chris Gordon, before Jonny Cardwell took victory in heat two. When the points for the final grid were totted up it was Stephen McCready who had earned pole position with Cardwell alongside on the front row for the 25 lap showdown. It was McCready and McNiece who quickly established themselves in the front running positions and with the pair very evenly matched the gap between them remained constant throughout. As the laps ticked down it appeared that McCready’s back luck in championship races was finally about to change, but once again misfortune struck Speedy in the closing stages when his car stopped in a cloud of smoke on Suffolk bend. That left the way clear for McNiece to add the Yokohama title to his Irish crown, with European Champion Chris Lattka from Scotland the first visitor home in second. Marc Morrell was next across the finish line, but received a two place penalty from the steward for contact during the race which promoted Carl Sloan to third and Dubliner Gary Butler to fourth.
The Irish Open Championship was up for grabs on Easter Saturday and once again two reverse grid heats determined the line up for the final. Lattka continued his good showing from the previous evening to win the first qualifier before Cardwell underlined his pace with another heat win in the second. Lattka’s consistent finishes earned him pole position for the final, with Sloan alongside on the front row and the pole sitter immediately took up the running at the green flag while Sloan lost a lot of time after a tangle with McCready on the first bend. Behind the leader a clash between Cardwell and Jonathan Lattka sent Cardwell spinning backwards into the wall and out of the race. The two Lattka boys were now running line astern at the front as Sloan worked his way back up to third and began to pressurise the leading pair. Although Sloan managed to demote one of the Scottish racers before the finish the laps ran out before he could catch Chris Lattka who held on to take a well deserved first championship victory on Irish soil. Behind the top two it was Derek McMillan who earned the final podium spot and some reward for a frustrating weekend, with the top six completed by World Champion Gordon, another beset by niggling problems all weekend, Scottish visitor James Gray and Steven McKane who competed
National Hot-Rods 2013 World Qualifying Series Rd. 8
Murray in a hurry
The second half of the World Qualifying Series got underway on Good Friday with an encouraging 14 cars in attendance for Round 8. Andrew Murray marked his return to the series with a faultless hat-trick of victories which left the big names trailing in his wake. Points leader Gary Woolsey got closest to Murray in the second heat and hustled the race winner over the final few laps, but that was as near as anyone got to the Tullymore Road Motors backed Vauxhall Tigra all evening. Andy Cochrane followed Murray home in the final after a good drive in the CP Dynes Mercedes SLK, with 2005 World Champion Keith Martin in third. Martin desperately needs points to claw his way back into contention for a qualifying position at the World Final and three finishes in the top six positions at Raceway will have greatly helped the Dungannon driver’s cause. John Christie is another with work to do if he is to make the World Final grid, but the current Northern Ireland Champion failed to make up any ground on the leaders on this occasion. The top six drivers in the points chart go forward to represent Northern Ireland in the World Championships later in the season and after round 8 at Raceway those positions were occupied by Woolsey, Stewart Doak, Mark Heatrick, Glenn Bell, Adam Maxwell and Thomas Dilly.
Gary Blair got his season of to the perfect start with three wins from three starts in the opening round of the F2 Grand Prix Series on Easter Saturday. Problems for Conor Hughes in practice meant the former Irish Champion only made it on track for the final, while young Mark Rainey was even more unfortunate. The Junior Rod recruit damaged his engine in practice and was forced to sit out the entire meeting. The remaining nine runners lined up for heat one where Blair was right on it from the opening lap. The blue grader needed to be too, with star man Christopher Kincaid on his case, but Kincaid’s brave chase proved in vain during both heats. It looked like the tables would be turned in the final however when Kincaid finally managed to reel in his man. Just when it looked like Kincaid had the final won however his car cried enough and forced the Antrim lad into retirement which left the way clear for a happy Blair to complete his hat trick and establish a handy advantage at the top of the Grand Prix points chart. Ryan McCrory finished as runner-up in the final, with the top six completed by Hughes, William Murray, Craig McConnell and Matthew McCreight.
BriSCA F2 Stock-Cars 2013 Grand Prix Series Rd. 1
Blair bags treble
Group 2 Lightning-Rods
Doubles all round
The Group Twos were kept busy with six races over the weekend and it was three lower grade drivers who helped themselves to a brace of wins each. Jonny Gillespie proved to be the man to beat on Good Friday with a heat and final double in his immaculate Vauxhall Astra. The other race win on Friday evening fell to Greg McMullan after on the road winner Simon McLaughlin was issued with a two place penalty by the race steward for contact with long time leader Jonny Teggart during the final lap of the race. McLaughlin and Shane Gault followed Gillespie home in Friday’s final. Twenty-one cars took to the track on Easter Saturday where Rodney Fleck charged to an impressive brace of victories in the heat races. That double meant that Fleck was moved further down the grid for the final however and it was McMullan who marked himself down as one to watch again with a well taken victory in his new Vauxhall Astra. McLaughlin showed up well again in second, with Mark Turtle third across the line.
Brad does the biz
Bradley McKinstry saved his best for when it mattered most to leave Raceway with the silverware on Easter Saturday. After a seventh place finish in heat one, McKinstry improved to claim the runner-up spot in the second heat behind top girl racer Cara Wightman. It was heat one winner Patrick O’Boyle who made the early running in the final along with Adrian McConnell before the whole field was pulled up after a nasty rollover for Antony Kincaid. At the resumption McKinstry made a rocket start in his Vauxhall Nova to rip into the lead, with Irish Champion Dean McCrory tight on his back bumper. The pair fought out a great tooth and nail battle all the way to the chequered flag, with McKinstry holding his nerve to claim a fine win. McCrory was a very close second, with Aaron Moody completing the podium finishers in third. A very healthy entry of 15 cars took part in the junior events and once again the youngsters produced some fine racing.
This new class made their debut appearance in the province on Good Friday with four of the fledgling machines ready for their Raceway introduction. It was Billy Finnegan Jnr. who proved to be the class of the field, the County Down driver reeling off a hat-trick of wins in his potent Honda Civic. His father, Billy Snr., was the first ever Raceway Stock Car Champion back in 1977 and on this showing the Finnegan name will be returning regularly to the Raceway winner’s circle once again in 2013. Ballymena’s James Goldie was Finnegan’s nearest challenger on Good Friday and with a host of other cars nearing completion the promoters expect this class to grow steadily as the season progresses.
Driver of the Day
Good Friday – NHR #997 Andrew Murray
Andrew proved that the #997 Vauxhall Tigra goes just as well as it looks with a great hat-trick of wins. On this display Andrew is certainly a contender for one of the World Final ‘Wild Card’ slots on offer at the Ipswich Speedweekend support races.
Easter Saturday – Stock Rod #658 Chris ‘Gunner’ Lattka
Gunner has been a regular and popular visitor to Northern Ireland for many years, but a championship win on Irish soil had always eluded him. Chris put that right on Easter Saturday and joins a very select list of overseas drivers to have won a Stock Rod title in the province.