Kirkistown event kicks off racing season in style

Kirkistown event kicks off racing season in style

27 March 2024

THIS year’s Northern Irish motor racing season began in weather that varied between mild and depressingly damp at Kirkistown Racing Circuit on Saturday.

It was a packed programme for this opener, headlined by the Scottish Mini Coopers, who seem to love this fast flowing circuit. 

In the first of three races for these visitors, previous experience told a story.  The front runners were as expected. Oly Mortimer led for nine laps before being deposed by Jason Ballantyne. Two laps later, Chad Little, relieved Mortimer of second place.  Local man, Jack Irvine, had been second at the end of lap two before getting sidelined. 

However, he did set a new lap record for the class.

In the second of their races, Little took the lead on lap two but was closely followed by Mortimer. Ballantyne had a terrible opening lap, ping as low as sixth before beginning a fight back. 

By lap five, Mortimer had the lead and by lap six, Ballantyne was up to second and challenging. Over the final two tours the lead changed constantly between these two but it was Mortimer who crossed the line ahead. Little was third. Jack Irvine came from a starting position of eleventh, to finish fourth.

The final race for these cars was probably in the worst weather conditions.  The rain master was Daniel Patterson, who led from the second lap to the finish.  

Second and third places were a constant battle between Irvine and Ian Monro, with Irvine taking the higher placing.

The first Formula Vee race was for B and C grade drivers and nineteen cars took the start.  For the first half, at the front, it was all very non-Veeish, with Kieran Hannan establishing a clear lead.  

However, by lap nine, Ger Byrne and Robert Flemming had woken up and were pressurising Hannan.  Andy Keogh was also in the mix. 

Going into the final tour, Keogh took the lead from Flemming and held on to the end.  

A recovering Hannan took third. 

This field were joined by the A grade drivers for the second Vee race later in the day. Three of the top Irish Vee drivers disputed the lead throughout.  

Gavin Buckley took the win. Second was Jack Byrne and third was Colm Blackburn.

The Kirkistown Mini Coopers and Kirkistown Fiestas shared the grid for two races. 

In the first, Darren Gilmore took the lead before being challenged on lap three by Peter Bennett and Paul Stewart. 

On lap six, Bennett retired and Craig Gilmore took second place from Stewart. That was how it finished. 

In the Fiestas, Paul Larkham disputed the lead with Megan Campbell, from Strangford, before she retired on lap seven, leaving Paul to take his first ever win. 

In the second encounter for the Kirkistown Mini Coopers and Kirkistown Fiestas, Peter Bennett dominated in the wet conditions. 

Darren Gilmore had a very entertaining race-long battle with Paul Stewart, which he won.  The Fiestas put on an excellent show at the front between Megan Campbell and Neville Anderson. 

These two swapped places constantly before a very brave move at the John Crosslé Chicane went wrong and Campbell spun down to stone last. 

Surrounded by red mist, she drove brilliantly back through the field and within three laps she was second again to Anderson. 

There were not enough laps left for a second attempt at the lead and that was how they finished, with Stephen Walker taking another third place.

In the first of a combined Roadsports and Globals race, Steven Larkham made it two wins for the Larkham brothers. Mike Ward took second.  In the Globals, Peter Drennan won from Conor May.

In the second race, the results were the same in the Roadsports and Drennan won again in the Globals.

It was all change in the two Modi-5-Cup races for Mazda MX5s.  The first race was initially won by Rob Kennedy but he was excluded for a technical infringement. 

That left newcomer, Craig Ewing to claim first place.  

The second encounter was very entertaining to watch. On the final lap, Craig Ewing passed Damian Moran with a robust move at Debtor’s Dip, causing Moran to go off.  He then ambushed James Crowe with a wonderfully late manoeuvre to take the win.

After such a sparse season in 2023, it was great to have a healthy entry of 11 cars for the first of two FF1600 races.  

After the Martin Donnelly Trophy race in 2023, which Jordan Dempsey won, there sat an inconsolable young driver in his car. 

He knew he had thrown away a first great win, with an unnecessary mistake. His second place meant nothing to him.  This time Jason Smyth, made no mistakes, apart from a fluffed start.  Once he got going properly, he was passing for fun.  

In the second race, Smyth passed Jordan Kelly on lap one, and drove away. Kelly took a good second place.

The skies opened just as the Libre Saloons went to the grid for their first race and all were on slicks.  

Gavin Stanfield drove away from the field in his Subaru Impreza while Stephen Wright took his Seat Supercopa to second place.

The competitors expected the rain that fell for their second race and most changed to wet tyres. Interestingly, Stanfield was still on slicks.  This, and some inspired driving by Wright, allowed him to close to just over a second at the finish.

The next meeting is on Saturday, April 27, and sees the return of the amazing Superkarts. Also visiting on the bill will be Globals and Formula Sheanes.