MotorSport Kirkistown 2023

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Reviews Of 2023 Race Meetings
By  Donal O’Neill

Also, please note: 
Would you like to get really close to the racing? The marshals at Kirkistown are highly trained experts at dealing with crashes, fires and flag communications. But they did not start out that way. Every single one began their marshalling journey knowing little or nothing about the vocation. Most of them just wanted to get closer to the racing!
If you are passionate about racing and would like to become one of the valued Kirkistown marshals, ring 028 42771325 and ask for Donal or email [email protected]. You will be invited along, introduced to Fel, our chief marshal, and she will tell you what is involved.

Malcolm Templeton Memorial Trophy
The Martin Donnelly and Emerson Fittipaldi Trophies Meeting
The Martin Donnelly and Emerson Fittipaldi Trophies
The Final Reckoning at Kirkistown
Championships Copper Fastened At Kirkistown.

August 2023Saturday 26th, the beautiful Malcolm Templeton Memorial Trophy being awarded at the Kirkistown car race meeting.
BOSS Ireland are the fastest cars in Ireland. They are largely Formula 2,  Formula 3 and World Series machines.  The current lap record at Kirkistown is 50.782 seconds and is held by Philip Shields in an GP2 Dallara.  If the weather is good, there is a fair chance that it might be beaten! 
One of the men who will be trying to do just that is Tony Greenan, from Hilltown, in a Dallara 317 Mercedes. Just a few weeks ago he defeated the entire British Sprint Championship entry at Kirkistown. 
Of course, Tony will face stiff opposition.  Top of the list is Paul O’Connell, from Limerick, in a Dallara T-02 NME Cosworth V8.  Paul has won The Malcolm Templeton Memorial Trophy at Kirkistown before, more than once. Then there is Noel Robinson, from Portadown, who is in a very competitive Dallara World Series machine, as is Martin Daly, from Dunshaughlin.  Another quick driver, this time in a Dallara F3-12, is Barry Rabbitt. 
The dark horses?  Well there is one and arguably two.  The first is the enigma who is Eamon Matheson, from Downpatrick.  Eamon is viewed by many, including this writer, as an engineering genius.  If he had been in charge of N.A.S.A. we would be living on Mars now!  He builds incredibly fast cars.  However, in his most recent machine, a Rihanna F3, he had a big off at the same British Championship Sprint that Tony Greenan won.  The car has required a rebuild.  If it is ready to his satisfaction, he will be in the hunt.  The second “Dark Horse” really should not be seen as such.  Jonathan Fildes, from Dunshaughlin, is one of the quickest drivers anywhere.  His Lola T96/50 is probably as fast as any other car in the field.  It is just that Jonathan always seems to make things difficult for himself, with niggling problems that put him on the back foot.  Who can forget his storming drive from the pit lane a few years ago in this same race.  Had he not had to start from the pit lane…

There is a good supporting bill, headed by the Kirkistown Minis.  This class has been the success story of 2023.  The man to beat will be Kian O’Brien, from Dundalk.  On past form, the “men-most-likely-to” will be Peter Bennett, from Tandragee,  Jack Conachy, from Newry, and Wayne Owens, from Downpatrick.  However, the Stewart brothers, Mark and Paul, from Belfast, are both past winners in Kirkistown Fiestas and will be trying to make their presence felt.  Another set of brothers are the Gilmores, Darren and Craig, from Lisnaskea and Ballyhalbert, respectively. They are both quick and still improving. Twelve cars take the grid for two races.
Keeping with the Mini theme, are the Mini Juniors, who are making their first visit to Kirkistown.  These are very slightly slower versions of the Kirkistown Minis but driven by 14 to 17 year olds!  There are only six of them but some names stand out. Kyle Irvine is the brother of Jack Irvine, who is a front runner in the Scottish Mini Championship.  Jack Fildes is the son of Jonathan. Enough said. Holly Dunnion, from Duleek, also has racing DNA.
The Modi-5-Cup Mazdas are producing good fields now but are still running with the somewhat depleted Kirkistown Fiestas. Top of the MX5 entry list is Francis Allen, from Moira.  Chasing him will be David Cousins, from Ballywalter, Rob Kennedy, from Culloville, and Damian Moran, from Newry. In the Fiestas, expect Portadown father and son team of Derek and Michael Graham to be at the pointy end, along with Strangford driver, Megan Campbell. 
The Saloons and GTs field is reasonable. In the Saloons, expect Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, to try to lead from the off. However, Downpatrick driver, Gareth Blaine, if he gets a good start, could be in the reckoning.  Patrick Corbett, from Castlewellan, is getting quicker with every outing in his Honda but David McMinn, in his fast diesel Seat, should be able to keep him at bay.  In the GT field, expect Paul McAlinden, from Warrenpoint, to be at the front, with John Linnane, from Kilmacanogue, giving chase.
The Roadsports field is sparse but full of talent. Uncle and nephew, Jim and Steven Larkham, both in Radical PR6 machines, should just be at the front but expect Mike Ward, from Youghal, in another PR6, to be right up there, along with Ivor “The Driver” Greenwood, from Dundrod, in a similar machine. Upholding the Crosslé challenge will be Bernard Foley, from Blackrock, in a 42S.
The entries for FF1600 and Formula Sheane were small, so both classes are on the same grid.  In the Sheanes, expect Richard Kearney, from Carlow, to be near the front, along with Keith Hogg, from Dublin.  In the NI FF1600s, David McCullough, from Ballymena, is the man with the target on his gearbox.  Aiming firmly for it will be Dave Parks, from Ballina, Morgan Quinn, from Dublin and Jordan Kelly, from Buncrana.
Top Class Entertainment At Kirkistown Circuit! 26 Auguist 2023
The racing at Kirkistown Circuit during the Malcolm Templeton Memorial Trophy Race Meeting on Saturday 26th August had everything any spectator could want to witness.  There was spectacle, speed, phenomenally skilful driving, drama and controversy during the day.
After the qualifying sessions earlier in the morning, the racing commenced with the first of the BOSS Ireland races.  Fourteen cars took to the grid and all eyes were on Paul O’Connell, from Patrickswell, who had qualified his 3.3 litre Dallara Cosworth on pole, by almost a second, ahead of local man, Tony Greenan, from Hilltown, in his 2.0 litre Dallara F317 Mercedes.  Greenan made the better start but it wasn’t long before O’Connell put the superior power of the Cosworth to work and he was leading at the end of lap one. Portadown driver, Noel Robinson, held a fairly secure third place in his 3.5 litre Dallara Renault.  Jonathan Fildes, from Dunshaughlin, had qualified his 3.5 litre Lola T96/50 in fourth but had a disastrous first lap, spinning down to twelfth place, necessitating a wonderful come-back drive.  O’Connell could never get away from Greenan completely, with the more nimble F317 closing the gap each lap through the bends at the top of the circuit, before the power of the Cosworth extended it again on the straights.  Barry Rabbitt, from Tara, in a 2.0 litre Dallara F312 established himself in fourth.  On lap five, Fildes had recovered up to fifth place and was chasing Rabbit down.  However, on lap eighteen, gremlins struck and the big Lola retired, promoting Shane Rabbitt, from Tara, in a 2.0 litre Tatuus FR, to fifth and the phenomenal Kayleigh Cole, from Cork, driving a tiny 1.0 litre Jedi Yamaha into sixth place!  That was how they finished with Paul O’Connell’s fastest lap on the 1.56 mile circuit 51.3 seconds.
Entertaining as it was, this was just the hors d’oeuvres for the Malcolm Templeton Memorial Trophy Race, held just after the lunch break.  The race was rather frantic.  Paul O’Connell sat on Pole with Tony Greenan beside him.  All eyes were on Greenan to see if he could get another rocket start but it was second row man, Jonathan Fildes, who shot into the lead! O’Connell’s tyres were done and he dropped to fifth, behind Greenan, Noel Robinson and Shane Rabbitt.  With separate clashes at Colonial One and The John Crosslé Chicane, including O’Connell spinning and coming to a halt in a dangerous position, the red flags came out on lap five. Tony Greenan’s car suffered a bent rear wing.  The front row for the restart was based on the running order on lap four.   Once again, Fildes made a great start! The race was well and truly on between two of Ireland’s most talented drivers.  Greenan was all over the back of the Lola at every corner but seemingly couldn’t make a successful move stick.  Noel Robinson and Shane Rabbitt were having a battle before Robinson spun down to last place. Meanwhile Dan Daly, from Dunshaughlin, in a 3.0 litre Lola Nissan T90, was having a mighty battle with Kayleigh Cole for fifth place.  Martin Daly, from Dunshaughlin, was making very steady progress from last place in his 3.5 litre Dallara Renault. Eventually, Greenan had to do something different and on the sixth lap he made the most incredible move around the outside of Fisherman’s Bend to pass the Lola and begin building a gap! Rabbit was in third place but Martin Daly had risen to fourth and had not given up. Robinson was also fighting back and on the penultimate lap he passed Cole for fifth place. On the final lap, Daly took the final podium position from Rabbit. And so it was that Tony Greenan became a fitting recipient of the Malcolm Templeton Memorial Trophy in 2023.

The other big success story of the day was the Kirkistown Minis.  This fledgling class produced fourteen cars and provided much good, clean, close racing.  In their first race, Peter Bennett, from Tandragee, got the better start over Kian O’Brien, from Dundalk. However, on the second lap, O’Brien got past and left Bennett to deal with the close attentions of Darren Gilmore, from Lisnaskea.  Wayne Owens, from Downpatrick, had a poor qualifying and was having to fight his way through the field. As you would expect from a tightly regulated class, the entire field was very evenly matched and there were constant battles going on. Car reliability issues took out Jack Irvine, from Carrickfergus, Chris Doherty, from Derry and Jack Conachy, from Newry.  On lap nine, Gilmore got past Bennett to secure second place.  Bennet held on to third.
In the second Kirkistown Mini race, once again, Bennett made the better start before O’Brien got past on lap two. That was the first two podium positions secure.  This time Jack Irvine had made his way through to third place before gremlins struck again.  Darren Gilmore, who had been in third place before Irvine passed him, reclaimed the place and held it to the finish.
The Modi-5-Cup races for Mazda MX5s produced some great racing.  In the first race Moira’s Francis Allen had a great battle with Rob Kennedy, from Culloville.  Similarly, John Stewart, from Bangor, had a constant battle for third place with Damian Moran, from Newry. Gregory Radcliffe, from Banbridge, established himself in fifth place quite early but sixth was hotly disputed throughout by Robert McAllister, from Antrim, and Jim Kennedy, from Culloville.  Robert Kennedy won on the road but was later disqualified due to a technical infringement.  That left Allen first, Moran second and Stewart third.  In the second race, it was Moran who had the pace, moving into the lead on lap two. McAlister relinquished second place to Allen on lap four.  Rob Kennedy was battling through from eighth at the start and he passed both Allen and Moran on lap eight, only to have his car expire a lap later!  That left Radcliffe, who had been having battles with half the field all through the race, to take the final podium position.
The Kirkistown Fiestas ran concurrently with the Mazdas. In race one there were battles throughout.  Keith Rabbitt, from Tara, had a great tussle with Derek Graham, from Portadown.  He took the win and Michael Graham, also from Portadown, passed his dad for second place on the penultimate lap. It was good to see Derry’s Grace McCallion having a great challenge with Carrickfergus driver, Michael Mulholland, even if it was for the final finishing position.  In the second race, the first three results were exactly as race one.
After a FF1600 driver delegation protested the new barriers at the John Crosslé Chicane, they were removed. In the first of the two following races, Buncrana driver, Jordan Kelly, was simply sublime.  His car control, especially through the aforementioned John Crosslé Chicane, was amazing.  While others were flirting with track limits, he wasn’t even using the kerbs!  While he was building his lead, Dave Parks, from Ballina, had demoted David McCullough, from Ballymena, from second place. Try as he did, he couldn’t reel Kelly in. Meanwhile, Morgan Quinn, from Kill, was giving McCullough a hard time, passing him on lap five.  McCullough reclaimed the final podium position on lap eleven and kept it to the end.  The second FF1600 race was red flagged on lap two when Parks and McCullough tangled on the front straight, while fighting for the lead, and ploughed into the pit wall. Neither driver was hurt but their cars were distinctly out of shape.  The pit wall was unmoved.  At the restart it was Kelly who took the lead.  This time Jason Smyth, from Celbridge, gave close chase, even borrowing the lead for laps six and seven, before Kelly stamped his authority on affairs.  This time Quinn got the final podium position.
The Kirkistown Fiestas ran concurrently with the Mazdas. In race one there were battles throughout.  Keith Rabbitt, from Tara, had a great tussle with Derek Graham, from Portadown.  He took the win and Michael Graham, also from Portadown, passed his dad for second place on the penultimate lap. It was good to see Derry’s Grace McCallion having a great challenge with Carrickfergus driver, Michael Mulholland, even if it was for the final finishing position.  In the second race, the first three results were exactly as race one.
After a FF1600 driver delegation protested the new barriers at the John Crosslé Chicane, they were removed. In the first of the two following races, Buncrana driver, Jordan Kelly, was simply sublime.  His car control, especially through the aforementioned John Crosslé Chicane, was amazing.  While others were flirting with track limits, he wasn’t even using the kerbs!  While he was building his lead, Dave Parks, from Ballina, had demoted David McCullough, from Ballymena, from second place. Try as he did, he couldn’t reel Kelly in. Meanwhile, Morgan Quinn, from Kill, was giving McCullough a hard time, passing him on lap five.  McCullough reclaimed the final podium position on lap eleven and kept it to the end.  The second FF1600 race was red flagged on lap two when Parks and McCullough tangled on the front straight, while fighting for the lead, and ploughed into the pit wall. Neither driver was hurt but their cars were distinctly out of shape.  The pit wall was unmoved.  At the restart it was Kelly who took the lead.  This time Jason Smyth, from Celbridge, gave close chase, even borrowing the lead for laps six and seven, before Kelly stamped his authority on affairs.  This time Quinn got the final podium position.
The Formula Sheanes ran concurrently with the FF1600s.  In the first race Richard Kearney, from Carlow, had a five second victory over Dublin’s Keith Hogg. Vinny Keogh, also from Dublin, was a distant third.  In the second race Hogg had the better of Kearney the whole way. Keogh took third again.
Steven Larkham, from Ballycarry, took two wins, ahead of his uncle, Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, in two poorly supported Roadsports races. In the second race, Mike Ward, from Youghal, took third place.  There were no other finishers in either race.
In the first Libre Saloons and GT race, Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, led from start to finish. Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick, was second and David McMinn, from Kells was third. The best racing action concerned brothers Keith and Greer Wray, who traded places in their BMW 330i machines, with Greer, from Lisburn, finally getting the better of Keith, from Dundonald.  John Linanne, from Kilmacanogue, was in the only GT and he finished fourth on the road.  In the second race, neither Baxter nor Linnane finished.  Blaine took the win from McMinn.  Once again the Wray brothers provided the entertainment, with Greer, as in race one, gaining the upper hand.
In the first of two ICCR Junior Mini Challenge races, Bobby Joe McFall, from Bushmills, took the win, having come from the back of the grid. Logan Hoey, from Dundalk, took second place and Holly Dunnion, from Duleek, having battled all race long with Jack Fildes, from Dunshaughlin, was third. In the second race, Kyle Irvine, from Carrickfergus, led for a few laps before McFall came through again for another win. This time Dunnion got the better of a race long battle with Hoey, to take third place.
Racing aside, the volunteers from OG NI had their van and stall present once again. While they did collect some money from spectators and drivers, that was not their primary purpose.
Their raison d’être is to help make people aware of the early symptoms of Oesophageal Cancer, when it can often be treated successfully.  A large team of volunteers, most of whom are OG survivors, talked to many people throughout the day.

The Martin Donnelly and Emerson Fittipaldi Trophies Meeting.

It has come back to that time of year where two of the top classes at Kirkistown compete for the main trophy in their respective seasons, this Saturday 30thSeptember 2023.
Firstly, the Formula Vee drivers are chasing the Emerson Fittipaldi trophy, which was donated to the class many years ago by the ex-Formula 1 World Champion. Twenty drivers have entered, including the on-form Colm Blackburn, from Ballyfermot, and multiple previous winner, Anthony Cross, from Bohernabreena. These two will be joined at the front by Gavin Buckley, from Dublin, Jack Byrne, from Tinahely, and “The Find of 2023”, Ronan Doherty, from Dunloy, among others.
Omagh tyre supplier, Bill Adair, has donated a brand new set of tyres for the winner of the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy. The 500MRCI are also putting up a further two sets, which will go to the winner of the B and C classes, assuming, and it’s not a given, that one of them doesn’t win overall!
Next, we have the Martin Donnelly Trophy which is for FF1600 drivers.  This is always a closely fought race and drivers such as Noel Robinson, from Portadown, come out of the woodwork to go for glory. Noel is a previous winner. Joining him in the twelve car field will be another previous winner, David McCullough, from Ballymena.  Other top contenders will be The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson, Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar, Jason Smyth, from Celbridge, and Trevor Delaney, from Carrickmacross.
Avon Competition Tyres are sponsoring a new set of tyres for the Martin Donnelly Trophy winner and the 500MRCI are also providing a further two sets for the second and third placed drivers.  All three sets are to be picked up at the upcoming BRSCC Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch on Sunday 22nd October.
There is a full supporting programme, including the Superkarts, which will be the fastest machines at the circuit on Saturday.  Top of the list of drivers in the 250cc class is Brian Jones, from Craigavon, who is going through a purple patch at the moment.  Chasing him will be Liam Fox, from Moira, Richard Dewart, from Waringstown, and Alan Crossen, from Comber, among others. Crossen is very quick but has been plagued by unreliability recently. In the 125cc class watch out for Aaron Newell, from Ballygowan, Scott Greenaway, from Gilford, and Noel Lindsay, from Hillsborough, among others.  In all, there are seventeen entrants across the two classes, so each of their three races will be a treat to watch.

The combined Saloons and GT races should be good to watch as well. At the front of the field should be Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick and Paul Power, from Newry, all in Seat Supercopas. Gavin Kilkey, from Derry, and Patrick Corbett, from Castlewellan, are having their first races in Seat Supercopas, so while they will be quick, these cars take a bit of getting used to, and I doubt they will be troubling the top three.  They may be troubled themselves by David McMinn, from Kells, in his very rapid diesel Seat Ibeza.  Once again, the Wray brothers, Keith, from Dundonald, and Greer, from Lisburn, should put on an entertaining show in their BMW 330i machines.  In the GT class, keep an eye on Stephen Conn, from Armagh, Paul McAlinden, from Warrenpoint, Joe Yates, from Holywood, Raymond Finnegan, from Kilcoole, and John Cardoo, from Naas, all in Wildcats.  Both classes combine to form a mixed, fourteen car grid, so expect close racing throughout the field.
Another combined grid is formed by the Roadsports, N.I.7evens and Globals.  This is now a traditional rolling start race. Expect Steven Larkham, from Ballycarry, his uncle Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, Michael Ward, from Youghal, Ivor “The Driver” Greenwood, from Dundrod, all in Radical PR6 machines, to head the field. Keeping them honest will be John Benson, from Holywood, in a Crosslé 37S and Bernard Foley, from Blackrock, in a Crosslé 42S. You should also expect an interloper from the NI 7even class to be mixing it with these guys.  This year, Graham Moore, from Newtownards, has been outstanding in his GMS Fireblade. Chasing him should be Paul Thompson, from Banbridge, in a Raw NI7, and the Francis brothers, Mark and Richard, from Donaghadee, among others. In the Globals, watch out for Richard Finlay, from Larne, Charlie Linnane, from Kilmacanogue and Jack Finlay, from Ballyclare. In all, the total field consists of twenty cars and there will be action aplenty.
Eleven Mini Coopers will take to the grid. These cars are very evenly matched and provide great racing. Top driver, Kian O’Brien, is missing this time. However, it will still be tight at the front. Any one of seven drivers could win and, given a bit of good fortune, that number could include all eleven. If his car is sorted, Jack Conachy, from Newry could just shade it from Peter Bennett, from Tandragee. However, the Gilmore brothers, Craig and Darren, and the Stewart brothers, Paul and Mark, may disagree.
If they all turn up on the day, the Modi-5-Cup Mazda MX5s will have their biggest ever grid of ten cars. The man to beat is Francis Allen, from Moira. Trying to do just that will be David Cousins, from Ballywalter, and Damian Moran, from Newry, both of whom have won races this season. The “dark horse” is an excellent driver from Banbridge, Mark Crawford, who is having his first outing in this class. The Fiestas are on the same grid and they are fielding nine cars. Top of the list are father and son, Derek and Michael Graham, from Portadown. As ever, Strangford driver, Megan Campbell, will be keeping them on their toes. Shane Rabbitt, from Dunsany, was in the mix last time and should be again. 
Qualifying starts at 8:45 am with the first race at 11:00am. Admission for spectators is £15 for age sixteen and over.  Under sixteens are fee.

Bill Adair is sponsoring tyres for the Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy winner.

Doherty Dominates In The Dreich!

To say that the weather was inclement at Kirkistown on Saturday 30th September would be an understatement.  Qualifying sessions for The Martin Donnelly and Emerson Fittipaldi Trophies race meeting, featuring cars and superkarts, took place in dryness but by Midday, the rain had arrived.
By the time the first feature race for The Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy was ready to go, the track surface was wet, with many puddles. The trophy was donated to the Irish Formula Vees by the Ex-F1 World Champion, many years ago.
Ronan Doherty, from Dunloy, had made his intentions clear by winning the first Formula Vee race earlier in the day.  Current holder and multiple Formula Vee Champion, Anthony Cross, from Bohernabreena, was second and another ex-champion, Dan Polley, from Dublin, was third. Colm Blackburn, from Dublin, Jack Byrne, from Tinahely, and Gavin Buckly, from Dublin, rounded out the top six. When the start lights went out in The Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy race, it was Polley who got the better start from Doherty. Byrne was a clear third, with Blackburn chasing.  Because of the dire conditions, there was less of the cut and thrust normally associated with Vee racing.  By the time the first car reached Maguire’s Hairpin it was Doherty in the lead.  He began to pull away from Polley who was now watching behind for Byrne (There was no point watching in front because he couldn’t see anything through Doherty’s spray!).  Cross had made a poor start and was coming from ninth. By lap three, he was up to seventh.  On lap five, Byrne passed Polley and set off after Doherty, lapping faster.  Cross was now fifth.  Byrne was closing the gap to Doherty but very slowly.  Blackburn had been fourth from the start but on lap seven Cross passed him.  On lap ten, Cross demoted Polley.  And that was it. On the final lap, no one could catch the Formula Vee rookie and so Ronan Doherty became the first Ulster driver in many years to win the coveted Emerson Fittipaldi Trophy.  Jack Byrne was second and Anthony Cross was third.  Dan Polley was fourth. Gavin Buckley had a fairly quiet race to fifth, passing Colm Blackburn on lap eight.
Bill Adair, from S.W. Adair Tyres in Omagh, had put up a new set of race tyres for the winner. The 500MRCI had put up two more sets for the best placed B and C class drivers. However, since Doherty was the best placed C driver, it was felt that a set should go to the second best placed C driver and that was Stephen Morrin, from Clane.  Jack Byrne was the best placed B driver.  Fastest lap, unsurprisingly, went to Anthony Cross. He collected €150 from commentator, Alan Drysdale, for that feat.
The other feature race was The Martin Donnelly Trophy race for Formula Ford 1600s.  Noel Robinson, from Portadown, had qualified fastest of all but it was Jordan Dempsey, from Mullingar who won the first FF1600 race earlier. Jason Smyth, from Celbridge, had finished second and The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson, took third place. Robinson could only make fourth place ahead of Mark McKenna, from Swords, and David McCullough, from Ballymena.  When it came to The Martin Donnelly Trophy race, it was seventeen year old Smyth who led going into the second lap.  Davidson had passed Robinson and Dempsey to take second place. For the next six laps Davidson kept Dempsey behind but he had a developing car problem. Meanwhile McCullough and Robinson were having a great battle, swapping places regularly.  On lap five McCullough began to pull away from Robinson, setting off after the Dempsey/Davidson battle.  On lap nine, Dempsey finally got the better of Davidson on the entrance of Maguire’s Hairpin.  In clear air he began to close on Smyth. By lap eleven he was right on Smyth’s gearbox, applying massive pressure to the young man in front of him.  McCullough had now passed an ailing Davidson, for third place and was catching the two in front. On lap fourteen, Smyth’s composure cracked for a second, running him wide at Colonial One and letting Dempsey through to win the Martin Donnelly Trophy a lap later. Smyth was second and was inconsolable in Parc Fermé.  McCullough was third.  Davidson retired on lap thirteen, leaving Robinson to take another fourth. McKenna was fifth and Philip Harris, from Ballynahinch rounded out the top six.

There was a full supporting programme, including three Superkart races.

In the first, the current “Man-In-Form”, Brian Jones, from Craigavon, shot into the lead, closely chased by Alan Crossen, from Comber and Liam Fox, from Moira. All of these were in 250cc machines.  In the 125cc class it was Ballygowan’s Aaron Newell who took the lead, chased by Comber’s Stuart Coey and Cashel’s Eoin Ryan.  Unfortunately both Jones’ and Newell’s machines stopped. That left Crossen to take the 250cc win, from Fox and Lurgan’s Richard Dewart. Coey won the 125cc class from Craigavon’s Scott Greenaway and Dollingstown’s Philip Mills.
In the second superkart race Brian Jones won, after a good battle with Richard Dewart. This time Alan Crossen was third.  In the 125cc class, Stuart Coey won from Scott Greenaway and Hillsborough’s Noel Lindsay.
In the final superkart encounter,  the result of the 250cc class was exactly the same as race two, but this time the battle was for second as Brian Jones cleared off into the distance. Stuart Coey took the 125cc win from Scott Greenaway but this time it was Geoffrey Simms, from Mountnorris, who took third.
Seventeen cars took part in the combined Modi-5-Cup Mazda MX5 and Kirkistown Fiesta race, with, for the first time, more Mazdas than Fiestas included.  Francis Allen, from Moira, led from start to finish, while Ballywalter’s David Cousins, spun to the rear of the entire field on lap two.  That left Newry’s Damian Moran to chase Allen.  Mark Crawford, from Banbridge, who had sat in his car for the first time that morning, was in a very competitive third place.  In the Fiestas, Portadown’s Derek Graham was leading from his son, Michael, with Shane Rabbitt, from Dunsany, in third place.  By the end of lap four Cousins had fought his way back to seventh, Rabbitt had already passed Derek Graham and was about to pass Michael.  On lap seven, Crawford took second place overall and Cousins was up to fourth. Derek Graham was back in the lead of the Fiestas, with Megan Campbell, from Strangford, in third place. On lap ten, Cousins took third place from Moran. Rabbitt was leading again in the Fiestas and Michael Graham was back in front of Campbell.  That was how it finished one lap later.
In the second race Derek Graham and Shane Rabbitt had a great battle in the Fiestas, with Rabbitt, again, getting the win.  Michael Graham was third.  For the first seven laps the Modi-5-Cup race was highly entertaining, with places changing all the time among Gregory Radcliffe, from Banbridge, Damian Moran, Stuart Annesley, from Holywood, Mark Crawford, David Cousins and Francis Allen.  By lap eight it had settled down with Cousins in the lead, Allen second and Moran third. That was how it finished.
In the first combined Roadsports/N.I.7evens/Globals race, Ballycarry’s Steven Larkham led his Uncle Jim from start to finish.  Mike Ward, from Youghal, was in a safe third until he had a spin on lap seven. That allowed, Donaghadee driver, Mark Francis, from the NI 7evens, into third overall. On lap eight, Graham Moore, from the NI 7evens, took over third place. However, on the final lap, Ward, who had been battling hard to get back, relieved Moore of the position. Moore took first in the N.I.7evens, from Francis and Paul Thompson, from Banbridge. A race long battle took place among the Globals, with Peter Drennan, from Navan, winning ahead of Pat Murphy, from Monaghan, and James Thompson, from Crosstown.
In the second race for these classes, Steven Larkam took the win from Mike Ward, with Jim Larkham in third place. Graham Moore, again, won the N.I.7even section from Mark Francis. Paul Thompson was third again.  In the Globals, Cameron Fenton took the win from Peter Drennan and Richard Finlay, from Larne.
The Kirkistown Mini Coopers produced another twelve car grid.  Racing was frenetic but clean, right down the field. Darren Gilmore, from Lisnaskea, was sixth at the end of lap two, yet he battled his way through to take his first win in the class!  Johnny Titterington, from Ballygowan, also had a great run, leading from lap eight until being passed by Gilmore on the final tour.  Tandragee’s Peter Bennett led for the first seven laps before succumbing to, first, Titterington and then Gilmore.  In the second race, Bennett again led for nine laps this time, before being passed by both Titterington and Gilmore on lap ten.  He did get back past Gilmore on the final run to the line. Thus, we had another first time winner in Johnny Titteringtom.
The first combined Saloons and GT race was red flagged after a nasty crash at Maguire’s hairpin on the first lap.  Both Dundonald driver Keith Wray’s BMW and Kilcoole driver, Raymond Finnegan’s Wildcat were too badly damaged to continue.  The drivers were taken off in the medical unit for examination and were later released with advice that they would be very sore the next day!  On the restart, Dungiven’s Gerard O’Connell left from the rear of the grid in his SHP Escort.  At the end of the first lap he had passed twelve other cars for the lead! Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, was in second place in his Seat Supercopa. Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick, was third in a similar machine. On lap five, Blaine passed Baxter for second on the road and first in the Saloons. Gavin Kilkey, from Derry, also in a Supercopa, passed Baxter as well.  The places did not change after that.  Second in the GT class went to John Cardoo, from Naas, and third was Stephen Conn, from Armagh.
In the second race for these classes, O’Connell dominated again, although this time it took him five laps to pass Blaine for the lead. Baxter finished second on the road but was penalised five seconds for repeatedly exceeding track limits, dropping him to third overall and second in the Saloons.  Third in the Saloons went to Patrick Corbett, from Castlewellan, driving Peter Baxter’s other Supercopa.  In the GTs, Joe Yates, from Holywood, took second place ahead of John Cardoo in third.
The final race meeting of the season takes place on Saturday 21st of October and will feature all of the car classes based at Kirkistown.

The Final Reckoning At Kirkistown 2023

The end of the motor racing season at Kirkistown comes a little later than normal in 2023 because of a calendar issue earlier in the year. Thus, the final race meeting is on Saturday 21stOctober.
There are no visiting classes but, in most cases, there is a good turnout of local talent.
The Kirkistown Minis have entertained royally all year. There are eleven on the grid this time. It will be very close at the front. First time winners at the September meeting, Johnny Titterington, from Ballygowan, and Darren Gilmore, from Lisnaskea, are both entered. Expect strong opposition from the Stewart brothers, Mark and Paul, both from Belfast, and Peter Bennett, from Tandragee. If Wayne Owens, from Downpatrick, can keep it on the black stuff, he will be up at the front as well.
The Saloons Championship has yet to decided and, this time, there are three races for this class because of a cancelled race earlier in the season. The two contenders for the Championship are Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick, and Peter Baxter, from Lurgan. Blaine currently has a 50 point advantage, with 66 points available, so it is a tough ask for Baxter. In the Saloon mix are a number of drivers capable of getting in the way of both of these men. Paul Parr, from Newry and Gavin Kilkey, from Derry, are both in similar Seat Supercopa cars. Expect them to be up there.
The GT class is running concurrently with the Saloons.  Stephen Conn, from Armagh, has a 31 point advantage in the championship over Paul McAlinden, from Warrenpoint. Once again, there are 66 points on the table.
The Modi-5-Cup Mazda MX5 race features a record equalling ten cars, which combined with a further three Kirkistown Fiestas, provides a good grid.  Francis Allen, from Moira, has already sown up the Championship but he will still be looking for another win. Main opposition should come from David Cousins, from Ballywalter, and Damian Moran, from Newry. In the Fiestas, expect a good dice between Strangford driver, Megan Campbell, and Helensburg driver, Stephen Walker.
There are seven entered for the Roadsports races. Top of the list is Steven Larkham, from Ballycarry.  His main opposition will come from Mike Ward, from Youghal.  There is a strong N.I. 7even contingent. Watch out for Ethan Campbell, from Strangford, Brian Crawford, from Lisburn and Allen Millar, from Loughgall.
At the time of writing, there are only three FF1600 cars entered and yet, this is a championship round.  Currently, Alan Davidson, from Randalstown, is third in the championship, 34 points behind Ballymena’s David McCullough, who has not entered! Neither has second placed driver, Jordan Kelly, who will be at Brands Hatch. With 44 points available, Davidson could clinch the championship!
Qualifying will start at 9:15am with racing starting around 11:00pm.

Championships Copper Fastened At Kirkistown.

The final car race meeting of 2023 at Kirkistown Circuit took place on Saturday 21st October.  Although there were only eleven races, the competition was excellent.
Because of a cancelled race earlier in the season the Libre Saloons and GTs had three races. Thus, they opened proceedings, had a race in the middle and then closed the meeting.  In qualifying, one of the favourites and a title challenger, Peter Baxter, from Lurgan, suffered an engine compartment fire and withdrew from the meeting.  Race one caught out many drivers on slick tyres when a shower of rain came on at the start.  Paul Parr, from Newry, had anticipated the rain and had wets on his Seat Supercopa. He duly ran away from the field. Patrick Corbet, from Castlewellan, in a similar machine finished second.  Gareth Blaine, from Downpatrick, took a careful third place in another Supercopa. This was enough to secure the 2023 Championship title.  Joe Yates, from Holywood, was the first GT home.
In the second Libre Saloons and GTs race, the results were exactly the same, in both classes, as race one.  In race three, although the Libre Saloon result was the same as the previous two, the battle at the front between Parr and Corbett was intense, with Parr just shading it by 0.237 seconds at the finish!  John Newport, from Armagh, was the first GT home.
The Randalstown Rocket, Alan Davidson, won the first Formula Ford race, after Ballymena’s David McCullough was excluded for a technical infringement.  This left the championship more open. Going into race two, Davidson was 16 points behind McCullough with 21 on the table.  However, McCullough made no mistakes, leading from start to finish, to win the race and the 2023 championship.

The Kirkistown Minis fielded 12 cars and provided two excellent races. In race one Darren Gilmore, from Lisnaskea, had a race long battle with Peter Bennett, from Tandragee, with the decision going in Gilmore’s favour.  Ben McFall, from Bushmills, battled his way through from sixth place to take the final podium spot.  In race two, the results were reversed, with Bennett taking the win from Gilmore. Paul Stewart, from Belfast, was third.
The Modi-5-Cup Mazdas fielded a record equalling ten cars, which bodes well for next season.  They ran with five Kirkistown Fiestas.  In race one, already crowned 2023 Champion, Francis Allen, from Moira, dropped down the order in the first three laps from first to fourth. Rob Kennedy, from Crossmaglen, rose up the order from fourth to second to challenge the leader, David Cousins, from Ballywalter.  These two swapped places right to the flag, with Cousins less than one second ahead. Newry man, Damian Moran, took third place.  In the Fiestas, Megan Campbell, from Strangford, spun out of the lead on lap two.  However, over the next seven laps, she fought her way back to the front to win from Helensburg driver, Stephen Walker, and Paul Larkham, from Carrickfergus.
The Modi-5-Cup reverse the grid for the second race. It took David Cousins eight laps to pass Francis Allen for the lead. Rob Kennedy also passed Allen a lap later but lost the place again on lap twelve. He was also passed by Damian Moran, who took another third place.  Megan Campbell took another win in the Fiestas, from Stephen Walker. This time Henry White, from Richhill, took third place.
The Roadsports only had seven entrants over two classes but the racing was mighty, particularly between Stephen Larkham, from Ballycarry, and his uncle, Jim Larkham, from Newtownabbey, These two swapped places for the lead throughout race one. In the end, on the final corner, Jim made an audacious move around the outside of Stephen and then won the drag race to the finish line. Mike Ward, from Youghal, took third place.  In the N.I.7even class there was a great battle between Ethan Campbell, from Strangford, Allen Millar, from Loughgall and Brian Crawford, from Lisburn. It, too, was resolved on the final lap in favour of Campbell. Crawford was second with Millar third.  In race two, it took six laps for Stephen Larkham to establish a lead, which he would extend to the end while his Uncle Jim and Mike Ward were tripping over each other. At the finish, Mike Ward took second place ahead of Jim.  It was genuinely good to see Crossgar’s Barney Casement finish in fourth place.  He has had little luck in 2023.  In the N I 7evens, Allen Millar won, ahead of Brian Crawford, with Ethan Campbell third.
It has been a good season at Kirkistown.  This weekend’s Sprint on Saturday 28th brings the car competition to a close.
The 500MRCI would like to thank all the marshals, medics, officials, competitors and spectators who attended the circuit this year.  We all look forward to a cracking 2024 season.
The Championship Awards Evening takes place at the Beechlawn Hotel, Dunmurry, on Saturday 6th January 2024. This isn’t just for the winners. Everyone is welcome. Tickets available from the 500MRCI.

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