Thompson conquers Cairncastle to remain King of the HIll.
As the excitement gathered around the Laird Grass Machinery Cairncastle Hill Climb Festival which one of the most popular rounds in the Millers Oils sponsored Northern Ireland Hill Climb Championship, Larne Motor Club quickly realised that the current spell of hot weather had potential to dampen the hard work that had already been carried out. Thanks to TOC Utilities, who sent the club a small roller, the club managed to keep on top of the melting road right up until the last car finished on the Saturday.
A record entry for both days of Cairncastle quickly increased the excitement that always gathers for the event, with King of the Hill Graham Thompson coming to keep his crown, Gerard O’Connell and Rory Stephens coming to battle in their Radicals and Derek McGeehan in his WRC Mini were just some of the exciting drivers coming to conquer Cairncastle. Unfortunately, there were some noticeable absences this year some of who were Davy and Mark Francis, Roger Gage and Ricky McGimpsey.
With hundreds of spectators coming to the Mid & East Antrim Borough for this popular event, Friday afternoon saw the drivers complete their practice runs and with the Clerk of the Course having to manage the hot road surface it was agreed the road was holding up and everyone set into the timed runs.
Class 1 sponsored by Complete Lifting Solutions saw Dennis Watson in his Citroen Saxo take the honours on Friday but Saturday saw Ray McClurg’s Citroen AX take the top spot from Dennis with a small margin of 0.31 seconds.
The ever popular Valentino’s Pizzeria sponsored class 2 saw drama after day one where class winner David Gibson had mechanical issues and with a little help the Escort sparked to life around 23:00. This class always provides a great battle and David once again over came the starter troubles to take the points for both days.
Paul Montgomery was the man who couldn’t be caught in the O’Hagan Crane Hire class 3 and it was the same for Gardner McIlwaine in the Rock Motor Works sponsored class 4 who held off an attacking Simon Nicholson from Lancashire both in Westfields.
The Northern Automation sponsored Class 5 saw the honours split with regular Cairncastle visitor Geoff Kidd taking the top spot on Friday and newcomer Godfrey McCartney taking first in class on the Saturday setting his best time of the weekend on his final run to the top.
A&R Autoparts who sponsored Class 6a would have been pleased to see the determination from class winner Stephen Harvey who despite his efforts was unable to take the class record this year but will be happy with top spot on both days despite Gordon Fogarty in his Fiat X1 9 chasing him hard.
The TOC Utilities class 9 was one of the greatly anticipated classes of the weekend as the two amazing Radicals of Gerard and Rory went screaming to the top. It was Gerard who not only took class victory for both days but beat Rory’s class record which he held since 2014.
Unfortunately it wasn’t an enjoyable weekend for anyone in a single seater as the hot road and soft tar made the conditions for each competitor very tricky and on the Saturday most decided to only complete one timed run.
However one man in his GTR single seater once again was a joy to watch up the 1.65 mile course and although his own outright hill record remained unbeaten, Graham Thompson once again is still the man to beat taking overall victories of the two day Laird Grass Machinery Cairncastle Hill Climb Festival.
Other class winners were Alan Cassells in his might 106, Brendan Flynn, Conor Lavery, David Hawthorne and David McClurg.
Larne Motor Club would like to thank all the competitors for their support and understanding on what was a difficult weekend, the marshals and officials, St John Ambulance and all the event sponsors but the biggest thanks must go to the residents of Cairncastle. Everyone plays a huge part in putting this great event together.