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Dwane dominates Cairncastle Hill Climb weekend

Words by Graham Baalham-Curry.

The last weekend in June brings the greatly anticipated Cairncastle Hill Climb Festival. The two-day event set in the Mid and East Antrim Borough sees the top drivers of the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship visit Cairncastle for an adrenaline filled weekend of motorsport.

The Larne Motor Club event was once again supported by Laird Grass Machinery, APW Fire, Carey Cleaning Machines and Hawthorne Motors, and attracted sixty-one starters for the Friday and sixty-nine on the Saturday.

The two days of action are the same format each year as driver’s race up the 1.65-mile course with two practice and three timed runs. Competitors in seventeen different classes line up to conquer the popular hill and try beating class records.

As the longest hill throughout the whole of the United Kingdom and Ireland, this expanse of closed public road is not for the feint hearted. Progressing from tight and technical near the start line, the road opens to a speedy twisty section. From here, it’s only for the brave, as speeds climb beyond comprehension.


There was no shortage of applicants in pursuit of the crown this year. Robert Dwane, Ryan and Ricky McGimpsey, Gerard O’Connell, and ten-time NI Hillclimb champion, Graham Thompson all eager to push one another to the best of their abilities.

It was Rob Dwane who came, saw, and conquered. Coming all the way from Tulla, County Clare for his first ever visit to this iconic event, Dwane proved unstoppable. Young McGimpsey came within 0.63 seconds of Friday to finish second, with brother Ricky claiming the last step on the rostrum.

On Saturday, Graham Thompson could only get within one and a half seconds of the turbocharged OMS 25 of Rob Dwane to finish second overall, with a hard-charging Ryan McGimpsey just over one second adrift in third.

To be crowed on his first visit to Cairncastle is nothing short of mind blowing. Not only tipping an incredibly fast and talented Ryan McGimpsey to the post, but to sweep the throne from under the greatest of all time, Graham Thompson, should be widely celebrated such is the pace in this great sport.

Rob, who came within 0.11 seconds of the outright hill record set in 2017 commented after the event, “Larne Motor Club take a bow for one of the finest hillclimb events around! I have been chomping at the bit to get a go on this phenomenal piece of road and to come away with two Overall wins makes it all the better, thanks to everyone for a fun weekend on the hill and in the paddock.”


Records were broken at this years Saturday event thanks to impeccable weather and near-perfect road conditions. Then they were broken again!

In Class 2a – Road Going Series Production Cars over 1700cc 2WD only – Andrew Robb beat the class record, set by him in 2019, by 0.1 seconds at the helm of his BMW M3. In Class 6b – Modified Series Production Cars Multi valve 2WD only – the Suzuki Swift of driven by Dara Fay broke is own record, set in 2022, by 0.99 seconds.

In Class 7 – Modified Specialist Production cars 2WD only – Jack Boal broke his own record, set in 2022, buy 1.09 seconds in his GTR Hayabusa. In Class – 9a Sports Libre Saloon Sports GT Cars 2WD only – it was Daniel Campbell in his Toyota Starlet who broke Roger Gage’s record, set in 2022, by 0.66 seconds and then again by 1.27 seconds.

In Class 13 – Racing Cars complying with Formula VW or Club Formula Ford (FF1600) – Sean McNamara beat the class record, set in 2006 by Peter Morgan, by a mere 0.9 seconds in his Van Diemen RF93.

In Class 14 – Racing Cars up to 2000cc 8 valve or up to 1400cc Multi valve – It was Ryan McGimpsey who broke the class record, set by him in 2021, on both days. Friday saw the North Down driver shave a slender 0.6 seconds off the record, while on Saturday he took 1.63 seconds off the 2021 time.

The final record to be broken was in Class 16a – Road cars Historic Road Going Saloons and Sportscars – where Colin McDowell broke Michael Beattie’s record, set in 2005, by 0.89 seconds in his Morris Mini

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