Author - Derek Smyth
The third round of the 2021 Northern Ireland Autotest Championship, sponsored by McMillan Specialist Cars of Antrim, took place on Saturday June 5 at the Transport Training Services Centre, Nutts Corner. Organised by Larne Motor Club, just as Round 1 had been, and run at the same venue as Round 1, it came as little surprise that the overall winner was the same too. Steven Ferguson is simply in a class of his own.
Three tests were set by the experienced Colin Earney, tight and challenging for the Championship contenders to be done four times, and a little more open version of each (and easier to remember) for the Clubmen and Advanced categories to be done three times. This format works quite well, and the use of Stopastride Live results service made it easy to keep track of how the competition was developing.
Of the Championship contenders, Paul Mooney was to have an early exit. After completing three runs of the first test, he decided to change the rear tyres on his Westfield sports car, only to discover that the rear suspension mountings were on the verge of failure and he would take no further part.
Another mechanical failure befell Andy Blair in his Vauxhall Nova. A constant-Velocity joint would let go on the third run at the first test, and to heap insult on injury, another similar failure would hit him just two tests later. Despite the heavy penalties for failing to complete these two tests, Andy would still take the runners-up spot in his class ahead of Damien Mooney, George McMillan and Gary Campbell.
The star of this class however was Mark King. Well out of sight from the rest of his class, Mark managed to take second place overall on the event, sandwiched between the Mini Specials of Steven Ferguson and Robin Lyons, with James Wilson in fourth place, also in a Mini Special.
Jonni McDaid, from Castlederg, and Andrew Earney battled it out for the small saloon class in their Minis, with Jonni winning comfortably and taking fifth place overall.
It was good to see Darren Quille making the trip North to join in the competition in his Sports car. With no competitions South of the Border for over a year now, Darren was glad to get a run out. He had Trevor Ferguson as a benchmark in his class and couldn’t quite match the pace of the flying Stewartstown man in his Stryker Salvia. Even with a 20 second penalty on the very last test, Trevor would still end up 15 seconds clear, and seventh place overall.
In the Clubman Category, for those with limited experience of Autotest, Jack Gillis again came out on top in his purposeful Vauxhall Nova. Closest to Jack in his class was young Adam McMullan in his unusual Toyota Starlet special. Gordon Buckley, perhaps a bit on the experienced side for the Clubman Category, was the only competitor in Sportscar Class B and ended up in third place overall behind Jimmy Dougan.
Only three competitors signed up for the Advanced Category. Robert Dickson was easily the winner ahead of Gareth Dillon and Robert Robinson.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the event ran well and only the weather conspired to make life a little difficult with a massive downpour just as the Championship competitors moved to their final test. Fortunately it affected all competitors more or less equally. Steven Ferguson would look to be on a trajectory to take the Northern Ireland Championship title, while Mark King continues to put his Vauxhall Nova in among the Mini Specials.
McMillan Specialist Cars
Northern Ireland Autotest Championship
Round 3 - Larne Motor Club
Overall Winner - Steven Ferguson
Class A - Steven Ferguson
Class B - Trevor Ferguson
Class C - Jonni McDaid
Class D - Mark King
Class A - Jack Gillis
Class B - Gordon Buckley
Class C - Jimmy Dougan
Class D - George McMillen
Class A - No Competitors
Class B - No Competitors
Class C - Robert Dickson
Class D - Gareth Dillon