After a long time away and a long time of staying at home, the wait is finally over. It has been 123 days since Motorsport last happened in Northern Ireland and Larne Motor Club has been preparing in the hope that restrictions would be lifted in time for the visit of the McMillan Specialist Cars Northern Ireland Autotest Championship.
When Thursday 15th of April arrived, Club members and motorsport enthusiasts patiently waited on the latest COVID restriction announcement from the Northern Ireland Executive. The news was what we had been planning for and our Autotest is a go.
Larne Motor Club will now host the first round of the Autotest Championship at TTS, Nutts Corner and will welcome back Motorsport in the province. The interest in the event has been overwhelming as entries quickly reached the 50 mark which is uncommon for the Autotest Championship. It shows that due the increasing popularity and demand for entries, Larne Motor Club as well as the Championship organising committee are moving the sport in the right direction.
Multiple Autotest Champion Steven Ferguson heads the entry list as he aims to obtain another title. Former champion Paul Blair returns to the driving seat and along with Robin Lyons they will be looking to ensure Steven doesn't have things all his own way. Another former champion Paul Mooney was hoping to return in the rear wheel drive car class and take the fight to the current rear wheel drive class champion Trevor Ferguson, however with his car not likely to reach the start he is looking at alternative options but will be one to keep an eye on.
Large saloon class champion Mark King will also be back in action and if everything falls into place for him he will also be looking to change a class victory to an overall win in his Nova. The championship is gearing up for an exciting start.
Running alongside the championship will be the Clubman Challenge which allows road going cars to tackle simple tests and mix with the experience of the championship competitors. 2019 challenge winner Gary Campbell has taken the step up into the championship. Hoping to reach the top of the 2021 challenge will be Jack Gillis in his Vauxhall Nova but Ian McCann and Jimmy Dougan will not make things easy for Jack.
In the advanced category of the Challenge it's great to see Northern Ireland Autotest Legend Robert Dickson return to a Larne Autotest in his popular Mini. The advanced category will also provide some great battles amongst a few former championship competitors, Ashley Lamont, Gareth Dillon, Noel Cochrane and Michael Workman are all ready to show their skills.
It's exciting as a club to host the first round of the championship and also welcome our great sport back. Sadly, due to the pandemic restrictions we will be missing our friends from the Republic of Ireland and spectators will also have to wait a little bit longer. The weather is looking great and things are shaping up to be a great return of motorsport.