The 500 MC managed to persuade the organisers of the FF1600 Golden Helmet to move their event to Kirkistown for 2006, and with the resurgent form of the class on this Ireland, it made perfect sense.
In heat one, Morgan Dempsey made no mistake to bring his self-run Swift S92 home well ahead of the pack, with Noel Robinson heading the pursuers in his Van Diemen RF92. The excitement was always going to be centred round heat two, though, with most of the Southern series regulars finding themselves in this one. Circuit specialist Noel Dunne was on pole but the times were incredibly close. At the flag, it was a delighted Paul Dagg at the head of the field, having just displaced John Ferguson in his new Ray with the improving Robert Cregan next up in the CDR Swift. Dunne had been caught up in a shunt which eliminated both Neville Smith and Alan Dwyer at Colonial mid race. Dunne managed to re-join but finished well down the order, giving himself a lot of work to do in the final. As ever Rory Farrell was harassing far more modern machinery in his elderly Crossle 45F, even managing to take fastest lap en route to fourth!!
This put Dempsey on pole for the final with Dagg alongside. All eyes were on Dunne back in mid grid though, with the sneaking suspicision that he might join the leaders before long. Unfortunately, Dagg, didn’t appear on the grid, an engine problem keeping him in the assembly area. Dempsey found himself all alone on the front row and duly led away, with Ferguson right with him. Dunne, predictably, made a stunning start, splitting the row ahead of him and then launching the VTL Van Diemen down the outside of the pack. Somehow, he emerged from Fishermans in fourth and Dempsey and Ferguson knew they had a battle on their hands. Dunne managed to tow by Ferguson on the back straight but Ferguson somehow then managed to outbrake both Dunne and Dempsey into the hairpin! Dempsey got alongside on the exit and just took it back at Colonial having braved it out around the outside at Debtors. This was the pattern for the remainder of the race with the lead changing every lap on the back straight and again by the start finish line on most tours!! With two laps to go, Dunne hit the front and this time went onto defensive mode for the first time, taking the inside line into the hairpin and again into Colonial. The tactic was effective and the others couldn’t penetrate his defences so Dunne it was who took the Golden Helmet after a superb drive, from Dempsey and Ferguson.
Jackie Cochrane’s Tiger is rarely challenged at Kirkistown, the other HRCA competitors having no answer to the big V8’s straightline speed. There was an interloper on the front row alongside him this time, however, as Kirkistown regular Jim Hutcheson’s ex-works Broadspeed Anglia joined the fun. When the lights changed, Hutcheson got the jump but be Debtors, Cochrane had re-asserted himself in the lead. Hutcheson, wasn’t letting it go too easily however, and used the superior braking and cornering ability of the diminutive Anglia to challenge the Tiger hard over the opening laps. The Anglia began to misfire though, and by mid-race Hutcheson had parked at Debtors, leaving Cochrane leading by over half a lap. In his wake, daughter Pamela was pushing hard in her MGBGTV8, fighting off a challenge from the recovering Paul Gray, whose immaculate Porsche had survived a hairy spin in front of the pack at the chicane on lap one, and closing the gap to Ed Cassidy’s smokey Tiger in the process. Suddenly, with just a few laps to run, the leading Tiger disappeared from the lap charts, Jackie pulling over with a rare transmission fault. With just a lap to run, Pamela had displaced Cassidy from second, which now became the lead, with Gray right with them both. They crossed the line in that order with young Cochrane understandably delighted with her first win. “Maybe dad’ll buy me a new set of tyres now, those are three years old!”, she quipped afterwards, “Or maybe I should just take over the Tiger!! On handicap, the well-driven MGB of Paul Crosbie took the honours from Pamela Cochrane and Ed Cassidy
Dunlop Supercars made their second visit of the season to the Ards peninsula and for the second time, Michael Leonard Jnr qualified his ex-Jonathan Fildes car on pole position. Rod McGovern was alongside with Johnny Whelan next up. In fourth was Erik Holstein, out for a spin in David Hall’s Crozier run car, with fellow “newbie” Alan Dawson also upsetting the regulars by qualifying fifth in the Sean Woods Racing rental car. Just before the cars left the assembly area, the heavens opened and as they completed the warm up lap, it was obvious that there was a lot of standing water on the track. When the lights changed and the spray eventually cleared, it was McGovern leading with Dave O’Brien coming from nowhere to challenge him and Holstein right with them both. Leonard and Whelan had both had spins and were at the tail of the field. Holstein displaced O’Brien but Dave fought back, retaking the place on the approach to Debtors, Holstein answered this with a spectacular lunge down the inside into Colonial. McGovern must have breathed a sigh of relief as he watched this battle raging in his mirrors. With a lap left to run, Holstein fell foul of an early Last Lap board and fell down the order……….An equally fierce battle went on for fourth with George Rodgers having to work hard to hold back Dawson all race long.
In race two, Mc Govern again led away with Holstein again immediately challenging for the lead. The pair were soon joined by Leonard, keen to put things to rights after his earlier disaster. He drove by Holstein on the main straight and despatched McGovern into Colonial before pulling away for a strong win. On the slow down lap, Leonard acknowledged his supporters at the chicane with a series of spectacular “donuts”, repeating this at the hairpin. His celebrations were a little premature, however, as he was called to race control to be informed of a disqualification. He was adjudged to have overtaken (for the lead) under a yellow flag. This handed McGovern the double, from Holstein and Whelan, who had had closed the gap to the leaders all race long but ran out of laps. He had the reward of fastest lap though and held onto his series lead with all remaining rounds being held in Mondello. Enda O’Connor dominated proceedings in Formula Sheane, making his escape on the first lap and never looking back on his way to a strong win. The battle for second was incredibly close, with Antoin Savage holding off Trevor Duffy, Brian Hearty and the flying Liam Murphy, who also led the scholarship class by a significant margin. As O’Connor pulled clear, the pressure showed as Duffy tried an optimistic move round the outside of Fishermans and ran out of road, spinning down the field. As O’Connor took the flag, the experienced Hearty timed his run to perfection and pipped Savage to the line on the drag from the hairpin for second. Murphy had a quick spin, briefly losing the scholarship class lead to Michael Rice but fought back to take the class win.
Ray Moore was once again on pole for the Vee race with Paul Sammin alongside. Moore led away but Sammin towed his way past on the run down the back straight only to find a red flag being showed at the start finish line. At the restart, Moore made no mistakes to lead away again with Sammin tucking in behind. With series leader Keith Hogg having an uncharacteristic spin, Brian Casey stepped up to the plate and began challenging the leaders. Time and time again, Casey and Sammin could tow alongside or even ahead of the yellow Leastone, sometimes one on each side but somehow Moore always managed to lead out of the hairpin. Unfortunately this fantastic slipstreaming battle was brought to a premature halt when the red flags came out again. With over two thirds of the race completed, it was declared as a result with Moore taking it from Sammin and Casey, who marked himself as one to watch for the rest of the season.
Sean Woods Racing debuted their new race transporter in the Kirkistown paddock at the weekend. The ex-Ron Cumming artic housed their three Dunlop Supercars with their regular Punto 1400 driver Jamie Masterson playing spannerman for the weekend!!
16 year old Kevin O’Hara continued his preparation for the 2006 Formula 5 series by bringing his ex-Mondello Racing School Formula Vauxhall to Kirkistown on Saturday. Despite having just 100bhp, he attacked the Formula Renault of XXX and held off one of the Radicals until his enthusiastic approach to the chicane finally led to a spin with a few laps to run……..