KIRKISTOWN: 500MRCI BY RICHARD YOUNG
The fledgling Irish Legends series may not, as yet, have very many cars, but on their first visit to Kirkistown they made a strong, and hopefully lasting, impression.
And they made history too, providing the first-ever electronically proven dead heat in the circuit’s 63 years of existence in the second of their three races.
The first of these featured Paul O’brien and English visitor James Holman getting up close and personal with Ivor Greenwood and Des Foley in a scrap that lasted the full eight laps, peaking at the Hairpin on the final tour when all four appeared to be on course for victory.
It was O’brien who got it though, with Holman, Greenwood and Foley in very close attendance. Less than half a second covered them all as they crossed the line.
Race two was even closer. O’brien and Holman were in the leading bunch as before, but this time Niki Meredith, who had started from the back row in race one, was there as well, and the final lap scrap was between Meredith and Holman, who passed the flag absolutely together, with O’brien in close attendance.
Greenwood finished fourth this time, but that was a better result than he achieved in race three when a heavy accident exiting the Hairpin on lap two ended his day prematurely. The race was red-flagged, and at the restart it was O’brien who got ahead to win from Holman by the comparatively huge margin of 1.4 seconds, with Foley third.
Earlier, the first of two Saloon/gt affairs proved equally exciting, although rather smaller, with only six cars lining up for the start. Chris Southcott’s indecently rapid MG Midget led initially, but retired after six laps, leaving Andrew Armstrong’s BMW M3 in command followed by Ralph Jess in his M3 BMW Compact. Jess, however, had plans, and closed Armstrong down, while Stephen Traub’s Honda Integra moved in on the pair of them for a grandstand finish.
Over the final two laps all three managed to lead, and entering the Hairpin for the final time it looked very much as though Armstrong was going to make it ahead of Traub. However, a very brave move by Jess round the outside helped him squeak past to win by 0.141s.
By comparison, race two was almost tame, Armstrong beating Traub to the line by 1.9s while Jess, who had planned a repeat result, found himself sidelined with the gear lever in his hand but no longer attached to the car. Donal O’neill thus brought his SEAT Cupra home in third place.
Jim Larkham took a brace of Roadsports wins in his Radical ahead of the Crossles of John Benson and Paul Conn. The pair reversed order in the second race as did the battling 1-Litre Class B cars of Paul Thompson (Striker) and Mark Francis (Locost).
Noel Robinson (Van Diemen JL012K) was the day’s other double winner, with two FF1600 victories giving him a useful lead in the Northern Ireland Championship. Alan Davidson chased him hard in race one, although a buzzed engine left him with bent valves. A quick repair helped him try again in race two before his Mondiale jammed itself in third gear. He still managed to place fourth, however, behind the Reynards of Ryan and Henry Campbell.