A fantastic evening of short oval racing was served up at Aghadowey Oval last Saturday, with drivers from across the UK taking part.
County Waterford’s David Casey was the big winner of the evening, claiming a polished win in the coveted National Hot Rods British Championship, with Portadown’s Steven Haugh also being crowned British Champion in the ProStocks.
Shane Murray took the win in the 2.0 Hot Rods Irish Open Championship, with Stevie McNiece crowned King of Aghadowey in the Stock Rods and Jack Gilpin the winner of the Superstox DMC Gold Cup.
Two qualifying heats would determine the grid for the final of the National Hot Rods British Championship, which would turn out to be a very bruising battle indeed.
David Casey took the opening heat win having led all the way, but he had to withstand huge pressure from Portadown’s defending champion Glenn Bell. World Champion Shane Murphy was in the wars, getting spun on turn three and collected by fellow republic of Ireland racer Garry Kelly. Behind Casey and Bell, Gary Wilson took third spot.
Thomas Dilly set off from pole position in heat two in his Mercedes SLK, and immediately had Adam Maxwell climbing all over him. A huge home straight crash involving Derek Martin, Bell and Jaimie McCurdy caused a stoppage in heat two, and at the restart Maxwell finally got by and home to the win. Dilly retired late on with mechanical woes, leaving Keith Martin and Nigel McCauley to fill second and third.
Casey and England’s Billy Wood shared the front row for the British final, and as Wood lost out early on Maxwell moved through to join Casey at the head of the pack. A back straight skirmish saw the hopes of Scotland’s Robert McDonald and Gary Woolsey disappear, as Bell moved through to challenge the leading duo. He tried hard on the outside line but couldn’t find the advantage, and Casey held on after a perfect drive to lift the British Championship crown that his father Tom won back in 2012. Maxwell was a gallant runner up ahead of Adam Hylands and Wood, with Bell’s great efforts not rewarded with fifth.
A twenty-nine car field came under starters orders for the ProStocks British Championship, with action aplenty right around the circuit. 2015 form man Dan Shannon led the opening heat having surged through from row three early on, with so much going on it was difficult to know where to look!
Shannon took the win over James Goldie and Leonard Dunn. Heat two saw Armagh’s Conor McElmeel on top form, despite losing his early lead to Stefan McClelland. McElmeel fought back to earn the victory though, with Steven Haugh snatching second from McClelland on the final lap.
In the British Championship final, the atmosphere was electric after a build up under the floodlights. Shannon felt the wrath of those behind him at the start, getting shuffled right down the order from his pole position start. That allowed McClelland and then Steven Haugh to go ahead, with Greg McMullan and Stephen McCready also right in the thick of things. McMullan did go ahead at a time, but the bumpers were flying in as always and his lead was short-lived.
Haugh went ahead as the lap boards came out, and he held on for a tremendous win despite the late efforts of Shannon who had pulled off a great comeback drive having been down to twelfth at one stage.
As Haugh was crowned British Champion, Shannon and McMullan completed the podium.
The Irish Open Champion was on offer for the 2.0 Hot Rods, and it was Stuart Cochrane who set the early pace in the opening heat.
Adam Best was all over him like a rash though, and he took up the running after Cochrane hit problems. As Best took the first win of the evening, defending Irish Open champ Stephen Emerson came through to second ahead of Shane Murray and Wayne Woolsey.
There was a light to flag victory for Waterford’s Tom Casey in heat two, as he held off the advances of Scotland’s Gordon Alexander for many laps, with an impressive Allen Cherry the first local home in third ahead of Adam Heatrick.
Murray had annexed pole position for the final, and quickly pulled clear at the front. Best is a real master around the Aghadowey circuit though, and he quickly pulled himself onto terms with the leader.
The fans were treated to a fantastic finish as the two battled side by side for the title win, with Murray just getting the nod when it mattered to take the victory. Best was well worth his second position, with Heatrick in third ahead of Emerson and Cherry.
The McNiece name was to the forefront of the Stock Rods racing all evening, with Stevie claiming a heat and final double in the King of Aghadowey whilst his brother Colin took the other heat win.
Stevie led all the way in the opener, taking the win over Willie Taggart and Gary Butler, before Colin came out on top in the second heat ahead of the impressive Rod Fleck and Micky McFall in an excellent race as they all battled to overcome Thomas Morrison.
From pole position Stevie led all the way in the King of Aghadowey final, something of a rarity in the fiercely competitive Stock Rods division. Fleck was relegated early on, with Butler taking up second spot.
As S McNiece took the victory, Butler lost out to a late charge from Irish Champion Jonny Cardwell that netted him the runner up spot, with Butler settling for third ahead of McFall and Fleck.
With just three weeks to their huge Championship of the World showdown at Aghadowey, the Superstox drivers were joined on track by the Mayor of the Causeway Coast & the Glens Council to help launch what should be one of the biggest events the venue has seen.
On track, Crumlin’s Mark Murphy took the opening heat win in some style ahead of Jack Gilpin and Stephen Stewart. Murphy was on course to take the second heat too until he hit problems, gifting the win to Gilpin.
The final for the DMC Gold Cup saw Chris McArdle set the early pace, before he lost out to the fast moving Gilpin. despite the fast moving star duo of the Grattan’s, Gilpin held his nerve all the way to the flag to record a fine double and elevate himself to the red grade for the next meeting. Gary Grattan, Denver Grattan and McArdle completed the top four.
The next outing at Aghadowey Oval is the big one, the Superstox Championship of the World on Saturday September 26th (4.30pm).
A huge band of visiting stars will descend on the venue for the showdown, with excellent support from the Stock Rods Best in Britain title race. 2.0 Hot Rods, ProStocks and Thunder Rods complete the line up.