A fantastic five formula feast of race action had a bumper crowd flocking to Aghadowey Oval on Easter Monday afternoon.
The 2016 Irish Masters for the Stock Rods was the big title on offer, and it went across the Irish Sea as Scottish ace Chris Lattka.
In the National Hot Rods World Championship qualifying round Broughshane teenager Jamie McCurdy shrugged off a huge crash on Good Friday to bounce back to a heat and final double, whilst there were also victories during the Murrays of Randalstown sponsored event for Denver Grattan (Superstox), Chrissie Dempsey (Thunder Rods) and Jay Clyde (Ninja Karts).
A cosmopolitan field arrived for the Stock Rods Irish Masters, including visitors from Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. Scottish Champion Siobhan Martin took the early lead in heat one before losing out to fellow tartan traveller Chris Lattka.
The five times World Champion rushed ahead to take the victory, leading home Victor McAfee and Martin at the flag. The reversed grid second heat saw another former World Champion, Ballymena’s Chris Gordon, set the pace from flag to flag for a morale boosting win, ahead of National Champion Derek McMillan and Ed Davis.
The final saw McMillan qualify on pole position, and he quickly settled into the lead but was soon under pressure from Lattka. There then developed an absolutely epic battle for the lead, which at times saw almost the whole field circulating in one pack.
Lattka could find no way past to the lead, but was almost glued to leaders back bumper, with Gordon keeping a watching brief in third. Then came an almighty charge from Irish Champion Jonny Cardwell, who took to the wide outside and pulled himself past Gordon and alongside Lattka.
With the crowd willing him on in what was a very courageous drive; he then got himself right alongside McMillan too for the lead, only for both to run slightly wide out onto the back straight. An experienced campaigner like Lattka was never going to miss an opportunity like that, and nipped up the inside to take the lead in a three abreast moment into the Brown Trout Bend.
McMillan and Cardwell got shuffled down the pack, and then Gordon almost got inside Lattka down the home straight! The Scot just held on and duly took the flag for his second title victory of the weekend, having won the Irish Open title at Tullyroan Oval on Saturday night. Gordon could be well pleased with his runner up spot, with the impressive Davis taking a fine third after a thrilling championship final.
Conor McElmeel debuted a stunning Vauxhall Tigra in Round Nine of the National Hot Rods PC Paints & Components World Series NI, whilst many eyes were on Jaime McCurdy who had worked wonders with his team to repair huge damage incurred at the Good Friday event at Ballymena. Ben McKee set the early pace in the opening heat, but as the closing stages loomed the Templepatrick man had McCurdy right on his tail.
Right throughout the final three laps the duos were locked side by side, with McKee just getting the nod on the line by a mere 0.005 of a second! McCurdy was on McKee’s case much earlier in heat two, slipping ahead inside the first five laps to breeze to an easy win ahead of McKee, with Gilford’s Nigel McCauley taking his second third place finish of the day. There was plenty of great racing right down the pack in this one, with Derek Martin catching the eye along with Gary Woolsey, the latter spending many laps on the outside of Stewart Doak before snatching the place on the line.
The final paired McKee and McCurdy on the front row, with the Broughshane teenager getting a great jump at the green flag to take up the running. It had been a long and arduous weekend for McCurdy and his team as they repaired an almost destroyed car, but Jamie made it all worthwhile as he powered to his second win of the day, and in some style too.
Keith Martin came through for a deserved second, ahead of McCauley and Adam Maxwell, the latter after a great four abreast move into turn three early in the race.
Amongst the Superstox field were debuts for Adam Lockhart and Sean Mark, alongside the brand new RCE engineered car of Andrew Morrow. Mark impressed right from the off and will be a great asset to the formula, leading until three to go when Morrow surged past into the lead.
Ryan McClure was right in contention too, and he landed a text book blow with the bumper on Morrow into the last corner to take a great win. Mark again led heat two for much of the distance, with McClure again leaving it late to nip past to the win on the final lap. Mark took second ahead of Irish Champion Denver Grattan.
The longer distance of the final again saw Mark again leading for much of the duration, after relegating early leader Cyril Hawe. Once again McClure reeled in the leader to go ahead, but he had no answer to the flying Grattan, who swept past on the final lap to take the win. McClure was eliminated from second due to a minor technical infringement, elevating Mark to the runner up slot ahead of Conor Murphy.
Novice Chrissie Dempsey held off late pressure from Lee McCloy to take the flag in the opening Thunder Rod encounter, only to lose the win in the scrutinising bay due to a wheel camber infringement. That handed the victory to McCloy ahead of Adam White and Del McLaughlin. Dempsey made no mistake in heat two, this time holding on to his win ahead of McCloy and Samuel Montgomery. There was drama mid race when Samuel Murphy was unceremoniously dumped into the turn one wall, which led to White being disqualified.
Dempsey again led the final away, and despite the best efforts of McCloy he held on to take the Murrays of Randalstown sponsored trophy. Montgomery was again third ahead of Norman Purdy and Irish Champion McLaughlin.
The young stars of tomorrow in the Ninja Karts completed the packed race programme, with local driver Bobby Henderson taking the opening heat win over the new machine of Stewart Hanna and Jay Clyde. Henderson and Jack Morrow clashed nearing the end of the second heat, opening the door for Sam Percy to take the win ahead of Morrow and star grader Clyde.
The final saw Daniel Stewart lead the way until half distance, before a stoppage brought the faster karts right into contention for the restart. Henderson then swept ahead, but had no answer to the flying Clyde who took the flag to seal an emphatic victory and lift the trophy. Stewart was awarded the TwoZeroSix Personal Training ‘Most Improved Driver’ trophy, whilst 2016 NI Points Championship sponsors ASC Cars presented all the young drivers with Easter eggs to mark their great efforts on track.