For the final event of the 2019 season it was back to the traditional Hutcross venue for what has become the annual pilgrimage for young and old to work off the Christmas turkey on one of Ireland’s most established Autocross facilities. This year would see a healthy entry of buggies and cars alike knuckle down for 5 runs under the watchful eye of COC Neil Rogers for the 4th round of the MC Blinds Autocross championship and round 7 of the club championship.
In typical December fashion the track was deceptively treacherous in places and grip would be at a premium for the day. On the opening run Ben McIntyre would prove why he is the reigning club champion going fastest outright ahead of a hard charging Joe Smith and a great opening time from Ronan Greene fresh off the back of the Turkey Run Rally the previous day he would aim to carry out a day of giant killing if the weather would go his way.
A welcome return to the track would be the Mark 1 escort of local legend Pat Shields who double driving with John Kelly would spend the day entertaining the crowds in the crossflow powered escort on his way to a class 1 victory ahead of Nigel Bryson in his really well presented Vauxhall Nova who had a scare on the 3rd run when a small technical issue produced a bang from under the bonnet before no more bangs to power the car anymore. In 3rd place in the class but the winner in the arms and elbows category was John Kelly who was trying to get to grips with that age old balance between entertainment and time.
Class 2 would be hotly contested with the match fit Greene taking on the old master Pickens with young pretender Mark McAleer trying to upset the battle of the Nova’s. With their nimble nature and good power to weight ratio the Nova’s have always been a favourite with competitors over the years with the track’s technical nature being the catalyst for this rise in popularity. With Greene throwing caution to the wind he would pull out a gap of a few seconds and would never relinquish the lead to Pickens as he would push hard on every run in a bid to take down some more powerful opposition as well. A class win and a sterling run to 2nd fastest car on the day would be a great result. Alan Pickens would find himself a little rusty on the opening runs and would have to play catch up as the day went on setting some impressive times but not being able to close down Greene who was on a storming charge. Same could be said for Mark McAleer who would put in some good times but alas not enough to catch Pickens as he found
conditions to be very tricky as the rains came for the 2nd and 3rd runs.
In class 3 it would be the 2 championship hopefuls who would square up against each other with Shane Marron and Anthony McDonald trading seconds during the day. Disaster struck for McDonald on the 4th run as he would suffer a mechanical issue sidelining him for the rest of the day but Shane Marron had done enough with a fine measured run always doing enough on each of the earlier runs to keep his nose in front of Anthony on his way to 10th overall on the day.
Class 4 would see a good race between Ben McIntyre and Anthony Masterson as they would battle it out for maximum class points and to get onto the podium of the overall positions. With Masterson having knocked the winter rust off a couple days previous in Mondello he would keep the pressure on McIntyre hoping for an error from the reigning club champ.
That error nearly sidelined Ben for the rest of the day on Run 2 when he out braked himself at the bottom of the hill and pirouetted round on the grass and nearly into the famous “swamp” which claimed David Moffett in a previous incident. This minor indiscretion would leave the door open for Masterson to try and muscle his way into the lead but Mc Intyre fought off the threat and would finish 3rd overall with the maximum class 4 points haul. Masterson would stay infront of new comer to the Latton track Michael Timity in his 106 cup car who would stave off the interests of Barney Greenan and Gerry McIntyre.
Joe Smith has made class 5 something of his own in recent times with the black Pinto only falling foul of opposition on the briefest of occasions over the years. Today would be no different with a returning Justin Smyth out for a day’s entertainment he would find keeping up with Joe’s pace would be hard done when dealing with a driver who has the mentality of a top racing driver always hitting his marks and never putting a foot wrong it would once again be a masterclass from Smith as he would put the indiscretions of being beaten on the opening
run to put down fastest time after fastest time from there on in. Smyth would be no slouch as he would put in a performance worthy of 4th overall at the end of the day’s action. 3rd place would be Martin Nicholl as he would slide his way around to knock the winter rust off. He was neat and tidy until a camera appeared on a corner and he just turned into some sort of Drift King making sure he would hang it out for ample time for the perfect photos… Thanks Martin!
Class 6 would see the return of some heroes of yesteryear and the beginning of a new chapter in a long standing dynasty in Latton competition. Mervyn Wedlock and Columba Heena would trade times all day in the battle to take the class honors which would stir the souls of many a rally fan in the place. Heena would ultimately take the win by just over a second
after the best 3 runs were calculated but the effort was fierce as Wedlock would keep him honest all day in a display of silky smooth driving from both. 3rd place would go to Gerry Hyland who was out for a smiles per miles kind of day as he would thread the
big blue escort around only faltering on the 3rd run with a minor mechanical issue which would hinder his clean and
calculated run. 4th would be a new chapter in the Coulter association with the track as Amy would follow in Ronnie’s footsteps and take the uber cool Astra out for a run as she began the process like hundreds before her over the years of learning the nuances and pitfalls associated with the track and keeping out of trouble would be the biggest lesson learnt by all over the years. A good run hopefully will see her return for the full season next year.
In the buggies it would be a huge battle between Jake Sullivan in his class 8 and John Mc Cabe in his class 7 buggies as they would literally trade hundredths of seconds during the course of the 5 runs. The day started well for Sullivan as he would carve out a couple of faster runs than McCabe until he got into his groove and began to fight back. It all nearly came to zero as Jake out braked himself on the final run and mounted a bank but had enough work done in earlier runs that he could not be beaten by McCabe on the final run and took a well deserved win
by just 0.66 of a second ahead of John who would have the consolation of winning class 7 ahead of Michael Cahill with Mickey Conlon 3rd ahead of a returning name to the quarry Andrew McMahon who hadn’t been seen in a few years since his giant killing days in the little 106. In class 8 of course Jake Sullivan would take the top spot ahead of Stephen Moore who would pip Owen Roe Skelly to 3rd after experiencing mechanical issues on his final 2 runs.
In the Juniors it would be a family affair with Colin and Ciaran Maguire sharing their Civic and battling it out for top honours in a tit for tat battle that would go all the way to the final flag with Colin pipping Ciaran and claiming the bragging rights on the way home.
So it was top honours for Joe Smith and Jake Sullivan in the car and buggy classes respectively in challenging conditions which made the normally technical track even more of a challenge on the day. Big thanks to Neil Rogers and all his team on the day for running a great event and hopefully a sign of things to come for the new year.