Ballymoney’s Ryan Murphy recorded his best championship result to date with a third place finish in the Stock Rod Irish Masters Championship at Ballymena Raceway on Friday evening!
The Stock Rod racers served up the race of the night, with a four strong entry from Scotland, which included World Champion Michael Bethune and British Champion Jim Pitcaithly, inspiring the locals to produce a breathless final that sizzled with action from start to finish.
Ballymena’s Jason Clyde slipped into the lead at the start while Pitcaithly dropped down to sixth during the feisty opening exchanges where no inch was given by any driver. Clyde continued to hold sway under intense pressure until lap fourteen when Sam McKinstry jumped from fourth to first after the leaders tripped over each other at Fisherwick bend.
Pitcaithly worked his way back to challenge the new leader and eased ahead just two laps from home to snatch victory at the end of a pulsating race. McKinstry claimed the runner-up spot and Murphy guided his Vauxhall Corsa through into third after an impressive outing.
Main event on the programme at Ballymena was the opening round of the National Hot Rod 2017 World Qualifying Series, which carries sponsorship for the new campaign from Hankook Performance Tyres. Recently crowned National Hot Rod World Champion Adam Maxwell was making his first appearance with the gold roof and the Crumlin based racer received a warm welcome from the local race fans. Prior to racing Maxwell paraded his World Championship trophy and received a memento from Raceway promoter Aubrey Arbuthnot in recognition of his success. When the track action got underway Maxwell almost recorded a fairytale win in his first race as World Champion, but had to settle for second place behind eventual winner Simon Kennedy in the opening heat race. 2005 World Champion Keith Martin took the honours in heat two which earned the Dungannon driver pole position for the final. Martin never put a wheel out of place in the feature race to record a flag to flag win in his Vauxhall Tigra and collected the Richard Turtle Memorial Trophy. It was a very fitting win too, as Martin had raced regularly with Richard in the National Hot Rod class during the late eighties and early nineties. Derek Martin followed his uncle across the finish line, but received a two place penalty from the steward for an incident on the last lap which promoted 2015 winner Adam Hylands into second place with Shane Murray in third.
Races for the Group Two Lightning Rods and Super Saloons completed the programme of events at the meeting. The GP2 racers contested their Irish Grand Prix and it was Karl Smyth who took the trophy in his Vauxhall Astra. Smyth had to be on his guard throughout a keenly contested final however as Nigel Doherty from Garvagh put the winner under intense pressure for much of the race. Irish Champion Andy McLeister from Ballymoney qualified on pole position for the Grand Prix after a victory in one of the qualifying heats and finished the final in fifth position.
Meanwhile Aaron McGraw enjoyed a convincing win in the Super Saloon Gold Roof Trophy. Michael McMinn set the early pace in the final, but was quickly demoted by a fast moving Trevor McFaul. McGraw was right in the leader’s tail however and eased ahead on lap five to control proceedings from the front in his powerful Honda. Earlier on returnee Colin Clifford had claimed the opening heat in his Toyota and Ballymoney’s Steven Elder took the honours in heat two.
National Hot Rods Richard Turtle Memorial Trophy: 1st. Keith Martin, 2nd. Adam Hylands, 3rd. Shane Murray, 4th. Derek Martin, 5th. Gary Wilson, 6th. Adam Maxwell
Stock Rods 2016 Irish Masters: 1st. Jim Pitcaithly, 2nd. Sam McKinstry, 3rd. Ryan Murphy, 4th. Aaron Moody, 5th. Jason Clyde, 6th. David Kempton
GP2 2016 Irish Grand Prix: 1st. Karl Smyth, 2nd. Nigel Doherty, 3rd. Matthew Curran, 4th. David Reynolds, 5th. Andy McLeister, 6th. Kenny Carson
Super Saloons Gold Roof Trophy: 1st. Aaron McGraw, 2nd. Colin Clifford, 3rd. Trevor McFaul, 4th. Bobbie Johnston, 5th. Michael McMinn, 6th. Steven Elder
The next action at Ballymena Raceway takes place on Friday 12 August where the F2 Stock Cars will compete for the Moffett Shield. Group Twos, Stock Rods, Super Salons and Round 3 of the Junior Rod Gold Roof Series complete the programme of events.