THE 2012 N.I. Autotest Championship got off to a flying start at Craigavon last week, with a new sponsor Aughrim Filling Station.
The opening round was organised by The Autotest Drivers Club and COC Ron Mullen had set three demanding tests for the competitors.
After the first loop of 3 tests Steven Ferguson in his Mini Special held a 1.9 second lead over Peter Grimes, also in a Special, with Ashley Lamont’s Westfield and leading Mini Saloons Robin Lyons and Sam Bowden in close pursuit, just over 4 seconds separating these five drivers.
After the second loop Ferguson had extended his lead to 7 seconds, but his closest challenger was Robin Lyons with Ashley Lamont 0.8 seconds in arrears, followed by Peter Grimes and Paul Blair separated by just one tenth of a second!
While Ferguson maintained his place at the front Lamont had moved into second, Grimes only 0.4 secs down and brother Chris edging into fourth, ahead of Lyons who had incurred a 5 second penalty on test 9.
Ferguson’s speed kept him at the front to the finish, recording his first win in the 2012 Championship. Second place, after a stunning drive went to Lamont in his Westfield, the highest place for a Sports Car for some time. Peter Grimes followed in third ahead of brother Chris with Lyons in fifth.
In the Sports Car class Lamont had a healthy lead, benefiting from Paul Blair’s 20 second penalty on the ninth test with Trevor Ferguson taking third.
The Mini Saloon class was won by Lyons with Bowden 3.4 seconds back and former NI champion Glen Irwin using a hired car to take third in class.
The Large Saloon class was a fiercely contested affair with Mark King eventually taking a well deserved win after David Thompson and Paul Mooney suffered mechanical problems. Thompson recovered to second with Mooney third, the trio separated by only 6 seconds.
With competition like this there should be plenty of action to come in the rest of the season.