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Added: 03 Mar 2016 Category: Older Oval Racing
14 Things Oval Racing has Gained since 2001
Following up on my previous piece on what local oval racing has lost in the NIF2 era (since 2001), here, on a more positive note is fourteen things that local oval racing has gained in the same time frame.

For many years the ProStocks had been one of those classes that fans travelling to Cowdenbeath would have seen and thought we need something like that at home, they were mainly Sierra based back then and always seemed to have big grids of cars. In 2009 the ProStocks were started up at Nuttscorner Oval and the class has grown into one of the best classes in the country and one of the most consistent in providing good numbers and good racing. Tullyroan Oval hosted the World Cup for the class in 2013 and Aghadowey Oval will stage it in 2016.

National Bangers
As far back as I can remember there had always being bangers in some shape or form in local oval racing, but it wasn’t until 2003 when Nuttscorner Oval staged the first National Banger meeting. Since their first meeting they’ve been raced here in many formats with the Unlimiteds probably being the pick of them and Shamwreck the undisputed biggest event for them which was closing in on entries of 100 cars at it’s peak.

I’ve written about it many times in the past but up until 2005 we had weekends of racing, Northern Ireland Trips and the likes but nothing branded as a Speedweekend and presented as a Speedweekend. In 2005 Nuttscorner Oval staged the first Speedweekend and set the bar quite high for the years that were to follow. Sadly I feel the piss is now being taken out of the whole Speedweekend branding and the specialness of that one big weekend a year thing to the point where the once unmissable meeting of the year has become the quite missable meeting of the month as there’ll be another one next month maybe with a better mix of classes.

Tullyroan Oval
It’s a bold move to invest the sort of money required into a Stockcar track these days even in good times, but in the middle of a recession Davy McCall did just that and Tullyroan Oval was born. It’s one of the few tracks I’ve been to still have that wow factor as the track comes into sight as you come up the hill onto the bank. Tullyroan opened in 2012 and raised the bar for local oval racing facilities.

The Reliant Robins joined the local Oval Racing scene back in 2004 with what I thought at the time was a one off weekend and after 11 seasons we still have them. They aren’t my cup of tea (and I don’t even drink tea) but I can see the attraction to racing something a bit different that you don’t need to have your bank manager on speed dial to race in and they do tend to be popular among casual fans and kids.

1300 Stock Cars
The 1300 Stock Cars came to Northern Ireland in 2012 during the first year of Spedeworth involvement in local oval racing when the big “S” partnered up Nutts Corner Raceway bringing the class to the province. In their first season they raced at Nutts Corner and Ballymena before they were started up at DMC Race Promotions in 2014 which brought the class to Tullyroan and Aghadowey. 2014 became a bit of a mess with a dispute between the promotions only allowing drivers to race at their registered promotion. In 2015 the promotions worked together and had a unified points chart and this boosted the numbers. The class is often outnumbered by the other classes on the fixture but regularly provides some of the biggest action, another half dozen regular drivers would probably make them the best class in the country.

Pre-Junior Classes
Pre-Junior racing has swept the oval racing scene, the Ninja Karts where one of the biggest talking points of the 2012 (I think) Spedeweekend at Ipswich and arrived in Northern Ireland when Tullyroan Oval started partnered up with Spedeworth in 2013. The class was quickly established, mostly with younger members of existing and past racers and it’s stayed pretty much the same since that. Micro F2’s became the next option for pre-Junior ages, they started at Nutts Corner Raceway in 2014 and will also be on Ballymena fixtures in 2016.

Facebook and Social Media
To quote an article I read a while ago, Facebook is a shift in the way we communicate, where there was a time you’d not a notion what happened at another meeting somewhere else until such times as you met up with someone who’d been there at the next local meeting or got the following month’s Short Circuit Magazine, thanks to facebook (and twitter) you can now find most results as the cars cross the line. Over time various facebook groups have popped up filled with the latest information on classes or old pictures, old information, formula or driver specific updates. Forums filled that gap for a while, but facebook has made it much easier to post photos and updates on the go, which has simplified both posting things and keeping on top of what is going on, while bringing the sport together. Obviously it does a lot of other things too, but I use it mostly for keeping in touch with oval racing.

Promoters Websites
It’s almost seems unthinkable now, but there was a time that the local promotions didn’t have websites. In 2006 Ballymena were the first to announce they’d soon be launching a new website, while at the same time I was working on the Nuttscorner Oval website which was a well kept secret up until it’s launch. Nutts Corner Raceway’s site followed some years later. Over the years the websites have changed a bit but are an valuable resource for fans and racegoers alike.

Periscope & Video Streaming
Periscope is a relative newcomer to the things that have added to the racing in the past fifteen years and how it’s adapted in the seasons ahead could well have a significant impact in the sport.
There are plenty of arguments for and against it, even breaking it down to a personal level I find it great for watching meetings I can’t get to on the mainland, but I’m very much a fan of concept that nothing beats being there. I could write a considerable amount more on the topic, but I might save that to a blog of it’s own.
Periscope is only the new boy in the streaming scenario though, prior to Periscope Tipperary had streamed a few NHR European meetings and Cowdie had played about with streams too, and I’ll admit to having watched all three at one stage or another, it doesn’t beat being there, but with so many meetings everyone can’t be everywhere all the time.

Transponders/ Mylaps
Cowdenbeath was the first track I was aware of to run Transponder systems, as far as I’m aware they ran them on all their classes and visiting drivers could hire a transponder for the meeting. The system then rolled out across the ORC and many of the classes and nearly all tracks now run transponders and my laps. The system should reduce the issues for lapscorers reading dodgy numbers, it should reduce the work regridding races after stoppages and it also gives drivers and fans alike a great insight into their lap times.

Classics/ Retro racing
In the past 15 years Classic and Retro classes have appeared on the scene. Heritage F1’s, Heritage F2’s, Classic Hot Rods, Retro Hot Rods, Heritage Stock Cars, as far as I’m aware have all come about within the NIF2 era. Ballymena was the first to take to the concept in NI running Classic Hot Rods, but I think they tried to grow the class too quickly and went from no cars to half a dozen cars and back to two as a result of giving them too many meetings. Things went quiet on the Classic scene for a while and they got the odd run out as Slick Cars or Open Hot Rods before the Classic Scene took off again in 2014 at Tipperary and grew to an all Ireland thing in 2015. I haven’t seen the full dates for 2016, but I’ve my fingers crossed they become a class that just does 6-8 meetings a year and gets to race everywhere, so everyone’s fans get to see them.
2015 also seen the visit of the Heritage F2s to Ballymena and Nutts Corner. I only seen them at Nutts Corner and they were good there.
I didn’t really get Retro racing at first, I don’t recall the era that is considered “Classic”, but I do see the attraction of the cars you remember as a kid, so I’m looking forward to some 80’s classics down the line.

The EuroStocks for me are the lasting legacy of the previous Aghadowey promotion. When everyone else seems to have looked at the Mk3 and Mk4 Astra and built classes around it the Aghadowey Promotion thought outside of that box and did something different, creating a new class with a more open set of rules to allow cars that you normally wouldn’t see around an oval in. When Aghadowey closed (under the previous promotion) in 2013 the EuroStocks moved to Ballymena and now race at Ballymena and Nutts Corner. I haven’t seen a lot of the class to be honest, but I like the idea of something different….. whether it’s ProStocks, Thunder Rods, Stock Rods, Gp 2’s, Juniors or National Hot Rods it does get a bit boring watching aging Vauxhalls.

NIOvalTV was something I’d considered for quite some time, but it seemed a big jump from taking photos and making no money at all to investing seriously in camera equipment and trying to make a go of a (still struggling) business, which looking back seemed silly. in 2011 Will Reed won the 2.0 Hot Rod World final at Nuttscorner Oval and searched hi and low for footage, which became the trigger event to pursue giving it a go. Around the same time Forza TV which later became Glentoran TV had been filming most of the Glens matches and uploading highlights and a Matty Burrows wonder strike against Portadown at the Oval went viral and got him nominated for the Puskas Award for goal of the season, along with players like Messi and Ronaldo, this hammered home the value of adding wee clips to the internet and was something I felt we needed to do with NIOvalTV.
From the forum days a group of us have gone away every year to at least one meeting in England and Jonny Teggart was always coming home with DVD’s and after discussing the idea on one of our trips away we decided to give it a go the following season and NIOvalTV was born. It was only late in 2015 that Jonny mentioned he’d hardly watched any of the DVD’s he’d bought during all the trips away, which makes it an even more impressive feat that he doesn’t miss much of the action.

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