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Added: 29 May 2017 Category: 2017 Oval Racing
Ballymena’s 40th Anniversary
One of my meetings I had wanted to get to this season was Ballymena’s 40th Anniversary meeting, the 30th was a stand out meeting when I look back, as was the 35th, so it would make sense the 40th would be one to look out for. The local Autograss fixtures had meant that I should have been racing on the Saturday and I had made the decision that I’d go on the Friday night instead, up until some pretty miserable weather was forecast, the autograss was cancelled and that gave me the chance to go on the Saturday instead.

In the past the big landmark meetings would have been a draw for drivers on their own, but the weekend was geared around the National Hot Rod Irish Open and fell at bad timing with the Nationals also in action in England and Tipperary and I think even in Scotland making it a tough sell to get visitors, while for local racers it comes at a crucial time in World Qualifying. While it wasn’t the greatest gathering of Nationals you’ll ever see it still included Jamie McCurdy who has been quick of late, Adam Hylands who doesn’t back down easily and the defending Irish Champion Dave Casey who is another competitive customer. It was however John Christie who took the win in first the Irish Open and then won the 40th Anniversary race from the back of the grid. Later in the meeting Ormond was re-untied with the Christie car and put in a few laps around Ballymena, a treat for National Hot Rod fans.

I remember the 30th Anniversary meeting having big grids of F2’s, one of those meetings that everyone makes the effort and you get the odd car that you haven’t seen out in a while there too, on that occasion it was Mervyn Percy in an early 90’s HCD. I had hoped the 40th Anniversary would bring about the same desire to race and be a part of it, but I think 13 or 14 F2’s took to the track which is around the numbers the class has been getting. There was still plenty of action and Graham Fegan took the win in the final.

The other final wins on the day went to Colin Clifford (Super Saloons), David Reynolds (Gp 2 Lightning Rods) & Stephen McCready (Stock Rods)

For me what will make the meeting stand out in the memory and even in the pics I took on the day will be the superbly turned out replica of one of Ivor Greenwood’s cars from the 70’s, brought over from England It was the first thing caught your attention as you went through the gate and it was sitting on display and it went on to do parade laps and led the F2’s away for their final rolling laps.
There was a match race between Ivor Greenwood in his naughties car that was later raced by Chris Kincaid, the car had been re-stickered back to it’s original look and looked great, Walter McNielly competed in his son Aaron’s Superstox and William Finnegan raced in his “wee low one”. McNielly just took the win and the drivers all spoke well when giving interviews that followed.
Those, and Colin Adair’s collection of photos he had up, are the things that stand out from the landmark meetings, we’ll all go away and watch 100’s of races before the next landmark meeting and they’ll all merge into one, but it’s not every meeting you’ll see Ormond Christie out in one of his World Winning cars, or Greenwood, Finnegan and McNeilly go head to head in a match race, that’s what sets these meetings apart, that’s what makes them special.

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