This weekend Autolifers took a trip to Round 4 of the Millers Oils Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship. This was the 6th running of Spamount Hillclimb hosted by Omagh Motor Club in southwest Tyrone.

A bumper entry of almost 70 cars took to the hill for the first practice run of the day in dry and warm conditions but it was ominously overcast. Fastest up the hill in the first practice session was Anthony Cairns in his Subaru Impreza, narrowly pipping Gerard O’Connell in his insane 550bhp Mk2 Escort by just 0.2 of a second. This practice session set the tone for the competitive nature of the event as times were exchanged by fractions of seconds all day.

As the first practice run approached its conclusion, there was a short delay for an oil spill on the hill and during the break in running, the weather decided to break. A torrential downpour soaked the track and the fans lining the hill and would continue unabated for the remainder of the day.

After a quick change into wet tyres for everyone, round 2 of practice got underway with the hill resembling a river more than a road in places. As the times filtered through, again there was a familiar car at the top of the time sheets with Anthony Cairns setting the fastest time. The soaked track was really favoring the 4 wheel drive cars with Mark Preston in his Subaru Impreza and Robert McKelvey in his Mitsubishi Evo setting the second and third fastest times in the wet practice session.

As the competitive runs got underway, the rain continued to fall making the conditions treacherous and the 4-wheel drive cars really stamped their authority on the event …. None more so than event sponsor Gareth Sayers in his Ford Fiesta WRC who forced the pace, beating the ever consistent Anthony Cairns up the hill by one second. This battle continued for the final 2 competitive runs up the hill, with both drivers setting faster and faster times. In the end, Gareth Sayers took the victory in his Fiesta WRC, with Anthony Cairns in second and Stephen Baxter splashing through the puddles in his final run to set a fantastic time in his Mk2 Escort, ultimately finishing third overall.

In the class battles, the production cars were competitive all day with Keith Scott taking class 1 honors, David Gibson sliding his Mk2 Escort to victory in class 2 and Paul Montgomery taking his Subaru Impreza to 1st in class 3.

In the Modified classes, Gordan Fogarty took his Fiat x1/9 to victory in class 6A and Shane McSorley set his fastest time on the last run of the day to win class 6B and a very wet Paul Hamill won class 7 in the open cockpit Tiger Avon.

In the Sports Libre class, Gerard O’Connell won class 9 despite struggling to put the 550bhp generated by the Mk2 Escort onto the road in the treacherous conditions, Alan Cassells won class 10 in his immaculate Peugeot 106 and Stephen Baxter took victory in class 11 and 3rd overall. Event winner Gareth Sayers and event runner up Anthony Cairns battled for fastest time up the hill in class 12 as well as in the overall standings.

The drivers of the open cockpit cars had a rough day as the torrential rain lasted all day and protection from the elements (and grip) were limited by the conditions. Fastest of the racecars up the hill was Christopher Houston who also claimed victory in class 15. John Donnelly pushed him hard all day but the time set by John on his second run was just bettered by Christopher on the final run of the day, but John can take some consolation with victory in class 14.

In the historics, Gerry McGarrity claimed victory in class 16A for road going historic cars in his rapid Mini while Willie Vance took victory in class 16B for non road going historics.

Despite the weather (which admittedly did add some entertainment at Loves Corner) Spamount Hillclimb was an enjoyable and well run event with a family atmosphere and competitive racing.

The next round of the championship takes place at Cultra on the 2nd of June. For more details see the event schedule here and to keep up to date with all the chat and results from the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship, check out their Facebook page here.
 
Words & Photos: David Harrigan
 
For more from David check out his page of Facebook here.

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