Drew holds nerve to lift Irish crown

Drew McKeown
Drew McKeown

Young Portadown star Drew McKeown was the toast of Tullyroan Oval on Saturday night when he was crowned Junior Productions Irish Champion.

Drew held his nerve despite some intense pressure from behind to land the coveted title.

The drivers served up some fantastic racing, with former World Champion John Christie taking a hat-trick of victories in the National Hot Rods, Antrim’s Stephen Emerson took the Tullymore Road Motors Challenge Series for the 2.0 Hot Rods, Portadown’s Jordan Rochford was the feature race winner in the Lightning Rods and Ivan Elliott landed the DMC Challenge Cup in the 1300 Stock Cars.

The biggest race of the year for the stars of tomorrow in the Junior Productions, the Irish Championship, was lined up in points scoring order from throughout the season, with Drew McKeown on pole position ahead of Shea Duff and Chris Knipe. McKeown quickly stamped his authority on proceedings by moving into the lead, with Knipe and Duff next up. McKeown pulled a small advantage, but it disappeared as he got engrossed in backmarking traffic.

Knipe was soon on his case, but a small slip allowed Duff through to second. Despite Shea’s best efforts over the final laps, McKeown had everything under control and powered home to take the title in fine style ahead of Duff and Knipe. Drew collected the Irish Championship crown and with it the Derek McMillan Memorial Trophy, with the top three and best yellow grade driver home Matthew Nicholl also receiving some nice prizes courtesy of the McMillan family.

Cameron Dynes led the majority of the reverse grid Irish Revenge race, but Duff nipped by within sight of the flag to take the victory over Dynes and McKeown.

From a very generous yellow grading, former World Champion John Christie unsurprisingly took a hat-trick of wins in the fifth round of PC Paints & Components World Series NI for the National Hot Rods. It wasn’t all plain sailing however, as the Crumlin pilot came under some serious pressure during the evening. Christie quickly pulled clear in the opener, but soon had European Champion Adam Hylands and NI Champion Glenn Bell bearing down on him.

Christie had it all under control and held off the flying Portadown duo to the flag. Heat two saw Christie again clear, before a huge turn one accident for Simon Kennedy saw the race suspended and it would ultimately lead to a disqualification for Bell. Hylands again was the runner up ahead of Dungannon man Derek Martin.

The aggregate points from the heats saw Christie and Hylands share the front row for the final, and they circulated side by side for the opening laps. Hylands just couldn’t hold on and slipped backwards, with Martin now moving through to challenge for the lead. Christie had all under control though, and despite Derek’s attempts on the outside nearing the finish John held on to complete his hat-trick. Derek Martin, Adam Maxwell, Mark Heatrick and Keith Martin filled the next positions home.

Irish Superstox Champion Kyle Beattie debuted his new car in the 2.0 Hot Rods, while there was a welcome return to track action for former Super Rods World Champion Colin McFarland after many years out of the driving seat.

The opening heat was drama-filled, as coolant from Stuart Cochrane’s car left the track very slippery indeed, catching out a number of drivers including Irish Champion Joel Richardson and former World Champion Shane Murray who both hit the wall but managed to continue. McFarland held sway at the front, before a clash with Adam Best saw the officials having to check video footage before clearing Best of any wrong doing and handing him the win over Mervyn and Stephen Emerson. McFarland again led the opening laps of heat two, before losing out as Mervyn Emerson powered ahead. The race was declared early when a power failure plunged the back straight into darkness, leaving Emerson the winner over Best and Adam Heatrick after Richardson was docked from second for jumping the restart.

Aggregate points from throughout the Tullymore Road Motors Challenge Series saw Heatrick line up on pole position for the final, with Best alongside and the Emerson brothers, Stephen and Mervyn, next up. As Heatrick settled into the early lead, Best tried to cut across into second but S Emerson had already claimed that piece of track. Best spun, and took Murray with him into the wall and out of the race. Heatrick now had Emerson all over him, and he found a way past on the inside before Cochrane got into more trouble and took Gary Thompson and Heatrick into the wall with him this time.

From the restart S Emerson surged home to victory and with it some Hoosier tyres courtesy of the series sponsors, with Richardson and Mervyn Emerson completing the podium.

Racing continues at Tullyroan Oval on Sunday afternoon (1pm), when the major event will be the Superstox Irish Open Championship with a huge entry of the top mainland stars set to battle the locals for the coveted title. Support racing comes from the Stock Rods, Micro Bangers, Ninja Karts and Lightning Rods.