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Hillclimbers turn clock back for a nostalgic return to Knockagh

By Sammy Hamill

Published 07/09/2016

Top climber: Chris Houston claimed the Miller's Oil Northern Ireland crown with a seventh placed finish at Eagle's Rock over the weekend
Top climber: Chris Houston claimed the Miller's Oil Northern Ireland crown with a seventh placed finish at Eagle's Rock over the weekend

The name is familiar but the roads may not be in the final round of the Northern Ireland hillclimb championship.

This Saturday, he Ulster Automobile Club will turn the clock back to the 1960s to re-visit Knockagh, the hill looking out over Belfast Lough— a venue last used for motorsport some 50 years ago although and remembered as the place Russell Brookes crashed his Ford Escort on the first stage of the 1978 Circuit of Ireland but still went on to win.

The line-up is expected to be headed by new Miller’s Oil Northern Ireland champion Chris Houston.

The Bangor driver secured the title for the first time in the penultimate round  at Eagle’s Rock where, although he finished back in seventh place overall, he picked up enough points to see off the season-long challenge of John Donnelly.

Meanwhile, Desi Henry has moved into second place in the Valvoline Irish forestry rally championship after round five at the Lakeland Stages Rally.

He finished fourth overall despite a turbo pipe coming loose on his Skoda Fabia, costing him more than a minute on the third stage.

But the Portglenone driver fought back from 12th to fourth behind the Moffett brothers, Sam and Josh, who tied for first place in their Ford Fiestas, and the Subaru of Mark Donnelly. But with the Moffetts not contesting the full series this year — Josh is the reigning champion — Henry took second place points to move up the standings.

Gerard Lucey, who was eighth overall in his Mitsubishi, now leads the series after Michael Carbin crashed out on Saturday. Adrian Hetherington was another who failed to score, his WRC Toyota Corolla also going off the road.

Next up is the Limerick Forest Stages on October 16 before the series finishes with Henry’s ‘home’ round, the Glens of Antrim Rally on November 5. It is an event he won two years ago, then driving a Mitsubishi Lancer.

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