Belfast Telegraph

Champion duo back for double hillclimb clash at Cairncastle

Top climber: Chris Houston
Top climber: Chris Houston

By Sammy Hamill

Champions past and present, Graham Thompson and Chris Houston, return to action for this weekend's double header rounds of the Millers Oils Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship at Cairncastle.

Thompson and Houston have dominated the series over the past number of years, but after a troubled start to the season at Croft they have not figured in subsequent rounds.

In their absence, Richard McGimpsey has taken full advantage, the Newtownards driver clocking up three wins from the four rounds so far in his RMG Turbo, including a new hill record at Spamount near Omagh.

Son of another former champion, Robert McGimpsey, Richard has a 12 point lead over John Donnelly and is 14 ahead of Brendan Flynn as they head for the Antrim coast and the scenic Cairncastle climb, which at 1.65 miles is the longest in the UK.

Although Houston won the NI title in 2016 and '17, Cairncastle has remained Thompson's domain, describing the hill as the best he has ever driven. Last year he lowered his own record to 65.41 seconds in his GTR Turbo.

With perfect conditions forecast for both tomorrow night and Saturday, the record could be in danger, especially with both Thompson and Houston keen to crank up the pressure on this year's stand-out driver McGimpsey.

There are full entry lists for both editions of the Larne Club event, rounds five and six of the championship, the line-up including rally preparation specialist Derek McGeehen who is rolling one of his WRC Minis for a rare hillclimb appearance.

In action too will be another top rally man, Stanley Orr, in his historic class-winning RS1600 Ford Escort.

Meanwhile, entries have opened for the John Mulholland Motors Ulster Rally which takes place on August 17/18.

The only event to feature in both the Irish Tarmac and British Championships, it returns to the Antrim area for the first time since 2012.

The stages will be in Co Antrim and in the Sperrins with the Castle Gardens in Antrim town hosting the start and finish.

It will include a separate 'Super Saturday' rally for competitors not involved in the two main championships.

Belfast Telegraph


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