UK contenders headline 500 Club race weekend
Although still reeling from the death of Paul Conn in a tragic accident three weeks ago, the 500 Club will stage its biggest race meeting of the year at Kirkistown starting this afternoon.
The packed programme, which runs over a over a day-and-a-half, includes three rounds of the Avon Tyres UK National Formula Ford Championship, bringing a fresh influx of drivers to the Co Down circuit including the series leader Ross Martin from Scotland and his closest challenger, American Spike Kohlbecker.
Their duel has an interesting twist in that they both drive for Irish teams, Martin for Team Dolan, who won the Northern Ireland title last season with Matt Round-Garrido, and Kohlbecker for Cliff Dempsey Racing.
Another Scot, Neill MacLennan, is third ahead of a pair of English drivers, James Clarke and Rory Smith, with Jonathan Browne the best placed Irishman in the series.
They will, of course, be joined by a strong contingent of local drivers including David McCullough and Alan Davidson, who hold the top two positions in the Dawson-WAM Northern Ireland Championship and have their own races to consider.
McCullough now has the advantage after he won both rounds at the July meeting before it was abandoned following the accident which claimed the life of popular Roadsports driver Dr Paul Conn.
The other McCullough, David's brother Ivor, a former champion, has returned to action in recent races and has been mixing it with the championship contenders, while another winner from the past, Chris Paul, is also back on the entry list.
The Irish BOSS (Big Open Single Seaters) Championship, featuring the quickest cars in the country, is back with Eamonn Matheson in his self-engineered MM3 likely to be the man at the front of a pack that will include Donal Giffin in his Reynard Rover, Barry Rabbit in his Tatuus Renault and the Dallaras of Fergus Faherty, Michael Roche and Joe Courtney.
Other visiting championships will also be on show, including Formula Sheane, Ginetta Junior, Formula Vee, Irish Seats and Fiesta Ireland as well as regular Kirkistown competitions for Mazda MX5s, Roadsports, Fiesta Zetecs and saloons.
Qualifying starts this afternoon with the first Ginetta Junior race at 4.10pm and the first Avon Tyres FF1600 Championship race around 5.20pm.
Saturday racing begins at 9.30am with the MX5s and Fiestas up first.