Wheel to Wheel...

Published Thursday, 29 March 2012
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As the motorsport calendar slowly makes its way to the eve of Easter, this weekend sees another piece of the jigsaw fall into place, with the first car race meeting of the year at Kirkistown Race Circuit.

The circuit is owned and operated by the 500 Motor Racing Club of Ireland with the disused wartime airfield at Kirkistown becoming the club's home in 1953.

The 1.5 mile circuit is, in essence, the same circuit that is used today, but thankfully the circuit has been developed to include those modern day safety features that you would come to expect in this day and age. Over the last 5 years a small village of new purpose-built buildings has sprung up in the paddock providing first class facilities for racers and spectators alike.

A wide range of motorsport activites happen at Kirkistown across the year but the focus this weekend will be on car racing, the boys and girls that go wheel to wheel and panel to panel. These days they race against the clock to take the chequered flag and hopefully on to a championship at the end of the season.

This will be Formula One, BTCC in its simplest form and can be borne out by the fact that the likes of Colin Turkington, former BTCC Champion, and ex Formula One racer Eddie Irvine both started their careers at Kirkistown.

Also, at the same time let's not forget all the designers and mechanics that got that first touch of oil on their hands in the paddock and then went on to bigger and better things.

After a winter of no live racing action here in the province there is now a palpable sense of excitement and expectation building. This has been enhanced this year with news that in April a new Formula Ford Series will be having its debut opening round here in Northern Ireland before heading of to the like's of Croix, Brands Hatch and Monza for the final round.

Adding to the international feel and mix of this year's racing calendar, racegoers will be able to see the Scottish Sportscars and Saloons in action in May, whilst in June the Scottish Classic Sportscars will be making their first appearance at Kirkistown.

Once again the southern based championships will be coming north, headed by Formula Libre, also returning Formula Vees, Formula Sheanes, Ginetta Juniors and Irish Historics. One of the success stories of 2011 continues to go from strength to strength, The Usedcars NI Sevens Series, which this year has expanded its race program to include 4 double headers, a single race and a sprint at Kirkistown.

This anti "cheque book" series also has a reputation of being friendly but competitive at the same time, with plenty of exciting action on-track. Definitely a Series to watch!

If you were a Kirkistown regular in the 80's you would have witnessed the exciting sight of Metro racing and in this vein former Metro racer Roy Smyth has set-up a new one-make budget class for Ford Fiesta saloons.

These 1250cc Zetec engined Fiesta's were produced from 1995 to 2001 and will be standard apart from all the usual essential safety equipment with the aim of getting you on the grid for around £1500 to £2000. Seven races will make up the series with one per race meeting.

James Turkington Fiesta

Interestingly, James Turkington is using this series to dip his toe in the water of saloon car racing after attending a trackday last year. Some will see this as a big step after not having years of karting experience under his belt, but older brother Colin (who himself won the UK Fiesta Championship in 2001 on the way to his 2009 BTCC title) sees that the 18 year old A-level student can make the jump and is impressed with the way James can handle the car already. Colin commented that, "Fiestas are a great grounding for a tin-top career and helped myself to learn my race craft before i stepped up to touring cars."

James is probably the envy of all his class and, under the tutelage of older brother Colin, could be another home grown star of the future.

Race meeting dates for Kirkistown: March 31; April 28; May 26; June 23; July 21; August 25, October 6.

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Tony Gregory
Tony Gregory

Tony is an avid motorsport writer who has written for a wide range of media outlets, regarding events and competitors, whether competing locally or internationally.

Tony brings a great insight into the sport from being a voluntary official for over 20yrs with experience of attending events that would span from Kirkistown to Le Mans and Formula One events worldwide.

If it's happening in motorsport, he'll be watching

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