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Cultra- Ulster’s ultimate motoring garden party- with Tony Gregory.

Last weekend’s Cultra Hillclimb event in Northern Ireland, definitely pulled out all the stops to entertain this year’s bumper crowd of over 2000 and again create Ulster’s ultimate motoring garden party. Organised by Thoroughbred Sports Car Club and hosted by Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, the event perfectly utilises the parkland setting in providing a short technical hill climb and an historic manor house providing the perfect backdrop to the display areas.

This year’s theme “Road to Recovery” was perfectly illustrated in the eclectic mix of display vehicles gathered for the day, which encompassed restoration projects, through to recovery trucks and period national breakdown vehicles. The front of the manor’s display area was given over to Chevron’s association with Northern Ireland and attracted the B1 which won its debut race at Kirkistown in the summer of 1965, alongside a pretty B8 and Irish racing legend, Tommy Reid’s single-seater F2.

Long time supporters Crossle brought along a 25F Formula Ford 1600, 1973, this model dominated FF1600

Deirdre, Rory & Peter McKinley with ZZZZZZZ
Deirdre, Rory & Peter McKinley with Class 5, and Simon McKinley Memorial Trophy winner Gerard O’Connell. Photo Tom Maxwell

Class 5 Modified Saloons – and McKinley memorial trophy winner Gerard O’Connell

Class 5 Modified Saloons – and McKinley memorial trophy winner Gerard O’Connell

for several years, winning the 1973 British Championship and FF Festival. The ex-Roger Barr 1968 US SCCA Formula B Championship winning 12F, launching two decades of commercial success for Crosslé in the USA and the unique 17F Formula 3 1-litre ‘screamer’, first driven by John Watson in 1970. This car has raced in Historic events including Monaco and Goodwood, by Crossle’s owner Paul McMorran.

With MK2 Ford Escorts being so entwined with Irish motorsport the organisers couldn’t ignore this year’s 40th anniversary and after the main competitive action on the hill, rally fans were able to enjoy a special run off, just for Ford Escorts competing in the main event. The winner’s trophy was presented “In memory of the late Simon McKinley”. The multiple Irish hillclimb champion and highly skilled driver who “drove the doors off” his own white Escort, was killed competing in his single-seater car in April. Simon was due to compete at Cultra 2015, so his “Scort” had pride of place in the display area.

Alfa Romeo 6c 2nd ARDS TT 1930 Michael Cotter. Photo Tom Maxwell.jpg
Alfa Romeo 6c 2nd ARDS TT 1930 Michael Cotter. Photo Tom Maxwell.

The reputation of the event meant that organizers had no problems filling the increased entry of 110, which marked 110th Anniversary of the first running of the hill climb in May 1905 and makes Cultra the world’s oldest hillclimb event. The highlight of the entries was Giuseppe Campari’s Alfa Romeo 6C that finished runner-up in the 1930 Ards TT road race and was part of the all conquering Fred Stiles team, which swept the podium. In similar style Cultra 2015 crowned a new champion in Bangor’s Chris Houston (OMS) who posted the only sub-32sec time of the day, his 31.93secs over-coming all day leader Jaye Nevin’s (Lotus Reynard) 32.05sec best, on the last run of the day. Young Richard McGimpsey (RMG Busa) from Newtownards held of Chris’s brother Russell (sharing the same car) for the final podium place. Ballymoney’s Rudi Gage returned to Cultra to finish fourth overall and take back his Saloon title in a new Outright Saloon Record time of 33.01sesc, with his Maguire Mini. Graham Boyce (DAX F20C) was next up and reclaimed the Cultra Sports Car title with a new Outright Sports Car Record of 33.70secs and complete the top 5 and the major category award winners.

Former Cultra ‘Club Champion’ Hal Catherwood (Crossle 9S) was overall Sports Car runner-up followed by Ivan McCullough in the brutal Nissan GTR. Neil Dugan from Co.Monaghan (Peugeot 205RWD) and Dungiven’s Gerard O’Connell Escort Mk2 were fully 2 secs off Gage’s pace in completing the Saloon Car podium. O’Connell would later go on to win the Cultra Hillclimb 2015 feature “Escort Shoot-Out, having already won his Class by 7/10ths of a second, earlier in the day with a time of 37.07secs. This time O’Connell was pushed much harder by Newtownards man Thomas Purdy (35.19secs), but remained unbeaten by just 7/100ths with a time of 35.12secs. At an emotional prize giving O’Connell received the winners trophy from Simon McKinley’s father Peter and his widow Deidre and baby son Rory.


Lyness Trophy for FTD (Fastest Time of the Day) – Chris.Houston


Vintage Handicap – John Galloway – Austin 7 – 62.93sesc

Vintage Class – Michael Taylor – MG TA – 43.31secs

Historic Sports Cars – Will Corry – Healey Sebring – 37.17secs

Historic Saloons – Philip McDowell – Escort Mk1 – 38.31secs

Class 2 Saloons – Jo Clarke – Honda Civic – 40.75secs

Class 3 Sports Cars – Mervyn Johnston – Porsche 911 – 37.39secs

Class 3 Saloons – Michael Adams – Golf GTi – 39.49secs

Class 4 Modified Sports Cars – Gordon Fogarty – Fiat X1/9 – 37.70secs

Class 4 Modified Saloons – Jonathan McAleer – Corsa – 39.43secs

Class 5 Modified Sports Cars – Robert Davidson – MEV Rocket – 35.81secs

Class 5 Modified Saloons – Gerard O’Connell

Class 6 Sports Cars – Graham Boyce

Class 6 Saloons – Rudi Gage

Class 7 Racing Cars – Chris.Houston

Images from Tom Maxwell.


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