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No Problem for Houston! Croft Hillclimb report with Tony Gregory

The opening round of the 2017 ANICC Millers Oils Hillclimb Championship may have fallen on April the 1st this year, but this didn’t stop Croft Hillclimb, Holywood, Co Down cementing its reputation as the seasons perfect opener with Ulster’s hillclimbing fraternity. This popular Thoroughbred Sports Car Club NI run event was rewarded with a maximum entry of 80 cars of which 76 posted a time.

Even though the local weather produced four seasons in a day it didn’t perturb Bangor’s Christopher Houston who started his title defence in convincing style with FTD. Over the winter Houston had bought himself an updated OMS, so naturally he is now a favourite to win back to back championships.

The practice runs were held in damp conditions, with various competitors suffering mechanical woes and trips into the scenery. Unfortunately the knowledgeable crowd was deprived of seeing Gary McWilliams’s rapid Toyota Starlet in full-flow as he was baulked on his first practice run and then retired with gearbox woes. The baulk was initially caused when John McDowell’s Escort clipped the timing equipment at mid point causing McDowell to turn in the road, bringing out the red flag.

Neil Dugan entertained in his RWD 205. Image from Declan McPhillips

As always the course witnessed plenty of sideways action, courtesy of Neil Dugan’s potent Peugeot 205 RWD and Steven Harvey’s Escort RS. Mark Francis’s Escort Cosworth’s waste gate provided the rural setting with a high octane sound track.

The sun greeted the arrival of the first official timed runs and the resulting dry road meant that the hill could be attacked with ever more confidence. Houston was starting to get to grips with his new OMS CF08 and would set FTD with a competitive time of 36.12s, but Richard McGimpsey in his RMG Busa was hot on his tail posting a 36.29s. George Stevenson’s Jedi MK6 rounded out top 3 with a 37.38s which was also matched by the rapid Maguire Mini of Rudi Gage.  Stevenson had posted the second fastest time, so he would take the position with multiple Saloon Champion Gage settling for 4th OA and winning class 8.

Sadly a heavy rain shower fell during the early stages of the second timed run which meant that the top three positions would remain unchanged for the rest of the day. Despite the weather putting pay to any personal bests this year, organisers still managed to offer the option of a 4th timed run.

This year’s Top 3 TSCC committee members were Robert McGimpsey driving his Turner Ford to 1st in class 16b in 40.62s. Second was TSCC comp’ Secretary Wallace McKee in his MX5, who clocked 48.90s in the ever popular class 2. Club President William Heaney clocked 47.83 and took his Ford Puma to a class1 win.

Mentions should also go to Tony Hamilton (Porsche 968) who was contesting his 30th consecutive Croft, the 1988 event being his first hillclimb and to Sixteen-year-old Ben McKee who was tackling his very first hillclimb, son of the clubs comp’ secretary he already is a talented auto tester and last year added the outright TSCC 2016 Saloon Cup to the TSCC Junior titles he has already won.

Patrick Johnston pushing on in the Salmson. Image from S Woods Photography

A touch of nostalgia was provided by the ever growing UVCC non-championship vintage class 17 with Michael Taylor’s MG TA providing the winner. UVCC Competion Secretary Alan Clarke’s Riley Special was runner-up five seconds adrift of Taylor and one ahead of the glorious Curtis aero-engined DeDion of their Club President Lesley Murray.

After such a successful event TSCC Club Secretary John Gardner thanked the residents of Ballymenoch Road, Creighton’s Green Road and the staff, parents and pupils of the Rudolf Steiner School for their continued co-operation and support that allows this very popular event to run annually. Thanks were also extended to all the competitors for their support, the local PSNI, marshals and club members for all their hard work in delivering an event that managed to offer competitors a fourth timed run.


FTD- Christopher Houston OMS CF08 36.12

Class winners were-

Class-1             William Heaney Ford Puma                    47.83s

Class-2             Adrian Mullholland Ford Escort RS        40.20s

Class-3             Barry Griffin Impreza                             42.04s

Class-4             Gardiner McIIwaine Westfield SEI           42.48s

Class-5             James Perry Caterham                           43.37s

Class-6a           Gordon Fogarty Fiat X19                       39.87s

Class-7             Paul Hamill Tiger Suzuki             40.53s

Class-8             Rudi Gage Maguire Mini                         37.38s

Class-9             Mark Francis Escort Cosworth               38.30s

Class-10           Alan Roddy Citroen Saxo                     39.97s

Class-11           Seamus Morris Darrian                          38.33s

Class-12           Ivan McCullough Nissan GTR                 37.95s

Class-14           George Stevenson MK6                         37.38s

Class-15           Christopher Houston OMS CF08            36.12s

Class-16a          Jack Brien Midget Atlantis                     42.75s

Class-16b         Robert McGimpsey Turner Ford                         40.62s

UVCC Class-17 Michael Taylor MG Ta                            49.71s

Header image from S Woods Photography

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