Across The Water – Part 2

Saturday’s event at Craigantlet nr. Belfast means yet another sea-crossing for the ever hard-working British Hillclimb Championship contenders. Continuing from our Across The Water – Part 1 feature on the Channel Islands, here is a little insight into what goes on at the only round of the year in Northern Ireland. Again, this centres around the 2009 event.

 

Having been to Craigantlet with former Dallara-driver Andrew Platt for the previous couple of years, including the last ever ‘Ulster Speed Week’ in 2007 (which featured 2x sprints at Kirkistown and the hillclimb at Craigantlet), we were starting to feel like old hands at this trip.

I was on holiday in Cornwall for the week prior to the event so had an early morning charge to Bristol to grab a flight into Belfast on the Friday. As Platty was crossing with the car on the Stranrarer-Belfast ferry and not due into port for another couple of hours, I found a suitable watering-hole near to the docks and sank a few pints of the black stuff whilst reading Tommy Byrne’s excellent book ‘Crashed n Byrned’ (well, it seemed appropriate)!

Some 4 hours later Platty arrived, most annoyed that I had had a headstart on the Guinness and threatening to play catch-up!

As with all of our trips to Northern Ireland, we left the travel plans in the hands of former Pilbeam V8 driver and Belfast local Andy Kittle. Kittle is a great enthusiast for hillclimbing and still attends several BHC rounds on the mainland each year as a spectator.

For 2009 we were booked into ‘Anna’s House’, a B&B run by the lovely Annie and her boffin husband (who ignored the Dallara completely, but was fasinated by the trailer braking system)! The B&B was perfect for our requirements, it was water-tight, not too expensive, had loads of parking/turning space, was within 10miles of the hill and was within walking distance of Kittle’s local.

Following a sensible (by our standards) evening in the Lisbarnett pub we retreated to get a good nights kip ready for a busy days hillclimbing.

It should be mentioned that things are a little bit more laid back in Ulster than they are on the mainland. We arrived at the hill at around 9am to discover that although most of the BHC runners were there, very few locals had arrived yet!

Platty with the Dallara in the Craigantlet paddock

Then the bad news of the day started. We were greeted by 1600 warriors Will Hall and Eynon Price who informed us that there had been some agro overnight and that there had been a diesel spill on the course. It appeared as though some protesters (although we’re not sure what they protesting about) had been shouting abuse at the mainland competitors who had stayed overnight at the hill and then poured a drum of diesel over the entry to the very fast left-hander after the chicane.

The track surface in that area was lethal and the morning drizzle was making it worse. In a move which would NEVER have been seen on the mainland, the organisers called the city council who arranged for a spill clean up unit to be scrambled to the hill. In the meantime several competitors and gofors set to with washing up liquid and brooms to try to clean the surface. Amazingly this worked really well and the event was able to get underway shortly after the planned 10.30am start time.

 

The result of a sudden downpour at Craigantlet

 

The event saw the turning point in the 2009 championship as the Martin Groves/Paul Ranson Gould-NME was smoking after 1st practice and they retired from the event, and as it turned out the remainder of the Championship. This left Scott Moran with a healthy points lead and he wrapped up his 2nd consecutive championship a few weeks later at Gurston.

Platty had a good day at Craigantlet with 7th in the 1st Run Off and 10th (equal with Pat Roach) in the 2nd, so we retired to the pub for more local hospitality.

Platty 'resting' in the pub

The following morning, slightly hungover, I grabbed a plane back to Bristol and Platty started his long journey back to Lincolnshire. It was another great overseas trip and the only person who was annoyed was Paul Haimes who had turned down the chance to share Platty’s Dallara and probably a few points as well. At the season’s end Haimes lost 10th place in the championship to Eynon Price by 1 point.

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  1. [...] an insight into what the weekend entails, then check out the ‘Across the Water’ story that we posted prior to last years [...]

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