Ken Wharton Memorial Autotests
Once again, this year we were able to return to the Chateau Impney, where the event originated in 1958. Having learned a lot from last year we were able to come up with a different test layout for 2019, which included part of the car park near its entrance and longer tests with only one layout change during the day. This resulted in the competitors getting more driving time during the day despite us running only 6 tests, rather than the usual 7 at the Arrow Mill.
Unfortunately Scotland were unable to raise a team this year, so the first round saw the Republic of Ireland team take a slim lead after both the Northern Irish and Welsh added two penalties each and England suffered both a car breakage and a wrong test to put them to the back of the field. Normal service was renewed after the second test with a clean run from Northern Ireland - Sam Bowden (Mini), Mark King (Nova), Trevor Ferguson (Striker) and Steven Ferguson (Mini Sp.) – giving them the lead with the Republic dropping to second after they had also acquired two penalties on the test, whilst England climbed to third in front of Wales.
With Autotesting generally suffering from a lack of competitors, several teams were forced to introduce some “ringers”. Wales drafted in the services of Paul Swift and his Mini, on a weekend away from his TV and display commitments, as well as Ian Chapman in his Riot, to accompany Welsh borderer Dave Evans with the Blitz and bona fide Welshman Lee Matthews in his Corsa. Even the Republic of Ireland had to draft in the services of Andy Blair for the Nova class due to a lack of home-grown talent to match Chris Grimes (Mini), Darren Quille (Westfield) and Guy Foster (Mini Sp.). Whilst the England team of Dave Mosey (Mini), John Moffatt (Nova), Chris Chapman (Stryker) and the 2019 British Champion Alastair Moffatt (Mini Sp.) were all home grown.
While the teams battled it out the separate Reserves competition was equally tight particularly as these drivers have nothing to lose unless they are drafted into a team due to breakage, and everything to prove. In the Mini’s Charlie Lower, in his first full season of Autotesting, proved to be the best in front of Northern Irishmen Jonny McDaid and Andrew Earney. The Saloons saw veteran George McMillan in the Nova better Tony Cook (Micra) whilst in the Sports Cars Stephen Morten (Stryker) took the Class from Paul Lowther (Stryker). The Specials saw an intense rivalry which went in favour of Peter Grimes (Sp.) buy just 1.2sec from Malcom Livingston (Lindsay Special) with Paul Fobister (Fobby Sp.) third from Robin Lyons (Mini Sp.), who had a particularly bad day, and Mark Thornton (Mini Sp.), who is now coming to terms with the Nova engined car he bought from Paul Mooney at the end of last year’s event.
Fortunately, the Gods were benevolent, as the weather was dry and sunny all day, the marshals were top class and the team from the Chateau were extremely supportive of our activities. At the end of the day, despite a layout change after Test 4, the team positions remained the same throughout the afternoon culminating with a decisive win for Northern Ireland on 2247.8 sec, their 38th since the start of the event 62 years ago, from the Republic of Ireland – 2305.5, England – 2397.0 and Wales – 2465.2. All then retired to the Royal Suit for the Awards Presentation and Dinner with the exclusive use of our own bar – what more could you ask for? Hopefully we will all be back for more next year.