Round 9 of the SMRC calendar, “Season Finale” possibly not doing the event justice. With numerous championships still up for grabs, there was bound to be some epic battles, none more so than the fight for the Celtic Speed MINI Cooper Cup. Coming in to the final round, Joe “Front Row Joe” Tanner had a 5 point lead on Kenny Thirlwall, with David Sleigh a further 24 points behind. With 78 points available over 3 races, it was still all to play for.
Qualifying in very wet and greasy conditions saw a surprise pole, with first year racer Greg Barnard 2 hundredths of a second ahead of Thirlwall with Tanner in 3rd. Wet weather specialist Vic Covey Jnr was 4th followed by Team Sleigh’s Aiden Moffat and David Sleigh. Lewis Grant claimed 7th with Malcolm in 8th.
Race 1 was again wet with Thirwall grabbing the lead and Tanner holding second right up to the last lap when their battle slowed them up at the hairpin and in a bold move, Moffat passed both round the outside giving him his first MINI race win. Ian Munro came home 4th followed by Covey in 5th with Malcolm in 6th unable to challenge Covey properly after a first lap collision left him with bent suspension.
Race 2’s conditions were marginally better although still a touch slippery with a damp track starting to show a dry line. Thirlwall and Tanner again set to it at the front of the field battling it out for the lead. Munro held on to 3rd with Sleigh making it up to 4th on the first lap before contact at MacIntyres on lap 2 forced him to retire from the race. Malcolm was in the wars again with a smash from behind through the hairpin on lap 1 seeing him sliding broadside up the track and gravel and dropping down to 8th but recovering to chase down the dueling Munro and Covey. With Marco Haig’s car parked on the edge of the gravel trap at the end of lap 6, the race was red flagged.
With the draw for race 3 completed, Chris Reid took pole with Josh Baird along side. Malcolm lined up 3rd alongside Covey, Munro and Tanner were on row 3, Thirlwall and Moffat on row 4. With Thirlwall moving in to a 3 point lead following race 2 it was all down to this race for the championship.
Off the lights Reid moved ahead with Baird tucking in behind only to lose out as Malcolm chose to go round the outside in to Duffus making it stick and claiming 2nd, only a folded in wing mirror giving away just how tight a pass it had been! In to MacIntyres on lap one and Baird was elbowed out by Covey for 3rd place, which he held up to the hairpin when Tanner forced his way past followed through by Thirlwall.
Reid lead the way until lap 4 when Malcolm managed the cut back at the hairpin getting the inside to drag race up the start finish straight and hold his line in to Duffus taking the lead, Reid being muscled out by Thirwall in to MacIntyres, dropping him back down the field. In to the hairpin and Thirlwall’s patented passing move saw Malcolm take an elbowing out on to the gravel dropping him down to 4th, just before the safety car came out.
After 2 laps under the safety car, the race went green again, the order at this point; Thirlwall, Tanner, Moffat, McNab. Thirlwall and Tanner immediately settled back in to the swing of it with some hard and physical racing, contact between the pair slowing them up slightly starting lap 8, allowing Moffat to take the lead. Coming in to MacIntyres on lap 9, futher contact between the two saw both cars take to the gravel dropping down the field, Malcolm nipping through in to 2nd place followed by Barnard, Covey and Sleigh respectively with that order staying to the finish.
The contact on lap 8 left Thirlwall and Tanner with damaged cars, Tanner limped home with a broken wheel in 17th out of the points, Thirwall managed to finish 9th taking the title by 10 points. Sleigh held 3rd with Malcolm securing his 4th place overall ahead of Covey.