The 2 Litre National Saloon season at the Cowdenbeath Racewall ended with the Scottish drivers winning two of the major titles as well as the Superbowl XXX.
Not only that they made their mark on the continent with Barry Russell winning a final at Emmen in the Netherlands.
At the start to the season it looked promising with Holly Glen (Inchture), Stewart Macdonald (Stirling), Jason Secker (Denny) and Ian Sutherland (Stirling) making their debuts whilst Tam Rutherford Snr (Dunipace) appeared towards the end of the year. However Macdonald and Sutherland were to leave, but the others were to make their mark in one way or another.
The race for the track points proved to be a difficult one with Ian McLaughlin (Auchterarder) retiring through injury, Luke Grief (Stenhousemuir) retired, Ross Watters (Leven) raced in the National Series and whilst Graeme Shevill (Motherwell) wasn’t always there he ended up winning it! Shevill had a new car, one built by Eddie Darby, James Letford (Stirling) brought out his new one mid season, Graeme Anderson (Douglas) sold his and appeared with the MacDonald car whilst Barry Glen (Dundee) had a new Grief built car.
The saloons had been in good form from the start with Holly Glen making the boys work hard as she led them a merry dance to become one of the few lady drivers to win a saloon race.
Watters, Grief and Ian McLaughlin were soon involved in the race for the track points with Shevill just that wee bit adrift. There was some close and fast racing though.
The first real test for the saloon drivers came over the weekend of June 2/3 when they had their National Championship and Raymond Gunn Tribute races to decide.
As usual there was a big turn of cars with the English challenge led by World Champion Daniel Parker (Norwich) and Deane Mayes (Diss).
Lee Sampson (King’s Lynn) came out on top in the opening heat but the Scots redressed the situation with Aaryn Triggs (Stonehouse) winning heat two. Michael Allard (Great Yarmouth) then won heat three with G. Shevill coming out on top in heat four. Willie Skoyles Jnr (King’s Lynn) then tipped things in the favor of the visitors when he won heat five but there had been some cracking racing, although Barry Russell (Brechin) would disagree having suffered a lot of damage to his car in his heats.
It was a surprise to see Russell appear on the Sunday having had to work through the wee small hours to get his car ready to race although there were quite a few drivers who didn’t make it. The pits were a hive of activity with drivers getting their cars ready for the championship
The National Championship hasn’t been one of the Scottish drivers best for some reason or another with the last to win this title being Gordon Alexander (Bonnyrigg) in 2012.
Kieran McIvor (Northern Ireland) went on to win the last chance qualifying race from Russell and they started at the back of the grid with Triggs and Sampson on the front row. Triggs led initially but lost out to Allard although the latter tucked in behind the leader. There was a race suspension and whilst Allard led, G. Shevill was soon into second. There was another stoppage but again it was Allard who led with Shevill in close order. To the usual “Cowdenbeath Roar” Shevill forced his way into the lead with five laps remaining and then went through to win his first major title. Allard held on to second with Triggs in third. To round off an exciting weekend of Saloon racing Grief survived a last lap lunge from McLaughlin to win the Raymond Gunn tribute race.
The track points race held sway with Grief leading from Watters and McLaughlin.
The UK Challenge came and went at Skegness and then the “biggie” for the Scottish drivers – their Scottish Championship! There were three previous winners on the grid Paul Honeyman (Stenhousemuir), Grief and the defending champion Kyle Irvine (Glenrothes). The drawn grid was interesting with Russell on pole with H. Glen alongside and P. Honeyman and Watters on row two with the eventual winner McLaughlin on row six. H. Glen made a fast start to go straight into the lead but lost out to Watters who pulled away from the field. A couple of race suspensions saw his lead disappear with the race coming alive when the four lap board appeared. Watters lost the lead to McLaughlin. But then had G. Shevill moving into second. As they started the last lap McLaughlin got alongside and when they headed into the pit bend Watters lunged with spectacular results. McLaughlin and Shevill hit the wall with Waters and Shevill spinning. McLaughlin kept his foot down and used the wall to get to the finish line only marginally ahead of Irvine in what had been the most exciting of Scottish Championships. Unfortunately McLaughlin headed to the hospital after the race and his season ended early with a shoulder injury.
The ORCi Championship then headed north at the beginning of September and again attracted another healthy field of cars including the new world champion Max Stott (Wisbech). Heat winners were Allard, Cole Atkins (Haverhill), Marc Honeyman (Larbert) and Barry Glen (Dundee).
Watters, who had a dreadful qualifying series won the last chance qualifying round on Sunday and when the cars lined up it had B. Glen on pole with Atkins alongside.
After the grid was formed the cars set off on their warm-up lap and when they got to the pit bend it was Glen who made the better of the starts to lead but an early race suspension saw the cars line up behind Glen. He made another good start from Allard and was able to ease away. Mayes and Allard were fighting over second with the latter moving ahead, but a last bend lunge ended with Allard spinning, with Mayes picking up second but behind a clear winner – Barry Glen.
The National Series began which meant that Watters, Russell and Secker were to miss a few meetings at the Racewall. With Grief, McLaughlin and Watters missing it was Shevill who came through to win the track points championship.
Ross Forrest went on to win the white yellow challenge trophy final as the cars headed into the last weekend meeting at the Racewall – the Superbowl XXX, a National Series round and the Gordon Barclay memorial trophy. What a way to end the saloon season!
As usual there was a good turn out of drivers, 38 in total, including Diggy Smith, Mayes and Anthony & Kieran McIvor. Barry Glen had to change an engine after practice. Heat wins saw the Scottish drivers dominate with Irvine winning heats one and Euan Mathieson (Lochgelly) winning heat two.
The grid had an all Scottish front row with Irvine on pole with E. Mathieson alongside and Ally Strachan (Fraserburgh) and Skoyles Jnr behind. The race had to be restarted after a five car shunt on the top bend which saw Robert Mawhinney’s car taking the brunt of the shunt. When the race restarted Irvine took the lead with Shevill slotting in behind, The cars stayed in that order to the end although Irvine had a scare when two cars spun right in front of him but somehow he managed to find a way through to win from Shevill with Smith in third.
On Sunday the main race of the afternoon for the saloons was the Gordon Barclay Memorial trophy with the format being an all in one.
Right at the start Stott was sent spinning by Smith whilst Mayes was delayed. A. Mathieson led the way but was being reeled in by Strachan, although before he could make his move they were joined by Irvine. However Irvine was sent clambering up the wall and dropped down the order. The race was suspended when P. Honeyman’s car stopped. On the restart Shevill sent the leader wide as he charged through to win from Triggs and Russell.
Skoyles Jnr went on to win the National Series at Ipswich with Watters fifth and Russell sixth but Rutherford Jnr won a heat and then the final in style!