DO you remember the 2016 British Saloon Championship at the Cowdenbeath Racewall over the weekend of the 14/15 May? Kyle Irvine does as it was his first major title win!

The Saloon British Championship was back at the Racewall and treated the fans to an action packed weekends of racing. The defending champion, Lee Sampson had first won the title in 2013, lost it to Stuart Shevill Jnr only to regain it the following season.

Kyle, from Glenrothes, remembers “Prior to the British I had been going well but with a week off from the racing we did a lot of preparation on the car and the second week we had the car on the scales getting the set up correct. We were a bit late getting to the track but by the time we did the pits were busy. We got the car unloaded and ready for practice.” The practice sessions were really busy and I went out a couple of times but I set one of the fastest lap times. We didn’t want to draw attention to how quick we were so I only went out twice!”

All the big names in the sport were there including World Champion Simon Welton, European Champion Eddie Darby, Irish Champion Anthony McIvor, Scottish Champion Luke Grief, English Champion, Sid Madgwick and the defending British Champion Lee Sampson in a strong 40 car field. Diggy Smith was using one of the Shevill cars. In practice Willie Skoyles Jnr blew an engine and he just managed to change it time for his rearranged heat. “The practice sessions were really busy and I went out a couple of times but I set one of the fastest lap times. We didn’t want to draw attention to how quick we were so only went out twice!”

The field was split into five groups with each driver racing three times and the points scored determining their starting position for the championship on Sunday. The heats were full of excitement and there was no shortage of contact resulting in cars being spun or bouncing off the wall.

“I had a good qualifying session. I had a third in heat one and then a second in the next. My car was going really well and I was missing all the pile ups even although some were happening right in front of me. Before we went out for the last race we had checked the points and we knew that it was between me and Griefy for pole position. I was told to keep the car in one piece but I was flying and went on to win.”

“I knew that I was going to start from pole when we loaded up and went home. The car was checked over but we didn’t change a thing. I had a rough game plan for the race. It was the first time that I had a pole position for a championship race – it was weird.”

“When we got to the track it was busy and there were a lot of spectators there. We unloaded the car and got it ready for the race. A lot of people wanted to go on the car but I didn’t want that. My dad Brian drove me around. I had a plan for the first corner and just concentrated on what I had to do.”

The front of the grid was impressive to say the least with Irvine on pole with Luke Grief alongside, behind were Stuart Shevill Jnr and Eddie Darby whilst on row three were Deane Mayes and Michael Allard.

The drivers were paraded to the fans for their Gilmour Engineering sponsored British Championship and once the grid was formed, the drivers strapped in they received the command “gentleman start your engines” and to a crescendo of noise 32 engines fired up as one! “I remember getting into my car and got the usual words from my dad but he was leaving everything to me. I could feel the atmosphere building up – it always does at a big meeting at the Racewall – but I tried to concentrate on what I had to do at the start. I remember the pit gate closing and thinking that it was weird that I was on pole position for the British.”

After the warm up laps the green flag dropped withIrvinehitting the front ahead of Shevill Jnr and Grief but Andersonslowed and stopped behind the goals at the pit bend. Next time around Mayes was third after pushing Grief wide. Darby was running just ahead of Graeme Shevill. “I made the start that I wanted and got around the first bend without a problem and led for a few laps.”

Irvinenow had his hands full with Shevill Jnr pushing and then on lap six the lead changed hands but within a couple of lapsIrvinewas back in front but as he did so Mayes moved into second. Shevill Jnr was then spun by Grief on the main straight with Mayes.

Mayes then closed in on Irvine and then sentIrvinewide which allowed Darby into second and ahead ofIrvine. At the head of the pack Mayes was running just ahead of Darby and a recoveringIrvineonly for Darby to be spun on the turnstile bend.Irvine quickly closed the gap to Mayes and then dunted him wide as he retook the lead to a loud roar of appreciation from the fans. There was a shunt on the back straight with the cars of Smith, McIvor, Paul Honeyman andDowneytangled suspending the race.

“Deano managed to catch me and he sent me wide. I think I was down to third by the time I got back in line. I wasn’t too worried as I knew that my car was quick and just had to settle down. I remember spinning Eddie Darby and then closed up on Deano. I pushed him wide to get back into the lead and then had to slow as the yellows appeared.”

On the restartIrvinemanaged to open up a couple of car lengths over Mayes who was under pressure from Grief before dropping to third. With five to goIrvinehad a comfortable lead over Grief with Parker diving through on the inside to grab third. The noise level had been increasing as the laps dwindled and to a real Cowdenbeath roarIrvinecrossed the finish line to become the 2016 British Champion.

“When we restarted I was able to ease away from Deano and Griefy who were fighting over second. With 5 to go I began to think that I could win and when the last lap board came out I had a nice gap. When the chequer appeared it was a brilliant feeling and I could hear the fans cheering over the noise of my car!”

“I remember driving into the lay by and clambering onto the roof. My legs were like jelly and when I climbed down I was mobbed. When I saw my dad sauntering up I gave him a big hug. It was very emotional being presented with the trophy especially with the top drivers that I had beaten and who were on the rostrum with me. My car was loaded onto the back of the Burgoyne lorry and the victory lap was something else – the reception was overwhelming, it was surreal I will long remember that weekend with pride!”

It had been a superb couple of days’ Saloon racing with no quarter given or expected and whilstIrvinemay not have been everyone’s top to win make no bones about it he was a well deserved winner.