Saturday 11th June, the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum, Northern Ireland played host to Cultra Hillclimb 2016, Ulster’s best known automotive garden party. This unique event combines a competitive hillclimb with demos, displays and parades all put together with the aim of showcasing local engineering and giving the general public a glimpse of Irish motorsport and motoring history.

This year the combined efforts of museum and the team at the Thoroughbred Sports Car Club definitely delivered a feast for the eye with many varied displays and unique competition cars, many of which have never been seen in Ulster before, one of these cars was the Issigonis Lightweight Special, making its first trip to Irish shores. Built from 1933 to 1938, the car has a unique rubber suspension and given its historical significance it is on permanent loan to British Motor Museum. Driven by Andy Storer, the car drew admirers all day long.

In the case of the ex Alec Poole ‘The Cyclops’ Sprite, it was returning to the province after fifty plus years away. In the sixties the 1275cc Sprite competed at Irish motorsport events from 1962 to 1964, notably Dunboyne and the 1964 Circuit of Ireland. The ‘Irish Green’ car was taken to 3rd in class by its current owner James Thacker.

Jonathan Murphy Photo, John Gillett AUS, 1934, MG K3

Australian John Gillett’s K3 Magnette. Photo credit: Jonathan Murphy

The event also played host to the MG Car Club’s ‘Ulster Triple M Tour’ which perfectly reflected the events theme ‘Midget Gems’ and with cars visiting from three continents and ten different countries, it certainly made this year’s event a truly international affair. Fifty one cars took part in the tour with three entered in the main hillclimb competition. One of the ‘Top Picks’ from the tour was Australian John Gillett’s K3 Magnette which was also raced by Prince Bira in the 30’s, competed in half a dozen Australian Grand Prix’s and in 1949 won the Australian Hillclimb Championship.

Photo,Tony Gregory, Crowded Prize Giving

Cultra Prizegiving. Photo credit: Tony Gregory

A hundred cars could be seen doing battle on the 700yd hillclimb with slots being filled in a record ten days, the annual Cultra Speed Hillclimb crown saw its fourth different champion in the past four years as Coleraine man Jaye Nevin piping the current NI Hillclimb Championship leader, Bangor’s Chris Houston, to claim his maiden hillclimb victory with a last run time of 32.58secs in his Reynard Formula Lotus. However, drive of the day came from Ballymoney ‘Young Gun’ Roger Gage who hustled his venerable Maguire Mini on to the podium on his first visit to the twisty track.

Records also fell as Gerard O’Connell pedalled his rapid radical to a new outright sportscar record, nicking 0.27 secs off last year’s previous best and Stephen Strain lopped almost 2secs off the previous best historic car time. However, drive of the day came from Ballymoney ‘Young Gun’ Roger Gage who hustled his venerable Maguire Mini on to the podium on his first visit to the twisty track.

It has also become customary to have a Top10 Shoot-out to bring the day to a close and this year it was fought-out between 10 specially selected Post WW2 MG Midgets and AH Sprites, for the Mike Wylie Trophy. Amazingly this provided the closed battle of the day with Aaron Bunning’s, MG Midget taking the trophy by just one tenth of a second 36.64 to Jack Brien’s Midget Atlantis 36.65.

After the Event, Thoroughbred Sports Car Club President William Heaney said “This was by far our most ambitious Cultra so far, but once again the small TSCC Team, supported by our colleagues in the British Motorsports Marshals Club and other local motor clubs, delivered an event of which they can all be immensely proud. Today we had the largest number of competitors and participants from outside the Province and I’m proud to say they were all full of praise for what this unique partnership with the museum has delivered”

Header Image: Issigonis Lightweight Special. Andy Gray.