GODFREY WILL HAVE HIS WORK CUT OUT T
Hal Ridge looks ahead to this year’s title contest
he British Rallycross Championship had a boost in both quantity and quality of entries in the headline Supercar category in 2015.
While only two drivers had contested every round the previous year and Julian Godfrey eased to his fourth successive title, last season things were considerably closer. Four drivers won events in the eight-round series and the title was decided at the final round at Croft – Godfrey again won.
However, with the odd exception making selected appearances – former rally drivers James Grint and Kristian Sohlberg among them – the main protagonists were the old guard: experienced drivers who have been in the sport for some time. That’s not to take anything away from Godfrey, Ollie O’donovan, Kevin Procter, Andy Scott and the rest, who produced an exciting and competitive year of racing in 2015. The series needed those stalwarts of the sport to continue, alongside fresh blood to make it even more exciting.
Thanks to an influx of young talent and new entries, alongside the experienced drivers, that’s exactly what British RX will be in 2016. It will be extra exciting. It has a mix of old and new drivers and cars.
If Godfrey is to win a sixth straight title, he not only will have earned it, but he has his work cut out. Fifteen Supercars are entered for the opening round of the championship at Croft this weekend, and most plan to contest the full season. This year, the calendar will visit Croft, Lydden Hill and Pembrey twice, with a mid-year visit to Maasmechelen in Belgium.
Three former champions – Godfrey, O’donovan and Pat Doran – will take part and start among the favourites.
Doran will compete in his first full season since 2011. He will be driving the Citroen C4 with which son Liam raced in the European Championship in 2010 and the car in which he beat Marcus Gronholm at X Games 2011 to achieve a gold medal.
Doran will also assist some of British rallycross’ brightest new talents this year. Dan Rooke started his first ever British RX event 12 months ago, and won the Super National title in his maiden season. Rooke had looked to Super1600 in Europe for his next move, and even tested for championship-winning team Set Promotion, but will instead race one of Doran’s LD Motorsports Citroen DS 3s this season in the British series.
Fellow Devonian Jack Thorne won the British Super1600 title in 2014 and sat out last year until the end of the season. He made his Supercar debut in an ageing Ford Focus, and over the winter has upgraded to an ex-olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta, bought from the World RX Team Austria squad.
Former British rally competitor James Grint made his Supercar debut at Pembrey last season before embarking on a Euro RX campaign, where he made the semi-finals three times. He will continue in Supercar this season with Albatec Racing, but will instead focus on his home series, where he will drive an updated version of the team’s Peugeot 208.
Two of the other newcomers to the Supercar field for 2016 may not be as young as the other fresh blood, but both can draw on experience in abundance.
British Touring Car Championship race winner Dave Newsham will drive a Ford Fiesta for the BTCC team, Power Maxed Racing, making its move into the dual-surface series alongside its touring car campaign.
Meanwhile, after many years in the sport and a pair of Supercar appearances in the past (both at Croft), multiple rallycross champion Dave Bellerby will embark on a full Supercar challenge in an ex-dermot Carnegie Ford Fiesta Supercar ( see Sporting Scene news, page 33). The Croft local could well be a dark horse for the title.
Of the experienced Supercar racers, there will be, as ever, little to choose between them. Godfrey has fully rebuilt his dominant Fiesta over the winter, for the first time in a number of years. O’donovan will start the season in the Ford Focus that road racing motorcycle star Guy Martin will race in a one-off appearance later in the season. By that stage, O’donovan will have switched to his Euro RXspecification Ford Fiesta.
Former European Championship event winner Kevin Procter won the final round of the British series in 2015 in his M-sport-derived Ford Fiesta and will race at his local event this weekend. Steve Hill has worked hard on the development of his Mitsubishi Lancer E10 over the winter and has attracted backing for another full season, while hotel proprietor Mark Watson will campaign his regular Citroen Xsara for the year. He will be supported by double British Rally champion Jonny Milner on the engineering front.
Andy Grant will race his ex-will Gollop and Andrew Jordan Ford Focus, while Steve Harris will join Doran and Rooke in the LD Motorsports team in another Citroen DS 3. Mark Flaherty will return in his ex-andy Scott Ford Focus and Colin Anson will race his unique Ford Ka.
It’s been hard to bet against Godfrey taking the title in recent years but in 2016 the championship could go to any one of 10 drivers at least, come Croft in October. With a new format (semi-finals and finals) and enough Supercars to fill the semi-final positions, everything’s to play for.
If ever the stage was set for a vintage season of rallycross in Britain, this could be it. ■
Vauxhall Tigra 311 Vauxhall Tigra 291 Peugeot 206 269 Vauxhall Tigra 265 Vauxhall Tigra 249 Vauxhall Tigra 233 Vauxhall Tigra 218 Vauxhall Tigra 216 Vauxhall Tigra 203 Vauxhall Tigra 203