Hal Ridge looks ahead to this year’s ti­tle con­test

Motor Sport News - - Preview: British Rallycross -

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

The Supercar divi­sion will fea­ture a host of new ma­chines

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