MAN­AG­ING THE CLASS WARFARE

BTRDA Ral­ly­cross kicks off this week­end and Hal Ridge tried the cars

Motor Sport News - - Btrda Test Preview - CAL­EN­DAR BTRDA Ral­ly­coss 2016 event sched­ule

Last week, the ral­ly­cross head­lines in Mo­tor­sport News in­cluded the an­nounce­ment that Se­bastien Loeb, ar­guably the world’s great­est ever rally driver, will race for Team Peu­geot-hansen in the FIA World Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship this year. As well as that, we pre­viewed the im­pres­sive top-level Supercar en­try for the open­ing round of the Bri­tish Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship, which took place last Sun­day at Croft.

This week­end, at Bly­ton Park in Lin­colnshire, the BTRDA Club­mans Ral­ly­cross se­ries holds its first of seven 2016 rounds.

In some ways Club­mans ral­ly­cross couldn’t be fur­ther away from the glitz and glam­our of World RX and Loeb. But, in other ways, it’s also very sim­i­lar, al­beit with dif­fer­ent reg­u­la­tions and cat­e­gories. The ba­sic prin­ci­ple re­mains the same.

The Club­mans se­ries re­turned for 2014 af­ter a sab­bat­i­cal with the aim of pro­vid­ing a cost ef­fec­tive en­try-level route into ral­ly­cross. With the growth of the sport world­wide, there is now a clear struc­ture from the most am­a­teur of rac­ers in the Club­man cham­pi­onship, to the fac­tory-backed teams em­ploy­ing the ser­vices of star driv­ers in World RX.

The fact that the Bri­tish Ral­ly­cross Cham­pi­onship has at­tracted a new ti­tle spon­sor, strong TV pack­age and the strong­est Supercar en­try for some time is a clear in­di­ca­tion that the sport as a whole is ben­e­fit­ing from the over­all ex­po­sure that the World Cham­pi­onship is cre­at­ing, and the Club­mans se­ries is also en­joy­ing the same perks.

Around 50 driv­ers are en­tered for the open­ing round of the cham­pi­onship this week­end at Bly­ton and nearly 50 per cent of those didn’t com­pete last sea­son.

“I think we’re look­ing ahead to an­other strong year,” says BTRDA ral­ly­cross com­mit­tee mem­ber John Rook. “There’s a good in­crease across the classes. I think there will be an­other good fight for the over­all ti­tle too.”

The Club­man se­ries has in­tro­duced two new classes for 2016: His­toric and Pro­duc­tion 4x4, to join the ex­ist­ing Pro­duc­tion, Su­per Mod­i­fied and Club­man Supercar divi­sions.

“The His­toric class has at­tracted the big­gest Clas­sic Mini en­try since 2012 and has ev­ery­thing from a 1275cc Mini to a 3.9-litre Sierra Cos­worth,” says Rook. “We know that the main four-wheel-drive cars will al­ways race in the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship and we’re not ever go­ing to try and com­pete with that. What driv­ers asked us for is an ac­ces­si­ble route into four-wheel drive, so that’s why we’ve in­tro­duced Pro­duc­tion four-wheel drive.

“The­o­ret­i­cally, you can now join the sport by com­pet­ing in the BTRDA, move up to the Bri­tish Cham­pi­onship, then all the way to Euro­pean and World RX. Peo­ple who go to watch big events, like the Su­per­cars in the Bri­tish or World Cham­pi­onships, can come to us and com­pete, and we get a lot of en­quires at club level from peo­ple want­ing to get in­volved.”

The Club­man cham­pi­onship has re­ceived 60 reg­is­tra­tions to date for 2016, many of which didn’t race last year.

Mo­tor­sport News was in­vited to the cham­pi­onship’s pre-sea­son test day at Bly­ton Park re­cently, to sam­ple a car from each of the five Club­man cat­e­gories.

Mo­tor­sport News’s ral­ly­cross correspondent Hal Ridge, who has pre­vi­ously com­peted in the Club­man, Bri­tish and Euro­pean Ral­ly­cross cham­pi­onships, made the jour­ney to Lin­colnshire to get be­hind the wheel.

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