WATCH IN 2016

PRO­TO­TYPES AND RE­LAUNCHES

Motor Sport News - - Club Racing Preview - By David Evans Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com David Evans

HRDC ACADEMY

Julius Thur­good at the His­toric Rac­ing Driv­ers’ Club knows a thing or two about rac­ing for cars of the 1950s and 1960s, and his lat­est brain­child, the HRDC Academy, is set to truly fly this year.

The con­cept was to de­velop a one-make class of rac­ing for the hum­ble Austin A35 in pretty sim­ple and af­ford­able trim. With a good sup­ply of donor cars from the late 1950s avail­able and a kit to con­vert the cars into rac­ers, it adds up to some of the most af­ford­able and fun his­toric rac­ing cur­rently avail­able.

From mod­est be­gin­nings, the con­cept has quickly gath­ered mo­men­tum and the bet­ter part of 50 cars are now com­plete or in build.

Stand­alone races are now the achiev­able tar­get for 2016 and an ex­pected race at the Good­wood Re­vival (Septem­ber 11-13) will be the ic­ing on the cake. The sea­son starts at Brands Hatch on April 9/10. PL

FIA rally di­rec­tor Jarmo Ma­ho­nen be­lieves that the World Rally Cham­pi­onship is on its most sta­ble foot­ing for a decade af­ter com­mit­ment from lead­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Talk­ing to MN in the wake of Volk­swa­gen’s con­fir­ma­tion that it will re­main in the WRC un­til 2019, Ma­ho­nen said the fu­ture for the world cham­pi­onship looks stronger than it has for 10 years.

Toy­ota, Volk­swa­gen, Hyundai and Ford (still rep­re­sented by M-sport World Rally Team in a tech­ni­cal ca­pac­ity) are four of the world’s big five man­u­fac­tur­ers, with only Gen­eral Mo­tors miss­ing. Tenth on the list is PSA Peu­geot Citroen, the Paris-based firm that will re­turn full-time to the WRC in 2017.

Ma­ho­nen said: “What we heard from Volk­swa­gen is very great news for mo­tor­sport – not just for the WRC. This kind of news gives you the kind of cer­tainty you need in this cham­pi­onship. What we need and what hasn’t been achieved yet is the long-term com­mit­ment from the stake­hold­ers, so we can make sure we have ev­ery­body in­vest­ing in this sport – this is some­thing which, un­til now, hasn’t ex­isted.”

Citroen’s com­mit­ment to the WRC is for at least three years, with Hyundai run­ning to a sim­i­lar pro­gramme, while Toy­ota has con­firmed it wants to stick with ral­ly­ing un­til 2022.

Ma­ho­nen added: “With this kind of long-term com­mit­ment and in­vest­ment from the man­u­fac­tur­ers, we are in the po­si­tion where we have the ba­sics in place. We can now move for­ward and de­velop the cham­pi­onship to­gether – there’s a very ex­cit­ing fu­ture for us.”

Ma­ho­nen un­der­pins his state­ment with an ac­cep­tance that no­body knows what’s around the cor­ner, but M-sport team prin­ci­pal Mal­colm Wil­son pointed to the tim­ing of Volk­swa­gen’s de­ci­sion to com­mit to the WRC; the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer re­mains in the middle of its tough­est trad­ing pe­riod ever with the on­go­ing road car emis­sions cri­sis.

“This is a re­ally pos­i­tive move for our sport, when you con­sider the po­si­tion Volk­swa­gen’s in,” said Wil­son. “I see this as an­other tremen­dous shot in the arm for the WRC. Look­ing at next year, this cham­pi­onship is go­ing to be very, very ex­cit­ing.

“It’s all about hav­ing the longevity, that gives con­fi­dence, de­liv­ers in­vest­ment and raises the value of ev­ery­thing we’re do­ing.”

Toy­ota’s re­turn to the WRC af­ter a 17-year ab­sence comes with the strong­est pos­si­ble per­sonal and pro­fes­sional back­ing from pres­i­dent and CEO of Toy­ota Mo­tor Cor­po­ra­tion, Akio Toy­oda.

Sim­i­larly, Citroen will be back full-time in 2017 af­ter elect­ing to back a WRC pro­gramme over its World Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship cam­paign.

Numer­i­cally, the WRC has been bet­ter-sup­ported by man­u­fac­tur­ers, with seven makes com­pet­ing be­tween 1999 and 2002. The dif­fer­ence back then, how­ever, was that not all of the man­u­fac­tur­ers were com­pet­ing on all events and the per­for­mance gap was vast, cour­tesy of much more open tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions.

From the end of 2002, num­bers be­gan to slip, with the big­gest sur­prise com­ing six years later when Subaru an­nounced it was de­part­ing (along with Suzuki), leav­ing just Citroen and Ford.

In 10 years, brands such as Toy­ota, Mit­subishi, Hyundai, Skoda, SEAT, Suzuki, Subaru and Peu­geot had all come in and de­parted the WRC.

Three decades ago this week, the cor­ri­dors of power on the Place de la Con­corde echoed to an end­less two-pronged de­bate.

The main part of the de­bate would have cen­tred on spec­ta­tor safety and how it could be im­proved. The se­cond con­sid­er­a­tion would be Por­tu­gal and its fu­ture in the World Rally Cham­pi­onship.

Ear­lier this month, 30 years ago, Joaquim Santos’s Ford RS200 went off the road on the open­ing stage. Three spectators died at the scene, 32 were hurt – one of whom suc­cumbed to their in­juries soon af­ter. Ac­tu­ally, the FISA’S cor­ri­dors were all quiet. World mo­tor­sport’s gov­ern­ing body had noth­ing to say on the mat­ter. FISA’S stew­ards on the event had is­sued a state­ment in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the tragic event… crit­i­cis­ing what they called ‘no­to­ri­ous’ FISA seeded crews for with­draw­ing from the event.

A state­ment read: “The stew­ards con­sider that this at­ti­tude [of the fac­tory driv­ers who with­drew] may af­fect the Ral­lye of Por­tu­gal im­age as well as that of the World Cham­pi­onship Ral­lye (sic).”

When FISA pres­i­dent Jean-marie Balestre did break cover, he did so on the pages of French sports news­pa­per L’equipe; but still he didn’t want to com­ment di­rectly on the Por­tuguese ac­ci­dent, point­ing out that he was still await­ing all the facts. There were, how­ever, two mes­sages he wanted to get across loud and clear: he sent a mes­sage to the Rally of Por­tu­gal or­gan­iser Ce­sar Tor­res, con­firm­ing the event would re­main in the world cham­pi­onship in 1987, and he wanted to con­grat­u­late the am­a­teur driv­ers who con­tin­ued in the event af­ter the works crews with­drew.

Hon­estly, this hap­pened. I’m not mak­ing it up. Any­body doubt­ing me should check Mck­lein’s beau­ti­ful Group B book or back is­sues of this very news­pa­per.

Fi­nally, three weeks to the day af­ter the tragedy, an ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee meet­ing was as­sem­bled by FISA at which a work­ing group to look into spec­ta­tor safety was es­tab­lished with event or­gan­is­ers and driv­ers hav­ing in­put.

Let’s not for­get, just min­utes be­fore the Santos crash, Timo Salo­nen lost much of his Peu­geot’s rear bodywork when a cam­era­man’s an­swer to the lack of room at the side of the road was to stand in the road. The pre­vi­ous sea­son had been lit­tered with such in­ci­dents, most of which went un­recorded.

Por­tu­gal had been com­ing. But Balestre and FISA col­lec­tively buried its head in the sand in terms of the dan­gers, pre­fer­ring to bask in the glo­ries of the Group B reg­u­la­tions – the ones de­liv­er­ing the ul­ti­mate for­est rac­ers.

But when fam­i­lies started lay­ing pic­nic rugs at the edge of the stage and ‘fans’ dared each other to get closer and closer to the ac­tion – some ac­tu­ally los­ing fin­gers to the scoops and wings as they reached out to touch the pass­ing cars, big trou­ble was right around the cor­ner.

Shame it took a cou­ple more months and yet more tragedy for FISA to see it.

Osian Pryce be­lieves that the Mit­subishi Mi­rage he cam­paigned on the Mid Wales Stages still has more to come in terms of per­for­mance, even though he matched a num­ber of the other R5 man­u­fac­tur­ers on the rally.

The Welsh­man’s pro­gramme with Spencer Sport has yet to be con­firmed ( see above), but Pryce is keen to do more in the Mi­rage.

“There’s mas­sive po­ten­tial with the car, there’s no doubt about that,” said Pryce. “We had to work quite hard in Wales; the car was set up to be driven quite side­ways, which, for me, isn’t the fastest way. I was pretty pleased with the way the event went and where we would have been in the main BRC field. We’d have been run­ning third for most of it and we only missed out on a fastest time by six-tenths of a se­cond and that was with­out a recce!

“Now we need to see what can be done for the rest of the sea­son.”

An en­try on the Cir­cuit of Ire­land Rally is thought un­likely, but Pryce is keen to see more Bri­tish Rally Cham­pi­onship ac­tion later in 2016, dove­tail­ing with his Drive DMACK Tro­phy cam­paign.

Wil­son: VW news good for WRC VW con­firmed re­turn to WRC last week Start of run: 2002

Pryce dom­i­nated Na­tional Rally Cup

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