UPGRADE TO THE MAX T
Osian Pryce helps put the new Gwynnespeed car through its paces. By
here’s nothing like grassroots rallying to put a smile on your face, just ask Osian Pryce who’s driven some of the best cars rallying has to offer. I’m sat with him going sideways around a sweeping three left at Sweet Lamb, and he’s using the side windows for vision more than the front windscreen. Has anyone designed a windscreen wiper for the doors for rally cars yet?
So, why are we here? The Gwynnespeed Challenge has a new category for what it’s calling the Max Challenge. And we’re testing it out.
The current Challenge series has proved popular, taking in nine events this year on a mixture of asphalt and gravel. The cars are slightly modified versions of a Citroen C2 road car, and the aim with the Max is to provide more power through greater modification.
The Max can be upgraded from the standard Challenge Citroen C2s, with the main changes being an engine and ECU enhancement, and an ‘H’ pattern dog engagement gearbox. A normal Challenge car can be built for under £6000, and the Max machine for under £15,000. Not bad ( see box, above).
Back to Osian. The Welshman is a class act, there’s no doubt about that. He was leading both Junior World Rally Championship rounds he entered last year before poor reliability ruled him out, and he’s just been confirmed in the Drive DMACK Trophy for 2016. He’s also coached in and briefly driven a C2 Challenge car before, so he was the perfect person to trial the new C2 Max.
We’re here on a very wet and windy day in Wales, but there’s a heater just next to the wall where the likes of Sebastien Ogier and Marcus Gronholm have signed their names. Osian is laid back and relaxed, so off we go.
There’s something special about blasting out of the bowl so famous for Rally GB and it’s spectators, but I didn’t have time to enjoy it as Pryce cranks up two gears and the torque fires us into a hairpin left. He’s surprised.
“I’ve driven Jack Walby’s challenge car,” explains Pryce. “Power-wise, it’s almost a different car. There’s just so much power.”
Reigning World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier – along with Thierry Neuville, Kris Meeke and more – cut their teeth in Citroen’s C2 MAX. And ex-m-sport and current Gwynnespeed mechanic (and driver) Mat Wheeler says the car has been measured on a dyno with a better torque curve than an original Max, so this is much improved.
The original plan was for Pryce to take it easy on the first few runs, but such was the excitement for the 23-yearold at a reliable and functional Citroen that he was soon throwing it around. It wasn’t just reliable though.
“Everything that I was doing to the car, it was responding and it was incredibly safe,” says Pryce. “It didn’t snap once. It does everything you want it to do. It’s got the power to bail you out and the gearbox is incredible.
“I’ve driven C2s before where you hit a bump and they want to kill you, whereas this is a different story altogether. It’s because they are small, but in this one it felt like a bigger car, I could throw it around in the turns but it was stable like something with a longer wheelbase.”
With the weather the ground was really slippery, but Pryce is still able to push the car hard. These are the kind of conditions he’s grown up in as a Machynlleth lad. But you still need the car underneath you and the stability of the little C2 is really what allows him to push on.
There are two jumps in our loop, the second has a gateway just after and has probably caught many a driver out before. The C2 is happy over those though, and there’s no sign of the car chewing us up and spitting us out.
“There were a lot of ruts, but down the back over the jump it landed safely and performed well,” adds Pryce. “It gives you so much confidence. Down the big hill I was chucking it in [to the corner] more aggressively than usual just to see how it reacted but it was so stable. I said at first ‘let’s go out and take it easy’ but by the end we were pushing on and I was smiling the whole time. It doesn’t usually end well when you’re pushing and smiling at the same time!”
So the big question: would Pryce add one to his car collection?
“It was a laugh to drive, I’d definitely have one as a toy,” he says with a smile. “But you’re paying!”
Sweet Lamb was perfect to test the car’s performance on gravel, and Pryce struggled to pick a part of the car he liked the most. What’s for certain is the jump from the Challenge to a Max car is huge in terms of power, but because the car is so manageable and the performance is accessible, it wouldn’t be too big a step for a young driver.
“The power of the car, there’s so much there for a little car,” explains Pryce. “For the money, I can’t believe how good it is as a package really. Sometimes less is more and it’s bloody good.
“For someone jumping into rallying for the first time it gives you plenty of feedback, and you know that it’s going to give you everything you need to learn but at the same time it’s completely safe.”
The car isn’t perfect, let’s get that straight. There’s still work to do including with the steering and brakes, but the model we’re testing isn’t completely finished, with four-pot brakes still to be added.
So what’s the future for the Challenge and Max categories? The new category has been fairly late to the party, being finished just before the Gwynnespeed season started, so there haven’t been any entries yet. With time – which you need to build one of these cars – interest has been positive. Persuading clubmen to part with more cash will also be difficult, but it’s value for money.
What is certain is that the Max is a massive step forward and definitely worthwhile. Any car Osian wants to own, I do too. ■
Formula E boss Alejandro Agag has backed the FIA’S plans to launch an electric karting world championship, and says he would welcome it as a support event to his series.
The FIA has had the possibility of electric kart engines on its radar for some time, with several indoor events already utilising the technology.
At the most recent meeting of the World Motor Sport Council, held at the beginning of this month, it was announced the FIA Electric and New Energy Championships Commission would be tasked with creating the FIA ekarting Cup.
The championship would be based around a single-chassis and singlepowertrain concept. The FIA will launch a call for expressions of interest from potential promoters and suppliers shortly.
Agag, the man behind the world’s first all-electric single-seater series, told MN it made sense for world motorsport’s governing body to introduce the technology at the sport’s entry level.
“Karting would be very good,” he said. “It should definitely come very quickly – it’s there and the karts are really good. They are as fast as normal karts. I think they [the FIA] should do it [launch an electric karting championship].
“We’d love to have it here on the Formula E package, definitely. You’d need a karting track but if you could have that next to us, it would be fantastic.
“We have struggled to find support events because they need to be electric and this would be fantastic.”
Last month it was announced that a new electric karting championship would be launched in North America.