UPGRADE TO THE MAX T

Osian Pryce helps put the new Gwynnespeed car through its paces. By

Motor Sport News - - Citroen Test - TECH SPEC Gwynnespeed Chal­lenge cars Pho­tos: Car­wyn Loth­ian

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.

Pryce pushed hard in Sweet Lamb

ECU and parts upgrade for the en­gine pro­vide boost

Kris Meeke drove C2 R2 MAX in his Ju­nior WRC days

Agag: open to new se­ries FE has strug­gled to find sup­port se­ries Part­ner­ship ex­tended

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