BRITAIN’ S SLOW EST SERIES UNDER GOES A REVOLUTION
WHY THE 2CV SERIES IS CHANGING TO BRING BACK THE ENTHUSIASTS
Just how much can you recall about developments in the 2CV Classic Championship, or those concerning its centerpiece 24 hour event, over the previous 12 months? Probably not a lot, right? You can open that out beyond the past year, and the answer’s likely to be the same.
“Some of the stuff around it historically, like the club’s PR, has been completely hopeless,” says Meyrick Cox, club chairman since July last year. “We’ve had to do some work – it’s just about doing basic things and making sure they get executed well.”
Cox, who’s involved in North Sea wind farming and also operates the Rent Boys Racing team, took over as the club’s chairman alongside managing director Philip Myatt in the middle of last year, and the pair were quickly faced by a major problem: ensuring the grid for the 24 hour race at Anglesey was populated.
“Six weeks ahead of the event we had 12 entries, so we were genuinely at a crisis point for the club,” he says.
That’s not to say the championship had been ailing by any stretch; grids of 20-plus cars are regularly present at Citroen 2CV sprint meetings – which this year will be held at Oulton Park, Cadwell Park and Brands Hatch as well as its traditional twohour enduro at Croft – and that’s a more than strong enough figure for the championship to be sustainable.
But the 24 hour is an entity of its own, and strong numbers are needed to keep not just the race, but the club, going. Thankfully, entries climbed considerably before the event – although Minis and Citroen C1s, plus overseas 2CVS, flooded the grid.
“We managed to get the 24 hour back on the rails again; we actually made money on it, got up to 32 entries altogether which was great,” says Cox. “If there are only 15 or 16 cars racing, that doesn’t help us. The sprint series is different; there are 20-22 cars that have done the sprint series for a long time.
“The risk of the 24 hour is that it costs about £60,000 to put on, and if you get that wrong you could wipe out the club in one year. The focus has been on how do we make the 24 hour more commercially viable? And if we can do that then we can start to subsidise other 2CVS and make sure we can get those out.
“[But] we’ve approached this year with a much more professional view on things.”
The most significant shift for 2017 is a move back to Snetterton (where the race was previously held between 2004 and 2013) and while that in theory marks a step up in price, the thinking is that participation should be cheaper for competitors – especially with discounts in place – while it also offers more of a chance to fill the grids with 602cc 2CVS.
A £10,000 fund has also been set aside to get cars back in race-ready state, while a great deal more planning, Cox says, has gone into the season to ensure there are no repeats of last year’s scramble.
“We went off to Anglesey because we had an interesting offer from the circuit,” says Martin Harrold, a previous committee member who also runs and drives for the threetime 24 hour-winning Team LION squad. “We had some fantastic racing there; [it was] a superb circuit for our cars, really challenging and they were really welcoming, but there were two things really; one is not their fault, but the weather was quite challenging in all three races, and secondly I wasn’t directly involved but I believe we had an improved offer to go back to Snetterton. There were issues about distance for some of the teams, but then we used to go to Ireland, so we didn’t know what that was about.”
Cox continues: “We’ve done a lot of work to find out how we can minimise the cost of the 2CVS. One of the points of feedback from the survey was that cost and time are the two things preventing most people from racing. I can’t do anything about time, but we can do things about cost.
“We worked on the structure of the entry fees and we’ve made sure the 24 hour entry fee for a 602 [2CV] will be the cheapest it’s been since 2004. Where last year the full fee was £2400, you can put a car on the grid [this year] for £750 if you ran in 2016. Some of that is rebate from last year, and some of that is if you get your entry in early you get a discount, if you’re a 602 only [it’s the same], but the result is we’ve pulled the price down a lot. It encourages people with raceprepared 602s to come and race.”
A strong entry, it’s hoped, then has knock-on benefits for the championship and 2CV product as a whole – to showcase all that’s great about a very niche form of British motorsport.
“The constraint of 602s that we’ve found – and this is where the analysis has helped – is drivers over cars,” says Cox. “I have three cars, but I could only fill one last year. I don’t know why, but I think part of it is letting the world know about it. If you want to come and do a 24-hour race for £1500, here’s how to do it.
“They’re funny little things; they handle surprisingly well and they’re actually great fun to drive. The racing is really close and it’s one of the only 24-hour races based in the UK.
“We had 37 2CVS out one year; the target is to get back to 30 over the next three or four years.”
Harrold adds: “I’ve been either racing or running a team for 17 years – something like that. I, like a lot of people who came into 2CV racing for fun and it’s relatively inexpensive.
“They’ve got very narrow tyres and excellent brakes, which you mustn’t use. Typically, you’ve got a tiny amount of power – a good engine makes 50bhp and on average they have between 40bhp and 45bhp – and every time you brake you lose momentum, so the trick is to use the brakes as little as possible. Just keep it wound up and use everything you can to keep moving forward.
“Slipstreaming is absolutely crucial; we were at Snetterton three or four years ago and there was a train of 12 cars that ran around for more than an hour, nose-to-tail. Three cars there will go up to three seconds a lap quicker than one on its own, and that’s unlike any other series really – because all of the cars are roughly the same, you learn to trust the other racers and use hand signals to work out if they’re playing together or not.”
Certainly, the 2CV Championship is not without its flaws. Numbers still need to grow, and fear over the rise of the C1 as an alternative (Cox and Myatt are both involved in the running of a separate series) is a growing one – though a separate issue for a separate time. But how many clubs can claim to be completely trouble-free today? If all goes to plan, expect to hear the hum of the Citroen 602cc engine for some years to come. ■
Slipstreaming is king in 2CV racing 24 hour race will move from Anglesey back to Snetterton
Weird and wonderful 2CVS, including overseas visitors, race in 24 hour