BRI­TAIN’ S SLOW EST SE­RIES UN­DER GOES A REVO­LU­TION

WHY THE 2CV SE­RIES IS CHANG­ING TO BRING BACK THE EN­THU­SI­ASTS

Motor Sport News - - Front Page -

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. ■

Pho­tos: Gary Hawkins, Rachel Bourne

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

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