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Night Sessions – Rich Maguire

12th October 2017 — by Dave Cox

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This week in night sessions…

…Rich Maguire and his STi Gravel Express. No, that isn’t a typo. This was a genuine development car for STi.

Rich had brought himself down to the Fueltopia monthly Offline Meet at the Ace Cafe second Monday of each month if you’re wondering. I had seen it there a few times before and always nodded in approval as I passed it.

On this particular meet, sat there under the sodium arch lights of the Ace Cafe my penchant for fast wagons spiked. Knowing of a cool location round the corner, Phil and I went inside to find Rich. He happily handed over the keys and, we were off.

As this is a STi development vehicle it is running full pink STi suspension, and with a mild tune, around 350bhp. Rich set about making some other improvements both visually and performance focused. 355mm Porcshe brakes, fifteen52 carbon wheels, cusco coilovers, and ABW wide arch kit.

Feeling the car as we drove over speed bumps, the suspension wasn’t crashy at all, you could certainly cruise around in this as well as hoon it around a track. This is exactly what he does with it. He’s even driven it to Gatebil and back. I love the classic lines of this car. The added width and lower ride height really help make it look aggressive.

I wonder if he would let me borrow it for a drive up to Wales?

Oh and if you want to see a bigger feature, check out Dan Fegent’s feature on it HERE

Words & Pictures: Dave Cox (SHOOTINGDAVE)
Instagram: @ShootingDave

Event

Veterans of the Car World

10th October 2017 — by Phil McCusker

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“You’re in the desert… why would the car need wind-shield wipers?

Imagine spending the week, looking at impressive builds in the worlds biggest car show, SEMA. Sounds like a dream…. Right?

No. Las Vegas has been the hub of one of the largest Automotive events for several years, the show itself has been going for a lot longer than I have been around, but there are some guys that have been tinkering with cars, for as long as the SEMA show has been around, and probably before.

We were looking for something else, less crazy than the builds we spotted at SEMA…

Cue a 3 Hour drive via the Mojave Desert, to Lake Havasu City, AZ

Next to a Man Made lake in Arizona, stands 43 Square Miles of desert town, steeped in Military history after being founded as an Army Air Corps camp back in the 1950’s so it makes sense that we stumbled upon a Veterans Car meet.

I have always been a fan of the car culture in America, the builds are often insane and I have always had a soft spot for american muscle.

This green ’63 Thunderbird was no exception, the fine attention to every detail was obvious that this car had been built with a lot of love over the last few years, for a car that was over 50 Years Old, it was in better condition than most show cars that I have seen in the UK.

Small Details, when in the Desert, you don’t need everything. The minimal yearly rainfall, means that you can get away with not having wipers, not that I can imagine the torque heavy V8 that breathes life into the Green machine would be fun to drive in the Rain!

This Richard Petty inspired Plymouth Belvedere was a throwback to the ’66 & ’67 NASCAR Grand National Season, was it a genuine Petty Car? I Sadly don’t have the answer for that, perhaps it is, going by the Trophies that were found near the car.

“Fast Toys, aren’t just for the Boys”

I found an amazing atmosphere in Lake Havasu, everybody had the time for everyone else, there was no, I’m better than you Chevy Guys, you Ford Guys, nothing, the feeling of a passion bringing people together in one place was overwhelming, for some of them, this wasn’t the first time they had met, with many having served tours around the world, from Vietnam all the way to some of the most recent campaigns.

As I walked around, having video called some people back home in the UK, scanning the array of metal that surrounded me, I found myself looking for smaller details, oddities and just general cool things

I then spotted something that looked a bit out of place.

When I first cast my eye over towards this Chevy Nova, I noticed a POW MIA Ribbon on the back, nothing unusual to find in the United States, they are very proud as a Nation when it comes to their Military, but as I looked closer I found that there was not one, but two Hummingbirds, one hidden below the Ribbon, signifying the sacrifice that someone has made, for their Country, that they were so proud of, that they felt the need to defend it at the ultimate cost.

This was an unusual sight, but a prime example of the dedication to the cars here, this was a C6 Generation Corvette, but the rear end took a moment, it has a ’63 Stingray rear end, which you would almost take for granted the amount of work that would go into this, the paint, the general thought process to come up with the idea in the first place is just beyond what I could dream up.

I will return one day to Lake Havasu City, hopefully with some cold hard cash and head for the Docks in a piece of American Car history.

Words & Pictures – Phil McCusker

Event

FBS goes Live at Japshow finale

2nd October 2017 — by Craig Toull

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The 5th round of the 2017 Fueltopia Barrel Sprint took place on 1st October and saw the FBS championship integrating with the Japshow Finale at Santa Pod Raceway. The Barrel Sprint track moved to the Live action arena to provide entertainment to those coming straight through the gate, giving the spectators a grandstand view of the action from the top of the hill. The smaller width with less run off, brung the concrete blocks closer alongside the track, giving a new mental challenge to the drivers.

The morning practice began on a wet and very greasy track surface, this causing even the current championship leaders a few teething issues. Once the drivers had dialed in the conditions and the surface started to dry the times started to drop. Practice continued until lunchtime and the drivers started to prepare themselves for qualifying, with only a few weeks to go until the Gymkhana Grid Finals in South Africa some of the drivers had made rather drastic alterations to their vehicles (including totally new engines, addition of race fuel and whole new engine calibrations) and this gave them the perfect opportunity to test the cars before they are loaded onto a boat.

After a short lunch break a further 30 mins of practice was given to the drivers before qualifying. This also saw the return of Jake Archer in a borrowed car take to the track. Qualifying began after the practice session and it was soon very apparent that there were going to be some very close battles.

Qualifying results were in and it would see a top 16 format in RWD, top 4 in AWD, top 3 in U1 and top 2 in FWD. Battles commenced and results started to come in, the times were that close it came down to reaction times on the 3rd and 4th position battle for RWD, Ryan Milton vs Philip Staniford in their turbocharged MX5s, the win went to Philip in his military inspired MX5. The final battle seeing Mike Newland and Adam Elder go head to head for 1st place, Adam taking the top spot and putting Mike in 2nd.

Again in the 4WD class reaction time would be the deciding factor, after a quick check it was found that with only a 0.1 second reaction time difference we would see Jonathan Buck get the top spot, with Dmitrij Sribnyj taking 2nd and Andrew Stevens in 3rd.

U1 class would see Andy Biddle taking 1st place, Nick Biddle taking 2nd and Tim Eardley taking 3rd.

Front wheel drive class only involved 2 drivers this weekend, Sean Franklin in his Ford puma and Jake Archer borrowing Seans puma. The win would unexpectedly go to Jake in the borrowed car.

The final round of the year takes place in 2 weeks time at Santa Pod Raceway and if you would like to be involved then visit the FBS website for more information, make sure your car meets the minimum requirements and turn up with your driving licence for a chance to be on that podium.

Photos and words by Craig Toull

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Event

Players 11.0

27th September 2017 — by Dave Cox

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Welcome to the players 11.0

This is the second Players Show of the year and this time it takes place at North Weald Airfield in Essex.

An early morning wake up call and quiet drive through London’s South and East boroughs, I was on the way to Players. I still get a little excited about car shows like this. Especially due to the massive success of Players Classic. I never really know what to expect.

Pulling into the airfield I could see a busy car park and hear low rumblings from people displaying their ICE tech. I wasn’t sure that in car entertainment was still a thing but apparently it is.

The organisers always seem to choose a venue that allows them to express themselves effectively. As a result, you are guided effortlessly around the venue, rather than being overwhelmed by a mass of vehicles, at least that’s the plan.

Event

World Rallycross Championship Round 9 – Loheac

22nd September 2017 — by Steve White

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Our last look at World Rallycross on Fueltopia came just after round 5 of the 2017 Championship, where Petter Solberg took victory at Lydden Hill.

At that time it seemed as though the Championship might be on the verge of a tipping point. After defending Champion Mattias Ekstrom had won the opening three rounds, rounds four and five had both been taken by a PSRXVW Volkswagen Polo. The Polo had looked fast from the outset of the season, but once the level of reliability matched it’s raw pace, it looked like Volkswagen Motorsport might have built a car to challenge the early dominance of the EKS Audi S1.

As the Championship headed back to Europe following round 8 in Canada, there was little doubt as to the capabilities of the Polo. After Solberg’s win at Lydden, PSRXVW team mate Johan Kristoffersson went on to secure a hat trick of victories in Norway, Sweden and Canada.

With defending Champion Mattias Ekstrom missing his home round in order to race in DTM, Ekstrom  relinquished his Championship lead to Kristoffersson, who held a comfortable 35 point lead over team mate Petter Solberg before the action began at round 9 in Loheac.

Although other drivers have challenged at individual rounds, none have seemed able to consistently match the pace of the lead trio. Given the rapid evolution of the front running cars, I haven’t been surprised to see the same competitors at the top of the leaderboard, however I had been expecting the M-Sport developed Hoonigan Racing Focus RS RX of Andreas Bakkerud to be among them.

Of the two Hoonigan Racing Division cars competing in France, it was Ken Block who made the best start. Sixth in qualifying one was followed by a third in qualifying two and Ken finished the first day of racing sitting in third overall. Block has had good speed at Loheac in the past and I hoped that this might be the weekend we would see him make his first final of 2017.

Although their driver line up and management are predominantly Swedish, Loheac was technically home ground for the Peugeot-Hansen team and they were obviously looking for a good weekend. All three team drivers were to deliver great results and all would eventually finish in the top ten.

British fans were disappointed to learn that Guy Wilks had vacated his seat in the ex-Kristoffersson Loco Energy Polo prior to Loheac, however the sting was partially taken out of the announcement when it was revealed that Alister McRae would be taking Wilks position.

With limited seat time Alister certainly threw himself in at the deep end and, although McRae wasn’t quite quick enough to make the semi-finals, his qualifying times would have placed him well inside the top ten European Championship drivers.

EKS had the greatest presence on track, with the three World Championship regulars joined by DTM driver Nico Muller in a fourth Audi S1.

Muller placed outside the top twenty in the opening qualifier but had much better pace in his second race of the day, taking ninth fastest. I suspect he might have been able to challenge for a semi-final spot if the conditions hadn’t deteriorated so much on the second day of racing, but seventeenth on his World Rallycross debut was certainly nothing to be ashamed of.

Last year was the first time I had seen wet racing at Loheac and I was surprised as to how much of a positive effect it had on the circuit. With a bit of moisture on the loose sections, there was no clean line swept into the dirt and there were far more passing options available to those drivers who were willing to take a wider line.

Standing in sunshine is generally preferable to getting soaked but, for the sake of good racing, I was hoping that we might get a bit of precipitation over the weekend…

…as the adage goes though, “careful what you wish for”: the rain started to fall before the first car hit the track on Sunday and, although it eased off at times, it never completely stopped. As a consequence the track was absolutely saturated, with standing water quickly accumulating around the curbs between races.

While the World Championship entry had a few obvious choices, guessing a winner in the European Championship entry was far trickier. Fresh from victory in Sweden, Anton Marklund was the Championship point’s leader, but he faced strong competition from a capacity grid comprised of both season regulars and local entrants.

Having failed to make the final in both Barcelona and Sweden, Robin Larsson was my top pick and I was certain he would be on the offensive from the outset.

Larsson was clearly trying hard, but his weekend got off to a disastrous start with Robin placing 31st in both qualifying one and two. Due to the volume of Supercar entries, the European Championship ran their third qualifying last thing on Saturday and Larsson at least managed to finish the opening day of racing on a positive note, winning qualifying three and moving himself up to eighteenth overall.

With a semi-final position still a mathematical possibility, Robin again pushed hard when racing got underway again on Sunday morning. Fourth in the final qualifying round was a great result in the damp conditions but, although that elevated Larsson to fourteenth overall, he was still two places shy of the vital semi-final spots.

Larsson’s absence from the European semi-finals was the biggest shock of the weekend for me, as I felt sure he had the speed to challenge for the win. Whilst Robin had been struggling, Anton Marklund was unstoppable and he took the top qualification spot in both qualifying one and two.

One of the last races on Saturday was the third qualifying race for the quickest European Championship Supercars and, for me, it was one of the best battles of the weekend. There were multiple lead changes and, after several exchanges of paint, Marklund found himself bumped down the order and knocked off the top qualification spot. Third overall was still a great start for Anton and only a total disaster would prevent him for claiming a place in the semi-finals.

Although it was no real surprise to see Anton Marklund at the top end of the timesheets, I hadn’t expected to see Marklund’s team mate Magda Andersson place so highly. After finishing eighteenth in qualifying one, Magda then posted fourth and fifth respectively in qualifying two and three, placing her seventh at the end of the opening day.

Ninth at the end of day two was the best result of the year for Andersson and hopefully a sign that she is starting to adapt to the Supercars.

Of the considerable French contingent in the paddock Jonathan Pailler placed highest at close of play on Saturday, sitting in eighth overall.  Firmin Cadeddu was just behind Pailler and both drivers gained positions during a wet qualifying four to finish sixth and fifth respectively in the intermediate standings.

Firmin and Jonathan were joined in the semi-finals by Jerome Grosset-Janin and Patrick Guillerme, which gave the sizeable crowd of French rallycross fans plenty to cheer about.

Much like the Supercar regulars, Super 1600 leader Artis Baumanis had a number of local drivers to contend with in his bid to maintain his Championship lead.

For Championship regular Ulrik Linnemann, 2017 has seemed like another “almost” season. Victory in Spain  was followed by a retirement in Belgium  and, although Ulrik did at least leave Mettet with a decent chunk of points, a poor result in Sweden saw Linnemann with a widening point deficit to make up and, once again, dwindling hopes of a title win.

Loheac belonged to one Super 1600 driver this year and that was Kristian Szabo. Szabo won every qualification round, the first semi-final and the final, with victory in the latter races by a considerable margin from his rivals. Second position was taken by local driver Maximilien Eveno while Ulrik Linnemann completed the podium.

Victory for Szabo netted him maximum points and moved him ahead of Artis Baumanis in the Super 1600 Championship. The Super 1600 title will be decided at the next round in Germany and with another win in Latvia, Szabo is the man to beat.

Even with a capacity grid of Supercars and Super 1600 cars to handle, organizers had decided to shoehorn even more racing into the timetable, with the Rallycross Legend Show running a full set of qualifying races and finals over the course of the weekend.

Divided into separate classes for 2WD and 4WD cars, both sets of races were entertaining, however it was the Group B cars on the limit that provided the most memorable spectacle. I love watching the modern Supercars power round the last bend of the Loheac circuit and the classics were every bit as spectacular.

Cyril Raymond won the 2016 RX Lite title by just a handful of points, with three other drivers taking race wins throughout the season.

In 2017 Raymond has been the dominant force in RX2 and, aside from Sweden, he has claimed victory in every round thus far. The only consistent challenge to Cyril has come from 2016 British Rallycross Champion Dan Rooke.

Loheac was a make-or-break weekend for Dan Rooke. After crashing out in Canada, Rooke needed a win in France if he was to stand any chance of denying Cyril Raymond the 2017 title. Alas luck would not be on Dan’s side and, after a slow time in qualifying one, the opening day was rounded off with suspension damage in qualifying three.

Rooke battled on and managed to claw his way back to seventh in the intermediate standings. Starting the first RX2 semi-final mid-pack, Rooke was unable to make his way into the top three and his weekend, along with his title hopes, ended there.

Without the challenge of Rooke to deal with, Cyril Raymond held off the advances of Guillaume De Ridder and Vasily Gryazin to take a clean sweep in Loheac. Maximum points in qualifying, semi-finals and the finals saw Raymond not only win his home round, but secure the 2017 RX2 crown.

After the tussles of qualifying three, Anton Marklund began day two with a much cleaner run to take second in qualifying four and move up to second in the intermediate standings.

Eighth in qualifying four was enough to keep overnight leader Thomas Bryntesson at the top of the standings and he would take the pole spot in the first of the European Championship semi-finals.

It was another successful weekend for the Irish, as both Derek Tohill and Ollie O’Donovan made it through to the semi-finals. O’Donovan’s weekend came to an abrupt end in the second semi-final, but Tohill made it through to the final where he went on to finish fifth ahead of rallycross veteran Tommy Rustad.

Tamas-Pal Kiss had placed well during the first day of racing, but he seemed to relish the wet weather and took first in qualifying four before going on to win the first European Supercar semi-final ahead of Thomas Bryntesson.

Kiss lined up on the front row of the European Supercar final alongside Firmin Cadeddu, who was the only French driver to make it through to the top six.

The battle for overall victory in the European Championship final would be fought between Thomas Bryntesson and Tamas-Pal Kiss, with Thomas eventually emerging as the winner. Firmin Cadeddu completed the podium with a superb drive in his Citroen C4.

There would be no trophies for Anton Marklund, but fourth was enough to give him a decent haul of Championship points, allowing him to take the European Rallycross title at the intermediate stage of the Latvian round last weekend. Although the World Championship has provided the quickest races this year, the European Championship has been the most competitive and I think Marklund has done well to emerge victorious from such a class field of drivers.

I’m not sure if the home soil was providing additional motivation, but the Peugeot-Hansen drivers clearly had the bit between their teeth and I thought the 2017 specification Peugeot 208’s looked quicker than they have all year.

In fact in the dry conditions the Hansen cars even looked a match for the PSRXVW Polo, with Timmy Hansen registering two top ten times in the opening qualifying races.

If the locals wanted to see one Peugeot-Hansen 208 deliver though, it was the number 9 car of Sebastien Loeb. Second in qualifying one was followed by a first in qualifying two, which placed Loeb first overall and, predictably, elicited a huge roar from the home crowd.

Loeb didn’t look quite as rapid in the wet conditions during qualifying three and four, but two more top four times was enough to secure him second overall in the intermediate standings.

And who do you think was in first? After taking a win in the wet at Loheac last year, Johan Kristoffersson again coped well with the rain and took third in qualifying three, before winning qualifying four to once again take the top qualification spot.

Following his podium finish in the opening round of the season many wondered if the World Rallycross Championship might have another ex-DTM front runner in the form of Timo Schnider. Timo is yet to better, or even match, his early success but he placed ninth in Loheac.

MJP Team Austria team mate Kevin Eriksson narrowly missed out on a spot in the semi-finals thanks to a DNF in the third qualifying race which dropped him to sixteenth in the intermediate standings.

It was a mixed weekend for the STARD cars as well. Janis Baumanis manage to crack the top ten in two of the qualifying rounds, earning himself tenth in the intermediate standings and a spot of the back row of the second World semi-final. Fourth in that semi-final wasn’t quite enough to take him all the way to the final, but it at least bagged him some Championship points.

In the second STARD Fiesta Timur Timerzyanov never seemed to really hit his stride and Timur didn’t register a single top ten time in any of the qualification races, leaving him on the outer fringes of the point scoring positions.

After a strong showing on the opening day, Ken Block eventually finished seventh in the intermediate standings. Sadly Block’s good run came to an end in the semi-final when Ken began to spin coming into the penultimate corner and, in an attempt to catch it, he planted his right foot.

In the dry he probably would have got away with it, but on the damp surface the power wasn’t enough and the Focus RS RX continued to rotate straight into the gravel trap, resulting in a rear right puncture.

Block did his best to limp to the finish line, perhaps hoping that the drivers ahead of him might encounter similar difficulties, but with the rest of the field having an issue free race, Block missed out on what would have been a well-deserved place in the final.

Third in the second World semi-final, Andreas Bakkerud started the final on the back row and he managed to fight his way up to fourth. I am still surprised that the Focus RS RX hasn’t claimed any wins this year, but at least Bakkerud is continually getting the car to the final.

It seems odd to write a World Rallycross Championship blog and make so few mentions of Petter Solberg, but he just didn’t seem to be at the sharp end in France. That isn’t to say he wasn’t fast – he made it through the semi-final stage with ease – but it’s unusual to see Petter not take at least one qualifying win over the course of a weekend.

For Solberg the final began badly before then turning to complete rubbish. Running wide at turn one, Solberg dropped to fifth and so sensibly opted for an early joker lap. Unfortunately Mattias Ekstrom had the same idea and Petter emerged from the joker dead last. As he began his pursuit of fifth place driver Andreas Bakkerud, it became apparent that he had a front left puncture.

Petter continued to lap the circuit, with the tyre slowly working it’s way off the rim and he eventually crossed the line in fifth position.

After winning the second World Supercar semi-final Timmy Hansen started the final from the front row of the grid. Slotting into second position ahead of Sebastien Loeb, Timmy looked just shy of the pace of the leader, but fast enough to finish on the podium. What appeared to be a mistake on lap two saw Hansen drop down to third, allowing Loeb move up to second, however the mistake turned out to be a mechanical issue, forcing Hansen to pull off on lap four.

To the delight of the French fans Loeb managed to hold off Mattias Ekstrom to finish second, though he was unable to close the gap to leader Johan Kristoffersson, who took a lights-to-flag victory. Where the rest of the cars finished the race caked in dirt and grime, the PSRXVW Polo was still gleaming!

Johan Kristoffersson continued his record breaking run with victory again at round 10 in Latvia last weekend. That win saw Kristoffersson secure the 2017 drivers title and team title for PSRXVW.

With the 2017 Championship now decided, attention has already begun to shift to 2018 and many are already asking the question, can anyone stop the PSRXVW Polo?

The dominance of PSRXVW clearly has the other teams rattled. Mattias Ekstrom initially made noises about EKS needing additional support from Audi, before putting four of their five cars up for auction last week, while Sebastien Loeb has hinted that Peugeot are reconsidering their participation in the Championship.

It is perhaps a little ironic to hear Loeb voicing such a compliant, as it was arguably his period of dominance with Citroen that killed a lot of interest in the World Rally Championship. That said, he is perhaps more aware than any other driver of the detrimental effect that single marque supremacy can have on a sport.

At present I am rather torn on the subject. On the one hand I want to see cars going as fast as possible – and I have a huge amount of respect for Volkswagen Motorsport for producing such a capable car – but as a sport that is at its best when the racing is close, having a pair of cars run away with things isn’t going to contribute to that.

With two rounds of the 2017 Championship left it’s going to be interesting to see if anyone is able to break Kristoffersson’s streak before the end of the season, especially with Petter Solberg seemingly out of action for at least one of those rounds.  Beyond that – and considering that the rumours have already started to fly about 2018 – I’m even more intrigued to know who we’ll be watching in next years Championship!

 

Words and Pictures: Steve White.

Want to see more of the World Rallycross Championship at Loheac? Click here for a full image gallery.