Event

British Rallycross Championship Round 6 – Lydden Hill

13th September 2016 — by Steve White

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Event

British Rallycross Championship Round 6 – Lydden Hill

13th September 2016 — by Steve White

Every round in a race Championship is significant, but the way drivers choose to approach a given event can vary immensely. In the latter stages of a Championship consistency often becomes more crucial than outright pace. For those chasing the leader every remaining round must be attacked as hard as possible in to reduce the point deficit, whereas those out front will seek to take as few risks as possible in order to preserve their lead.

As the British Rallycross Championship nears the end of its current season several drivers are now within sight of their respective class titles, so there were clearly mixed approaches being taken by the field at round 6 of the Championship.

One of the drivers keen to preserve his position was Dan Rooke. Dan’s remarkable performance in his debut year at the helm of rallycross Supercar has seen him claim a Championship lead which the more seasoned competitors have been unable to wrestle back from him.

Having won round 2 back in March, Rooke has a 100% success rate at Lydden in a rallycross Supercar. The last two August rallycross meets at Lydden have both been won by Ollie O’Donovan and, with thirteen Supercars entered in the class, both Ollie and Dan would have a full grid to fend off if they hoped to be first over the line again.

One name that was conspicuous by its absence from the Supercar entry was Dave Newsham. In the days leading up to round 6 the Power Maxed Racing team announced their withdrawal from the 2016 British Rallycross Championship. It’s a real shame that Newsham wasn’t able to complete the season as I had hoped the team would be able to iron the creases out of the ex-Marcin Wicik supercar.

Entry numbers in the Super National class were also strong, with season-long contenders joined by a number of familiar faces, including Gary Simpson who was making his first British Rallycross Championship appearance of the year and Stuart Emery, who was competing for the first time since injuring himself back in May.

Neither Emery nor Simpson could boast the longest hiatus from rallycross though. That accolade was firmly in the hands of Paul Easterbrook, who returned to rallycross for the first time in a decade. Alas, Paul retired early in the day, but I hope it won’t be another 10 years before his distinctive MR2 is back on track.

The Swift Sport Championship is at its most entertaining when the grids are full, so it was pleasing to see seventeen Swifts present at Lydden Hill. Among the numerous entrants was Barrel Sprint champion and Fueltopia fave Luke Woodham, making his rallycross debut at round 6.

In all 87 cars were set to appear at Lydden, which was a very respectable number for a National Championship event. Of course the only issue with this total – and this has been a reoccurring criticism of the British Rallycross Championship for several years now – was that those entries were spread across nine classes. Still, although the numbers weren’t huge in every class, there were at least enough cars to fill a grid. Sensibly the small Super 1600 entry was merged in with the Super Modified class for the heats, with just the final to be run separately…

…as it turned out though, the Super 1600 final was to be a non-event. Casualties claimed virtually the entire field and Tristan Ovenden was the sole surviving Super 1600 car at the end of the day. It was a rather lucky break for defending Super 1600 Champion Craig Lomax who, despite breaking a gearbox, managed to last long enough into the day to claim some Championship points and preserve his hopes of taking the title again this year.

Sam Jones had been the driver to beat in the Junior Swift Championship, but the mid-season arrival of Tom Llewellin put an end to Jones winning streak. Llewellin looked untouchable at Lydden, winning all three heats and the final by a comfortable margin. Tom joined this year’s Championship too late to challenge for the title, but if his current run continues then a fourth place finish looks more than achievable.

Second place was taken by Tom Constantine with Junior Championship leader Sam Jones placing third. As a consequence Constantine now trails Jones for the Championship lead by just three points, so the Junior title looks set to go down to the wire.

Kris and Keifer Hudson have been neck-and-neck in the 2016 BMW MINI Championship. Unfortunately Keifer was unable to challenge his brother for another win at Lydden as his car suffered a mechanical issue in the final, leaving Kris free to concentrate on collecting as many points as possible. Despite the absence of his brother Keifer, Kris continued to drive on (and occasional over) the limit which was evidence by a couple of very spectacular moments on the loose.

Even with his big push, it wasn’t Kris who would stand on the top step of the podium. Victory in the BMW MINI class was taken by last year’s Junior Swift Champion Bradley Durdin on his maiden drive in a BMW MINI. It was an impressive debut from Durdin and an early sign that the Hudson clan may face a new challenger in 2017. Second for Kris was enough to take the championship lead from Keifer and, no matter what the rest of the field are doing, I’m sure the siblings will be fighting up until the end of the season for the title.

With no Rob Gibson to contend with, Barry Stewart and Ray Morgan went at it for honours in the Retro Rallycross Championship. Morgan was close to Stewarts pace throughout, but Barry just took the win.

It was business as usual for Chrissy Palmer in the RX150 buggies, with Chrissy taking his sixth consecutive victory of 2016. Second for Stephen Jones was enough to bring him within one point of Jake Harris in the Championship standings and, with Palmer now holding an almost unassailable lead, the fight for second is going to be the main focus of the last two rounds of the Championship.

After winning at round 5 in Belgium, Tony Lynch came to Lydden with an increased lead in the Super National Championship. Lynch looked the man to beat, but several entrants seemed like they had the speed to challenge Tony, particularly Steve Cozens at the helm of the very rapid ex-James Bird Renault Clio V6. Sadly Cozens was to be denied victory whilst leading the final, as his Clio died in the closing stages of the race.

Paige Bellerby seems to be gradually getting the better of her Exige, but the dinky Lotus seemingly takes no prisoners when on the limit and, while fighting with Allan Tapscott for second, the tail happy Exige caught Paige out and she dropped down the order. That allowed Tapscott to go on and take second from Stuart Emery, who had a race long fight with Mike Howlin for third.

Second was the best result of the season for Allan Tapscott and third a fine return to form for Stuart Emery after several months out of action.

With fastest times in all three heats, first in his semi-final and first in the final it was a perfect weekend for Tony Lynch, netting him a maximum haul of points and furthering his lead of the Super National Championship. He hasn’t yet moved beyond the reach of second and third position title challengers Paige Bellerby and Guy Corner, but just a few more points should be enough to secure the 2016 title.

Nathan Heathcote arrived at Lydden with a slender lead from Aidan Hills and Simon Ovenden in the Swift Sport Championship. While Nathan enjoyed a trouble free day, both Hills and Ovenden encountered issues which resulted in Simon failing to make the final and Aidan placing eighth.

The greatest challenge to Heathcote instead came from Darren Scott, who made his first appearance in the Swifts of 2016. The pair were close throughout the day, but Nathan managed to shake off Darren in the final to take a comfortable win and open up a significant lead in the Championship.

After finding his feet in the opening heat race, Luke Woodham was forced to miss his second heat before coming back out again for heat three. With his pace increasing throughout the first Swift semi-final, Luke was just one spot away from qualifying for the final. Ninth overall was a respectable debut and I have my fingers crossed it won’t be long before we see the Fueltopia liveried Swift sitting on the grid of a final!

Following a successful weekend in Belgium, Graham Rumsey was just a few points shy of seizing the Hot Hatch Championship lead from Tomasz Wielgosz. Qualifying first put Rumsey on the front row of the final and a good result seemed assured… right up to the moment when Mariusz Mehlberg ploughed into the side of Rumsey and ended his race.

Mehlberg was subsequently excluded from the meeting and with Robert Potyra winning and Wielgosz finishing third, the damage to Rumsey’s championship challenge was minimized. Sadly the same couldn’t be said for Graham’s Saxo, which is going to need some serious attention before Pembrey. The team have promised the car will be straight again for round 7, so I wish them the best of luck!

It was refreshing to see some of the rallycross veterans back on the pace in the Supercars. Pat Doran seemed to have the bit between his teeth in the ex-Liam Doran Citroen C4 and he was flying during the heats. Steve Hill also had a pleasingly trouble free day of racing and he actually flew in the semi-final after clipping the curb on the exit of the chicane.

After taking second place in the second semi-final, Hill went on to finish fifth in the final. Having persisting with the Evo X for so long I found it immensely satisfying to see Hill scoring Championship points in the car, so I can only imagine how good a decent result must feel for Steve!

Despite having his first heat time ruined by a puncture, Dan Rooke still managed to qualify second having placed second and first in heats two and three respectively. It was no surprise to see the top qualification spot go to defending Champion Julian Godfrey, who looked very much on form with top-three times in all heats.

Unfortunately round 5 was either a feast or famine for early season favourite Kevin Procter. Fastest time in heat 1 was followed by technical issues with the car and, although he managed to qualify for the final, Procter chose to relinquish his spot on the back row of the grid.

After winning his semi-final, Rooke lined up on the front row of the final alongside Ollie O’Donovan and Julian Godfrey. Godfrey looked to make a move on Rooke as the pack headed into the first corner, but Julian drifted wide, gifting Rooke some breathing space: and that was all he needed. As Godfrey was swallowed up by the chasing pack, Dan drove a clean race out front and went on to take the checkered flag almost 5 seconds ahead of the next car.

Second place was contested right up until the last corner. David Bellerby snatched the position from Godfrey on the first lap and had to defend right up to the line. The result elevates Bellerby to third in the Championship standings and, having denied Godfrey another point, means that Rooke has extended his Championship lead.

Lydden yielded the perfect result for Tony Lynch, Dan Rooke and Nathan Heathcote, as all three managed to not only retain the lead of their respectively classes, but extend them.

With just two rounds of the Championship left, the need for consistency will increase that little bit more, a task that will surely become even more difficult as the rest of the field push harder in the hope of forcing a mistake. It should be an interesting end to what has been a hard-fought season in the British Rallycross Championship!

 

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