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Event

Rear View Mirror 2016

14th December 2016 — by Steve White

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It pains me to admit it, but sometimes there are very rare occasions when motorsport isn’t the most important thing in life. I’m immensely proud of everything I have achieved this year but, in order to fit it all in, compromises had to be made with regards to the number of motorsport excursions I was able to make in 2016.

Knowing that I’d be unable to attend the quantity of events I wanted, my focus for this year instead shifted to ensuring that the quality of those outings I could make was as high as possible.

Despite the aforementioned compromises, I was at least able to get 2016 underway in the usual fashion: with rallycross of course! Round 2 of the British Rallycross Championship  also constituted part of the Belgian Rallycross Championship, so there were good entry numbers throughout the multiple Championship classes.

It was great to see the return of several British Championship stalwarts alongside a number of fresh faces. There was a notably high rate of attrition in the Supercar category, with several of the title favourites encountering difficulties throughout the day.

As the familiar names fell by the wayside, it was Supercar rookie Dan Rooke who made his way to the front of the field and went on to take the win. With Lydden marking his second podium finish in as many rounds, it was an early indication that Rooke was going to be one to watch.

From the mixed surfaces of Lydden, my next stop for 2016 was the hallowed tarmac of Brands Hatch for the first round of the British GT Championship. British GT seems to be in great health at the moment, with each round of the National Championship attracting large and varied entries. The presence of several BMW Z4’s on the grid at Brands really served as the icing on the cake, as I just can’t get enough of BMW Motorsports hardcore take on Barbie’s favourite Bimmer.

The opening British GT round gave me my first chance to see the GT3 variant of the Lamborghini Huracan in the metal and I liked it. I liked it a lot. The sound wasn’t quite on par with my beloved Z4 GT3 but, in terms of looks, the Huracan definitely gives the BMW a run for its money.

Barely a month had passed since my British GT outing when I found myself heading back to Brands to once again savour the sights and sounds of GT3 cars. The second round of the Blancpain GT Sprint Cup marked a rather significant milestone in the history of GT3 racing: it was 10 years to the weekend since the competitive debut of the class. The success of GT3 was reflected in the entry list, which was far greater in size than it had been on past visits to Brands Hatch.

As well as a packed main grid, the 2016 Blancpain round at Brands also boasted a much fuller support package than previous years. The Sport Club race was hugely entertaining, though it was the cars of the Hyperclub that proved the biggest draw to spectators. Not only were there a plethora of exotics present in the paddock, but many of them were taken out on track for a damn good thrashing.

Mettet would be one of three World Rallycross Championship rounds I was able to attend in 2016 and Belgium was the first occasion I could lay eyes on the M-Sport Ford Focus RS RX. I personally rate the M-Sport Fiesta as the best looking car in the current crop of rally and rallycross cars, so I was eager to see how the Focus compared.

Hoonigan Racing team mates Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud were both plagued by technical gremlins but, amidst the problems, glimpses of the true capability of the car could be seen.

Few were surprised to see the big names at the front end of the field in the World Championship races, but it was the success of the younger drivers in the European Championship battles that caught many by surprise. Defending European Champion Tommy Rustad looked outpaced by the likes of Joni-Pekka Rajala and Kevin Hansen. Much like Dan Rooke, Kevin Hansen was a name that rallycross spectators would become very familiar with in 2016.

Round four of the World Rallycross Championship took place at Lydden Hill just a fortnight after Belgium. Andreas Bakkerud demonstrated how rapidly development of the Focus RS RX was progressing, with a surge of pace that saw him qualify on the back row of the final. Mechanical woes would prevent him from challenging for a podium spot, but it was a clear sign that Bakkerud was ready to enter the fray as a serious title challenger.

Petter Solberg just pipped Matias Ekstrom to victory at Lydden last year and it looked like he would do the same again in 2016, with Solberg falling just short of a perfect set of qualifying races and absolutely blitzing the field in his semi-final. Ekstrom is a wily opponent though and in the final he edged out Petter by the narrowest of margins to take his third successive win of the season.

There were a plethora of Americas finest to ogle at American Speedfest IV but, for the second year in a row, it was the brutal Formula 5000 machinery that stole the show for me. The raw simplicity of these cars illustrates everything that is wrong with the current crop of premier open wheel racing cars.

I was unable to get my Le Mans fix in 2015 and the withdrawal hit me hard, so I was desperate not to miss out again in 2016. Le Mans never fails to disappoint and there was close racing throughout the classes, however it was the fight in LMP1 that proved most memorable. 12 hours in and the top three were just seconds apart. In the latter stages of the race the number 5 Toyota managed to stretch out a slim lead and victory looked assured…

…but with just 6 minutes to go, the TS050 began to slow, before grinding to a halt by the pit wall. The ending of the 2016 24 hours of Le Mans was absolutely heart breaking to watch, where even rival teams expressed sympathy for the distraught Japanese manufacturer. Still, although Porsche may have stood on the top step of the podium, the unclassified Toyota is the car I’ll remember.

My list of “must see” car shows has slowly dwindled over the years, but the Festival of Speed is one of the few exceptions. Even after a decade of attendance, I still cite it as an essential weekend for any motorsport fan. Virtually every discipline is represented in some form and, whatever your preference, I guarantee there will be at least one vehicle there to excite you.

As the car that ignited my passion for motorsport, watching Ryan Champion slide his Group A Impreza around the (critically underrated) Goodwood Forest Rally Stage was my personal highlight of the day. I’m sure many people in attendance were cursing the grey skies, but as the precipitation greatly reduced the grips levels on the rally stage, I was silently praising the wet stuff.

I considered myself very fortunate to get an invitation to the inaugural 6R4.net track day in 2015, so I was flattered to be invited back again in 2016. The formula of the event remained largely unchanged from 2015 but, given how much I had enjoyed that, I wasn’t complaining!

Heavy showers during the afternoon did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the drivers and the cars continued to run in the driving rain. It was a privilege to be able to watch the owners put these valuable classics through their paces and I was especially grateful to them for continuing to show off despite the slippery track conditions.

The August Bank Holiday round of the British Rallycross Championship has been a mainstay of my annual motorsport agenda for a decade now and, as long as it continues to deliver great racing, rallycross will always be my priority.

Proving that his win at round 2 was no fluke, Dan Rooke took a lights-to-flag victory in the Supercar final at round 6. Rooke maintained his form at the subsequent round of the Championship, where he claimed second place and, with it, the 2016 British Rallycross Championship. Dan is the youngest ever driver to take the British Championship and I hope we see him back to defend his title – and perhaps even challenge some of Europe’s finest – in 2017.

As the World Rallycross Championship passed its midpoint, the Championship battle was impossible to call. Petter Solberg arrived at round 8 in Loheac as the points leader, but he was unable to match the pace of his closest rival, Mattias Ekstrom, and by the end of the qualification stage Ekstrom had reduced the point deficit between the title rivals to zero.

Neither Ekstrom nor Solberg would set foot on the podium though. With Ekstrom failing to make it past the semi-final stage, Johan Kristoffersson fended off all challengers and led the final from start to finish. The damp conditions produced the best days racing I have seen at Loheac and made for a great conclusion to my World Rallycross Championship attendance in 2016.

World Rallycross weekends have consistently been the highlight of my motorsport expeditions over the last few years and I’m desperate to fit as many of them as possible into 2017.

As the summer drew to a close, it became apparent that my year had been rather lacking in two wheeled motorsport, but a trip to Swingfield in September was to rectify that. Not only was I able to check out some very sideways motorcycles, but the program at the European Grasstrack Final also incorporated two classes of sidecars as well.

The solo riders were fantastic to watch, but it was the sidecars that made the biggest impression. Watching a 1000cc sidecar tearing up a field is an incredible spectacle and I am certain that my first visit to a grasstrack event won’t be my last.

With the end of the season looming, I had just enough time left to sneak a visit in to my most local motocross track, Canada Heights, for the final round of the British Sidecarcross and Quad Championship. The sidecars here may not have been quite as rapid (or sideways) as their grasstrack counterparts, but what they lacked in speed they made up for with altitude.

However the highest fliers of the day were undoubtedly the quad riders. I briefly rode a quad on the flat and felt that a trip to casualty was an inevitability, so I have a great deal of respect for the British Quad Championship riders. Flinging a quad through the trees is a tricky task in itself: and that is before you factor in the other 30 lunatics all trying to do the same thing!

My final outing of the year was a slight deviation to the norm in that it concerned virtual, rather than physical, racing. Two years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to drop into Codemasters studio in Southam and I returned again in late November for another behind the scenes look at proceedings.  Much awesomeness was demonstrated and many cool things were seen: but that’s about all I’m legally allowed to tell you!

Despite containing far less motoring content than I would have liked, 2016 has definitely been a year where quality has triumphed over quantity. When compiling end-of-year reviews in the past I have often omitted events that have fallen short of my expectations, but everything I attended this year has seemed worthy of mention.

Typically I would bemoan the lack of motorsport over the winter, but I’m actually rather grateful for it this year: the more work I can do during the quiet spell now, the more events I should be able to fit into 2017!

 

Want to see more? Click here for the full albums from 2016.

Event

European Grasstrack Championship Final – Swingfield

30th September 2016 — by Steve White

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They say that variety is the spice of life and all of us here at Fueltopia are firm believers in trying something new.

There is a vast amount of awesome motorsport content to discover on the internet, but sometimes its good old fashioned word of mouth that points you in the direction of something different, and that’s exactly how I found myself watching an assortment of motorbikes tearing round a field in Kent.

My first introduction to grasstrack came during my last visit to Kent Kings speedway back in 2015. Whilst conversing with one of the marshalls he was insistent that, if I enjoyed watching speedway, I really should consider giving grasstrack a look as well. On the strength of his advice I did some research after returning home from Sittingbourne, but I hit a dead end when hunting for a local track.

Fast forward to the start of this year and, after happening to mention grasstrack during a pub conversation, I was sent a link to the Astra Grasstrack Facebook page. Astra run a grasstrack venue in Swingfield, situated just down the road from Fueltopia favourite Lydden Hill. Frustratingly I had just missed a big meet at Swingfield, but I noted that there was another major event coming later in the year, so I jotted it down in the calendar and kept my fingers crossed that it wouldn’t clash with anything else.

Having failed to fit any speedway events – or indeed any two wheeled motorsport – into 2016, I was keen to try and make amends before the end of the race season. The final round of the European Solo Grasstrack Championship provided me with the perfect opportunity to kill several birds with one stone.

Armed with the limited knowledge I had gleaned from the marshall at Sittingbourne, I arrived at Swingfield with very little idea as to what to expect. Thankfully the program did a good job of bringing me up to speed and, thanks to a qualification system that would be familiar to any long term rallycross fan, I soon got my head around the structure of the event.

As much as I hate turning up to an event completely clueless, I do like the freedom it gives when taking pictures. I’m not trying to photograph a favourite vehicle, competitor or team, I’m purely looking out for things which catch my eye.

So what’s grasstrack racing all about then? Fundamentally modern grasstrack is much the same as speedway in that bikes race around a large oval circuit, travelling very sideways at very high speeds. Grid numbers are higher in grasstrack, but the aim of the race is exactly the same: finish as high as possible in order to score points. Cumulate enough points and you’ll earn a better position for the final.

The machinery used is also broadly similar to speedway, though grasstrack bikes are slightly more refined in that they run full suspension and are often geared. Just like speedway, grasstrack bikes don’t have any brakes, so speed is regulated entirely by throttle and steering input.

Grasstrack events often feature several solo rider classes for different displacement engines, which differs to speedway, plus they also cater for sidecars as well.

I have previously watched sidecar racing on tarmac and motocross circuits. Whilst spectating both of those disciplines I rapidly came to the conclusion that sidecar crews must be utterly bonkers and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I would say exactly the same of the grasstrack sidecar teams.

Sidecars came in two flavours at Swingfield, specifically 500cc (for the borderline insane) and 1000cc (for the fully certified lunatics). Both classes were very rapid but, to my untrained eyes and ears, the lap of a 500cc sidecar seemed a lot smoother. The 500cc riders were obviously backing off the throttle prior to the corners, but the 500cc sidecars looked planted in the turns and seemed able to put the power down without too much drama.

Contrast that with the 1000cc sidecars, which looked absolutely lethal. Many of the bikes sounded completely off-throttle as they approached the corners and, when the slightest amount of power was applied, things seemed to rapidly turn very sideways up front…

…and get very muddy out the back! Both the solo and sidecars were spectacular but, for me, the 1000cc sidecars were the absolute highlight of the day.

Incidentally – and you may have already noticed in the pictures – but,  for reasons I was unable to ascertain on the day, the right hand 1000cc sidecars ran the course anti-clockwise, whereas the 500cc left hand sidecars ran the course clockwise. Hopefully a grasstrack expert can clear that mystery up for me!

Despite a severe lack of knowledge with regards to the solo Championship, I did at least recognize one name on the entry list. I had previously seen James Shanes riding speedway at Sittingbourne  and I subsequently discovered that Shanes was not riding just for the event win, but for the European title.

Battling against a mechanical issue in heat one and exclusion in heat two, Shanes still managed to qualify for the “B” final. Second in the “B” final was enough to earn him a spot in the “A” final where he was able to take first place and, with it, the European title.

After several hours of sideways bikes (and a couple of impromptu mud showers), I found myself silently expressing my gratitude to the chatty marshall at Sittingbourne. Grasstrack is every bit as entertaining as speedway, plus it has the added bonus of sidecars as well.

I was also surprised by just how relaxed the atmosphere was for a European Championship event. Spectators had unrestricted access to the paddock area and the crowd line was situated just a few feet back from the edge of the track.

Amusingly when I returned to my car at the end of the day there were a handful of flyers tucked under the windscreen wiper informing me of multiple events occurring other tracks in Kent: seems that there are plenty of grasstrack venues in the area, I just did a poor job of finding them!

With the 2016 race season all but done I suspect I am going to run out of time to fit anymore grasstrack in: however I already have speedway and grasstrack lined up for my itinerary in 2017!

 

 

Want to see more of the European Grasstrack Championship at Swingfield? Click here for a full image gallery.

 

Event

World Rallycross Championship Round 8 – Loheac

22nd September 2016 — by Steve White

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The last time we featured the World Rallycross Championship here on Fueltopia, the focus had been on round 4 of the Championship where Mattias Ekstrom had seen off double Champion Petter Solberg to claim his third successive victory of 2016.

Ekstrom’s winning streak cited him as the dominant force in this year’s Championship. However motorsport is rarely a foregone conclusion and, with three more rounds completed since Lydden Hill, the terrain has shifted again. Solberg reclaimed the overall lead in Canada, but while Petter and Mattias have been driving tactically and accumulating as many safe points as possible (if there is such a thing in rallycross), the rest of the field have been significantly reducing the gap to the Championship leaders.

Rapidly gaining on the lead pair of Solberg and Ekstrom is Hoonigan Racing driver Andreas Bakkerud. Following a slightly erratic start to 2016, Andreas quickly closed the divide thanks to wins in both Norway and Sweden, followed by a second in Canada.

After a trough in his results at rounds four and five, Johan Kristoffersson also scored well in both Sweden and Canada. Like Bakkerud good results have propelled Johan to the upper echelons of the points table and, as a consequence, what had previously looked like a two horse title race early in the season is now much more open.

I had high hopes for Ken Block at round 8. Two years ago I watched Block make his second European Rallycross appearance at Loheac when he absolutely flew in the M-Sport Fiesta. In fact Ken set the fastest lap time over that weekend by a considerable margin, which was mighty impressive given that it was his first visit to the track.

Although Block has seemed to struggle with the transition to the Focus RS RX, there were definite signs of improvement in Canada and I hoped that, on a familiar circuit, Ken would continue that trend.

Pleasingly those hopes proved well founded, as Block delivered one of his most consistent performances of the season. A slightly tentative start in practise was followed by four top eight qualifying times, resulting in a spot on the front of the second semi-final grid. Block went on to make the back row of the final where he eventually finished sixth, narrowly losing out on fifth position to Reinis Nitiss in the closing stages of the race.

It was interesting to see that Hoonigan Racing had a third Focus RS RX present at the circuit. This Focus has recently shot to fame in Gymkhana 9 and I understand the car is to be employed by the team to both increase driver seat time and further develop the RS RX so, in theory at least, there should be even more to come from Block, Bakkerud and the Focus RS RX in the latter half of the season.

Notably – though perhaps unsurprisingly given the location of round 8 – the Peugeot 208 was the most common car to be found in the Supercar class. Albatec Racing were one of several teams who arrived at Loheac in force with 2015 European Champion Tommy Rustad and Albatec team principle Andy Scott joined by French driver Philippe Maloigne in a third Peugeot 208.

OMSE also deployed French reserves, with the team running a third Fiesta for Yann Le Jossec. Although not quite as popular as the Peugeot 208, the Fiesta was another common shape in the paddock with several privately entered cars competing alongside the Fords of Championship stalwarts Olsbergs and Team Austria.

It’s odd how the situation seems to have reversed between OMSE and Team Austria: I can distinctly recall a moment at Lydden last year when I watched a Fiesta from each of the teams cornering round North Bend: the OMSE car looked planted and controlled, whereas the Team Austria car was pitching all over the place to the extent where it looked absolutely undriveable. 18 months down the line and the Team Austria cars are not only on par with the OMSE Fiestas, but arguably even stronger. Were it not for a string of bad luck, the team would have surely had several podium finishes this year.

With Liam Doran no longer competing for JRM, the teams recently completed 2.0 litre MINI Countryman had been unused since Doran’s last drive at round six in Sweden. The car was placed in the hands of Guerlain Chicherit in Loheac, with Gurelain making the first of three planned outings in the MINI.

Unfortunately Chicherit’s weekend was to be short one, with JRM announcing the retirement of the car before the end of the first day of racing. With only a fortnight between Loheac and round nine in Barcelona it seemed like the team had insufficient time to address the engine gremlins, as both of the JRM cars suffered issues again in Spain. With another short window before round ten, I really hope the team are able to identify the defect and get the cars back up to speed.

Petter Solberg got his weekend off to a flying start with an absolutely incredible move around the outside of turn one. Alas the manoeuvre was to be wasted as, just a lap into the race, the red flag came out and the racing was halted due to the presence of a stricken car on track.

The car in question belonged to Team Austria driver Timur Timerzyanov who found himself the victim of bad luck yet again. Contact during the first corner resulted in the Team Austria Fiesta being spun around, where it then slid backwards across the track before slamming into the barrier on the outside of turn two. The impact sounded horrendous, but with the huge cloud of dust kicked up from the pack it was hard to gauge just how severe the crash had been…

…it was only when the dust cleared that the extent of the damage became clear. Even from the front you could immediately tell that the rear end of the Fiesta had been absolutely obliterated. With significant damage to the structure of the car, the weekend was over for Timerzyanov. After showing such promise in qualifying I had really hoped Loheac would be the race where Timur could make his long overdue return to the top of the podium, but it wasn’t to be.

With the damaged Fiesta removed from the circuit, the qualifying race was restarted and Solberg once again attempted another bold overtaking move through the opening corners. Alas things didn’t go the way of Petter second time around and he found himself stuck in traffic. Solberg still managed to post a respectable time, but it was only good enough for sixth overall and surely frustrating for Petter based on his position before the stoppage. Adding salt to the wound was the news that his main Championship rival had posted the fastest time of qualifying one.

In fact the first day of racing would belong to Mattias Ekstrom, who dominated both qualifying one and two with quickest time in both races. Andreas Bakkerud sat in second overall with the local favourite Sebastien Loeb in third. Tenth in qualifying two left Petter Solberg languishing in seventh overall and, although he was still in line for a spot in the semi-final, Ekstrom already looked poised to eliminate the narrow Championship point gap.

Complementing the Supercars and Super 1600 classes over the weekend was the French Twingo R1 cup. Much like the Suzuki Swift Championship here in the UK, the cars are all identical specification and, despite not being the quickest thing on track, they provide some great racing with big pack battles.

Slotted in between the racing the track was handed over to the V8 pairing of the French Xtreme Show and Vaughn Gittin Jnr., the latter of whom proved that professional drifters aren’t just limited to tarmac.

It was all change for day two as, for the first time in four visits to Loheac, the skies turned grey. Rain began to fall before the morning practice session started and, once cars hit the track, it didn’t take long to realize that the circuit conditions were clearly very different to those from the first day of action.

Aside for the obvious reduction in traction, it was also notable that the damp conditions were keeping the loose surface in place. Having never seen racing at Loheac in anything other than dry, sunny, conditions, I have been used to seeing the loose surface being quickly swept aside and a fast line appearing. That most definitely wasn’t the case this year, and it was only towards the very end of the day when a line began to clear.

Much like the Supercars, the 2016 Super 1600 title fight has been a close one. Ulrik Linnemann led Krisztian Szabo by just a single point after the third round in Sweden and both were looking to gain the upper hand at round four of the Super 1600 Championship in France. Entry numbers in the class were high, so both drivers had their hands full with the Championship regulars and numerous local entrants all vying for positions.

Surprisingly neither Linnemann or Szabo looked that strong in the opening qualifying round, with the fastest time being secured by Kaparas Navickas. Navickas went on to deliver a stellar performance over the course of the weekend, qualifying second overall and finishing second in semi-final two. A close race with Enzo Libner and Maximilien Eveno in the final saw him miss out on a podium position, but it was still a great result for Kaparas and his distinctive Fabia.

With Ulrik Linnemann having a disastrous qualifying three, Krisztian Szabo was free to claim the top qualifying spot and, with Linnemann only able to secure fifth, Szabo scored enough additional points at the intermediate stage to take the Championship lead.

Racing together in both the first semi-final and the final Krisztian and Ulrik had their own battle out front, a duel which Szabo eventually won. First by just over half a second, Krisztian took maximum points and with it the Super 1600 Championship lead.

Linnemann and Szabo continued their scrap in Barcelona last weekend, with Ulrik taking the overall win and snatching the Championship lead back in the process. The Super 1600 Championship concludes in Germany next month and I have no doubt that there will be another close fight between the two drivers for both race victory and the Championship title.

The first days qualifying races had unquestionably belonged to Mattias Ekstrom, but on day two a new contender came to the fore. After scraping into the top ten on day one, Johan Kristofferson absolutely blitzed qualifying three and four, setting fastest time in both races and leaping up to second in the intermediate standings.

Mattias Ekstrom was very slightly off the pace set by Johan in qualifying three and four. That’s not to say he was slow, but second and third in qualifying three and four respectively was still more than enough to enable him to top the intermediate qualification. With Petter Solberg placing fifth, he was awarded four less points than Mattias and, as the drivers lined up for the semi-finals, the Championship point gap between those two had been reduced to zero.

Completing the top 12 Supercars was Albatec Racing principal Andy Scott. Given the presence of both the reigning European Champion Tommy Rustad and local talent Philippe Maloigne in the team, Andy was the last Albatec driver I expected to see in the semi-final. Scott seemed much better suited to the damp conditions on Sunday though (which was not entirely surprising given his nationality) and it was great to see a British driver make it to the semi-finals.

With Ekstrom starting on the front row of the first semi-final his place in the final seemed assured. A stunning drive from Andreas Bakkerud saw Mattias having to settle for second but, with Petter behind him, it looked like Ekstrom would still score an additional point over his rival and thus take the Championship lead.

However with just two corners to go it became evident that Ekstrom had a puncture. As Mattias drastically slowing before the final corner, Petter plowed into the back of him, causing Ekstrom to run wide. With the door open fourth place Reinis Nitiss tucked in behind Solberg, passing Ekstrom and snatching third – and the last grid slot in the final – from Mattias.

Round 8 of the Championship marked the last occasion that Reinis Nitiss would drive the Munnich Motorsport run Seat Ibiza. Pleasingly Nitiss would leave the team on a high, posting his best result of the season with fifth place in the final.

Without Ekstrom to worry about in the final, the biggest threat to Johan Kristoffersson looked to come from Andreas Bakkerud. Lining up together on the front row of the grid Andreas ideally needed Johan to bog down in order to make a move around the outside. Bakkerud would have no such luck though, as Kristoffersson made a perfect start, cleaning moving to the head of the pack as they swept through the opening corners.

As Johan made a break for it, a massive scrap unfolded behind him with Bakkerud, Loeb and Solberg all fighting for second place. As the trio exited turn two for the first time Solberg and Bakkerud began trading paint. With the Norwegians tangling with each other and drifting wide in turn three, Loeb moved to the inside and passed them both in one fell swoop. If you hadn’t seen the move then the roar from the French crowd told you exactly what had just happened.

When Loeb first announced his move to circuit racing, many questioned how well Sebastien would be able to deal with traffic. Although there may have been some hesitation in his first races, watching Loeb in the final showed those days were long gone.

Loeb opted to take the joker on lap three and seemingly had no qualms about collecting Bakkerud en route. The manoeuvre ended up working in favour of Andreas as he passed Loeb in the joker and manage to merge back onto the circuit just ahead of Solberg who had taken his joker on lap two. With Block yet to joker the entire pack stacked up behind him as the field crossed the line for the third time.

With an increasing amount of smoke pouring from his left rear tyre, Solberg looked like he was struggling to fend off the advances of Loeb. Petter was given a brief respite as Sebastian had to brush off Ken Block after the joker merge but, on the last lap of the race, Solberg’s defense finally faltered. Petter ran deep into the bottom hairpin corner and Loeb didn’t hesitate, sneaking up the inside, snatching third place and once again sending the French contingent of the crowd into overdrive.

At this point in the race Loeb was too far back to challenge Bakkerud, who in turn was too far away from Kristofferson, and so that is the way the order remained for the last few corners. Although Johan had gone largely unchallenged the mid-pack battle had been fantastic to watch and easily made for the most entertaining final I have spectated at Loheac.

Kristofferson’s victory, coupled with Bakkerud’s second position, also had an interesting effect on the title standings: Johan climbed to third in the standings, with Andreas just one point behind him. In fact the top four competitors in the Championship left Loheac separated by just 24 points.

Round 9 in Barcelona last weekend saw the balance shift yet again, as Mattias Ekstrom took victory while Solberg failed to make it past the semi-final stage. As a consequence Mattias retook the Championship lead from Petter, with Solberg now trailing by 10 points and third place driver Kristoffersson 26 points adrift. That is the biggest the point gap has been for several rounds but, with three rounds left, the Championship race is clearly far from over.

Round 10 takes place next weekend at the brand new Bikernieki rallycross circuit in Latvia. As I am sadly unable to be there, I shall be glued to the TV seeing how it pans out: I would urge you to do the same!

 

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

Event

DriftCup Round 5 – Driftland

14th September 2016 — by Connor Mathieson

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The final round of DriftCup drops into Driftland. An impressive grid size but even more impressive is the Scottish driver turn out taking up around half of the grid.

Practice had only been going on for roughly 30 minutes and already people were settling in and getting some nice, close driving providing quite an exciting practice. Even with a lot of drivers never having been to Driftland before, After an hour or so of practice 90% of people were starting to put down consistent runs and with only the occasional spin here and there, providing plenty of practice time for everyone.

Qualifying went great for the local Scottish lads, with 13 of them qualifying and going into top 32 battles. Mark Gemmell hot of his win in SDC last weekend qualifyied 1st. William Hanna first time competing in DriftCup qualifying in a strong 5th place with Taylor Bloomfield and Barry Stevenson just making it into the top 32. the later half of the top 32 was very fiercly contested with positions 19 to 31 only seperated by 4 points!

With Mark Webb already winning the championship before round 5 there was no pressure on him, but ofcourse he wouldn’t want to sit out. That almost became the case with his car throwing a fit right as he was going into qualifying, luckily for him he managed to put in 2 runs that planted him into 25th position. Michelle Westby managed to put in a great qulifying run putting herself into 8th position going into battles. Michelle like many others who had never been to the track before, started out slowly reading the track and lines then progressivly charging harder with each run.

First battle of the top 32 was also the first pair of Scots to battle. Taylor was nursing a clutch issue in the E30 since qualifying which hampered his runs with William, giving William the win. That’s not to say that it was an easy win for William, but he was on fire all day driving really good!

Barry the punk faced of against 2nd place qualifier Stuart Maclachan and were having good battle, but on the 2nd run barry seemed to come in too hot and had a spin, giving the win to Stuart.

Now we come to the battle that will be talked about for quite some time.. Michelle Westby vs Mark Webb. Even before the battle it looked to be interesting. Michelle was driving very well as seen by her 8th place qualifying position and Mark just wanted to get on some doors and have a blast. In the first run coming through the transition in between clips 6-7 Mark was too close which caused him to be thrown of track giving an easy 10-0 advantage to Michelle.

The 2nd run is where things get interesting. Michelle chased super hard on mark but coming through clip 3 seemed to straighten up and quite simply rammed him.. Causing them both to slide up the bank and most interestingly cause their battle to go into a one my time. Also interesting to note is the smile on marks face as they were spinning up the bank, with both of them throwing a fist out the window and having a hug, no hard feelings were had. after another few interesting runs Mark would eventually take the win over Michelle.

Jeek faced of against the mighty Kriss Darling. Now you may be wondering.. “whats with the ratchet strap on Kriss’ car?” Well, in practice his bonnet flew up and smashed the window. I’m guessing as a safety measure they thought it would be best to make sure it couldn’t open again. In battle Jeek couldn’t quite chase as closely as Kriss could and Kriss ended up going through to the great 8.

Ben Fisher and Chris Taylor met in the top 16 and provided a very nice close battle that Ben would eventually win. Ben would then go on to battle Marcin in the amazing Supra in the top 8. Marcin was on fire the entire day putting down superb qualifying lines in the lead position as well as doing some great chase driving netting him a place in the top 4.

First battle going into the top 4 came down to Callum Marshall and Charles Funnell. Charles had taken out quite a few impressive cars to reach this battle. Beating out Stuart Jones in the mighty 400bhp S14 as well as William Hanna. Callum also beat out some heavy hitters, taking down 2nd place qualifyier Stuart Maclachan in the top 16 and then going on to beat Kriss Darling in the top 8. Callum had just that little bit better of a chase drive against Charles, with Charles not quite being able to follow Callum as closely.

On the other side of the bracket Genetic Drifter Rob Johnston was up against Marcin. Marcin had a clean upper had over Rob with track knowledge which seemed to pay of well. Rob chased Marcin well but had to sacrafice angle in order to keep up with Marcin’s Supra giving Marcin the win.

The battle for 3rd saw Rob facing of against Charles in the E36 Touring. both drove excellent lead runs but noticeably Rob chased much better than he did in the previous battle with Marcin.

DriftCup Round 5 final came down to 2 Driftland locals, Both of which had been driving superb all day. Marcin lead Callum in the first run with both drivers showing the same consistant driving they had been doing throughout the competition. After the 2nd run however it was imediatly clear on who had won the battle.

Rob won himself 3rd defeating Charles and taking home a well deserved trophy. Following on from a rather weak chase on Marcin in the top 4 he would vastly improve his chase driving against Charles in the battle for 3rd place. Unlucky for Charles but for someone driving a lower powered BMW, He put in some great work to make it into 4th place.

In the battle for 1st place Callum would take 2nd. Marcin’s chase run in the final was pretty amazing, he stayed all over Callum throughout the entire run netting himself a very well deserved victory. Callum was comming of a 2nd place finish in last weeks Scottish Drift Championship and put in some great work to bag another 2nd place trophy 2 weeks in a row.

Michelle Westby would pick up hard charger honours for providing what i’m sure a lot of people that attended Round 5 would feel to be the most entertaining battle of the day.

Mark Webb had already won the championship at Round 4 but still drove very had at Driftland regardless. with some unfortunate car issues he eventually got knocked out of top 16 by local driver Stuart McLellan. Congratulations to Mark on the championship win, it shall be very interesting to watch him drive in the BDC next year.

Massive congratulations to the top 4 drivers, none of them had an easy job getting to the top 4 in what was a very competative top 32.

In this last year of drift competition in the UK the driving level has sky rocketed. DriftCup may be the feeder series for the British Drift Championship but i feel everyone who made it to the top 16 at Round 5 would certainly give any BDC driver a run for their money in competition.
Words and photo’s by Connor Mathieson

Event

British Rallycross Championship Round 6 – Lydden Hill

13th September 2016 — by Steve White

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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.