The opening round of the 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship takes place at Croft Circuit this weekend [March 19] where local stars, former champions and new faces will battle for supremacy.
The British RX Championship will take place over nine rounds, across seven weekends, with events at Croft Circuit, Lydden Hill (Kent), Pembrey (South Wales) and Mondello Park (Ireland).
Last season, Kevin Procter (Northallerton) won the opening round of the year at Croft Circuit in his Ford Fiesta Supercar, but his front-running pace was not matched by the reliability of the car and the former FIA European Rallycross Championship event-winner just missed out on challenging for the title. Procter will start amongst the favorites this weekend as he bids for his first British RX crown.
Five-time Champion Julian Godfrey (Heathfield) and Ollie O’Donovan (Iver) are the two former British RX title-holders on the grid at Croft, having claimed six Championships between them, and both have also claimed victories at the North Yorkshire circuit. O’Donovan won the final round of the 2016 campaign to claim second overall in the Championship, while Godfrey is a three-time MSA Rallycross Grand Prix winner at the venue.
The reigning Champion, Dan Rooke, won’t defend his title due to budget constraints, but the LD Motorsports Citroen DS3 that he raced to become the youngest ever champion last season will be raced this weekend at Croft by a driver familiar with the asphalt at the venue, British Touring Car Championship team owner and driver, Warren Scott (Buntingford), who will compete in a full season of rallycross for the first time.
Scott will be joined in the LD Motorsports team by reigning Swift Sport Rallycross Champion Nathan Heathcote (Ashford), who will drive the Citroen C4 campaigned by Pat Doran last season, while Jake Harris (Canewdon), who made his Supercar debut at the Rallycross Grand Prix at Croft last season will race his father Steve’s Citroen DS3, which has undergone a full rebuild over the winter.
Mad Mark Watson (Barnard Castle) is a home favourite at Croft and will compete in his Citroen Xsara Supercar this weekend, while Steve Hill (Thame) will race his unique Mitsubishi Evo X, complete with winter upgrades.
Another new driver on the grid for 2017 will be former motocross rider and rally driver Oliver Bennett (Bristol), who will race an OlsbergsMSE-built Ford Fiesta Supercar run by Quick Motorsport. Bennett joined several other Supercar drivers at Lydden Hill on Monday to test his new car, and will make his competitive debut this weekend in Yorkshire.
In the MSA Supernational Rallycross Championship, 2016 Champion Tony Lynch (Wigan) will return to defend his title with his front-wheel drive Ford KA. Lynch won’t have things all his own way however, as a host of drivers local this weekend at Croft have Supernational title aspirations. Paige Bellerby (Northallerton) has won at Croft in her Lotus Exige in both of the last two years, while Guy Corner (Northallerton) finished on the Championship podium in 2016 and has sights on a home victory. Two-time Supernational Champion Ash Simpson (York) hasn’t competed in the series since 2013, but will return with his Lotus Exige and a revised transmission this weekend, joined by fellow York-based driver Gary Simpson in his BMW E30. A number of exotic and interesting cars will compete in Supernational this year, including rallycross stalwart Allan Tapscott (Umberleigh) in his rear-wheel drive Vauxhall Corsa) and two-time Swift Sport Champion Tristan Ovenden (Canterbury) in a Renault Clio V6.
Seven drivers will compete in the opening round of the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship, including three that already have event wins to their name. Tom Constantine (Richmond) won at Croft last March and fought for the title with eventual Champion Sam Jones, while Tom Llewellin (Haverfordwest) made four starts in a Peter Gwynne Motorsport run car and won at each. The pair will start among the favourites for the title, but Tom Middleton (Maldon) has a new Swift at his disposal for 2017 and won the Rallycross Grand Prix support race last October. Norwegian cross kart racer Ole Henry Steinsholt (Norway) will also compete in a full season and will make his UK rallycross debut this weekend. Morgan Wroot (Doncaster) made his first Junior RX start last year and will compete in a full season, while James Constantine (Dalton-on-Tees), younger cousin of Tom Constantine made his rallycross debut in the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship last weekend and will race at his home circuit for the first time on Sunday. Welshman Ethan Rees (Llanelli) will also make his first British RX start at Croft, having made his rallycross debut at Blyton last weekend.
The supporting rallycross championships will provide plenty of action at Croft Circuit, and through the whole British RX season. In the Swift Sport Rallycross Championship, Simon Ovenden (Canterbury) will follow up on his impressive debut season by targeting the title this year, while Croft local Rob Shield (Cleasby), son of 1989 British Rallycross Champion Michael Shield embark on a full campaign following a previous one-off outing. Kent driver Don MacLoed will race full-time in a Peter Gwynne Motorsport Swift, while three Norwegian stars, Ada Marie Hvaal (Norway), Christoffer Lia (Norway) and Martin Kjaer (Norway) will compete in the category this weekend.
In the RX150 Championship, back-to-back Champion Chrissy Palmer (Chichester) is joined by 2016 event-winner Kirk Langley (Liverpool) and newcomers Jake Taylor (Retford), John Ward (Dublin) and rally convert Georgia Sheils (Preston), amongst others.
With the aim of maintaining full grids and making things easier to understand for spectators, for 2017 the Super1600 Rallycross Championship, BMW Mini Rallycross Championship and Hot Hatch Rallycross Championship will be amalgamated at events. The Super1600 contingent will be led by 2016 Champion Paul Coney (Dartford), while local drivers Craig Lomax (Knottingley), Phil Chicken (Barnsley) and Michael Boak (Jarrow) will be targeting success in a brace of Citroen C2s. A number of local drivers will compete in BWW Minis, including former Champion David Bell (Ferryhill), family line-up Martin, Jennie and Andrew Hawkes (Stockton on Tees) and former Junior RX race-winner Drew Bellerby (Northallerton). 2015 Junior RX Champion Bradley Durdin (Nazing) will also compete, alongside his father Terry Durdin (Nazing). Jason Bowes (Middlesbrough) is the most local driver racing Hot Hatch machinery.
In the Retro Rallycross Championship, reigning Champion Ray Morgan (Hastings) will begin the defence of his crown in his Ford Escort. Mark Flaherty (Wokingham) will race an MG Metro 6R4, and the local contingent will be led by Terry Maynard (Middlesbrough) in a Triumph TR8. Lance Foster (Washington) and Stewart Bowes (Middlesbrough) will campaign a pair of Mini Clubmans, with Darren Grimston (Northallerton) in a Vauxhall Nova.