Nathan Heathcote wins British Rallycross opener in front of packed-out Croft crowd

20 Mar 17

Nathan Heathcote won the opening round of the Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship at Croft Circuit [March 19] on his debut event in the top-level Supercar category.

The 20-year old Citroen C4 driver qualified third on the grid for the final and made a brave move around the outside of the first corner to seize a lead he wouldn’t relinquish through the six-lap encounter, to claim the British RX Championship lead.

Kevin Procter joined Heathcote on the front row of the grid for the final having been fastest in two of the three qualifying races, but made a poor getaway, leaving the first corner battle for supremacy to be fought out by LD Motorsports team mates Heathcote and former British Touring Car Championship driver Warren Scott, who claimed pole position by virtue of fastest time in Q3, following second time to Procter in the opening two qualifying races of the year.

Scott hassled Heathcote for the lead in the opening laps but ran wide crossing the finish line mid-race and was demoted to fourth, as Procter and Julian Godfrey took up the fight for second. Procter claimed the position a lap later when Godfrey lost time with transmission problems, while O’Donovan passed Scott for the final podium place on lap five, Scott spinning as a result of contact, before retiring.

Procter pushed Heathcote as hard as he could on the final tour but the reigning Swift Sport Rallycross Champion hung on to claim victory, with Procter second and O’Donovan third.

Oliver Bennett finished fourth on his rallycross debut in an ex-OlsbergsMSE Ford Fiesta, with Godfrey fifth. The start of Jake Harris’ first season in Supercar was blighted by niggling technical problems through the day with his Citroen DS3, but things improved throughout and he finished sixth in the final. Mad Mark qualified eighth but retired on the fourth lap.

Lotus Exige racer Paige Bellerby won the first round of the MSA Supernational Championship, leading from start-to-finish while double-champion Ash Simpson recovered from a spin in Q1 to run second for much of the final in a similar car. Allan Tapscott also overcame early problems in the qualifying races to make it into the final where he made a good start to tuck into third behind Bellerby and Simpson at the first corner, maintaining the position to the finish. Gary Simpson was fourth despite losing a wheel in his semi-final while Vincent Bristow was fifth. Two-time Swift Sport Champion Tristan Ovenden made a slow start and fought his way back to sixth.

Welshman Tom Llewellin picked up where he left off from selected outings in the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship in 2016, with victory, to remain unbeaten in the sport in five appearances. Llewellin led the Junior RX final from the second corner, having passed 2016 title-protagonist Tom Constantine after the leader made a mistake at turn one. The pair raced nose-to-tail throughout the final. There was an equally exciting battled for third, as Norwegian debutant Ole Henry Steinsholt fended off the attentions of Tom Middleton to claim the final podium spot. Morgan Wroot was fifth ahead of newcomers James Constantine and Ethan Rees.

Chris Woollett started on pole position for the Swift Sport Rallycross Championship final, claimed the lead at the first corner and won, while Croft local Rob Shield pushed Woollett hard for the race lead on only his second Swift Sport appearance. Simon Ovenden ran third for the opening half of the race before contact with Shield dropped him down the order, Shield holding onto second as one of three Norwegians competing in the class, Christoffer Lia moved into a podium position, where he stayed to the finish. Ovenden was fourth, while Rob Maynard got his 2017 campaign underway with fifth and Morgan Bailey was sixth.

Reigning champion Chrissy Palmer won the opening round of the RX150 Championship ahead of a close fight for second position between John Ward and Kirk Langley, while Jake Taylor finished fourth on his RX150 buggy debut. Paul Coney came out on top of a close-fought race with fellow Super1600 Rallycross Championship driver Craig Lomax for victory in the amalgamated Super1600 / BMW Mini / Hot Hatch category, racing a Vauxhall Corsa and Citroen C2 respectively. Phil Chicken completed the podium in his Super1600 C2, while Martin Hawkes finished fourth and claimed top honors of the BMW Mini runners ahead of Bradley Durdin who was fifth.

In the Retro Rallycross Championship final, Mark Flaherty won on track but with a five-second penalty applied for being the only four-wheel drive car, reigning Champion Ray Morgan claimed the win ahead of Flaherty with Stewart Bowes completing the overall Retro podium.