Pembrey revved up for flat-out British Rallycross thrills

22 Jun 17

For the second year in succession, Pembrey Circuit will bring a new addition to the Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship this weekend, the South Wales venue running a revised layout for round three of the Championship [June 25].

Twelve months ago, the Welsh circuit became the first British RX host to run its circuit in the opposite direction to that traditionally used, a situation that is set to be replicated at the double-header event at the venue later this year on September 23/24.

Former Champion Ollie O’Donovan currently leads the British RX standings in his Ford Focus Supercar, having won the second round of the Championship at Lydden Hill. The London-based Irishman was one of three drivers to claim victory at Pembrey in 2016, joined by Kevin Procter and Julian Godfrey. Procter lies joint-second in the standings, seven points behind O’Donovan having finished second at round one and qualified on pole position for the final at round two, only to be slowed by damage to the front of his Ford Fiesta at the first corner.

Rallycross newcomer Oliver Bennett scored a maiden podium at Lydden Hill last time out, consistently keeping out of trouble in his OlsbergsMSE-built Ford Fiesta Supercar, and has also competed in the British round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship since the last British RX event to increase his seat-time in the near 600bhp Supercar. He shares second overall with Procter. Former British Touring Car Championship driver Warren Scott qualified on pole at round one and led much of the all-important final in round two, but was slowed by a rear puncture and finished second. Driving an LD Motorsports Citroen DS3, Scott is fourth in the points heading to the Pembrey Circuit for the first time this weekend.

Scott’s LDM stablemate, Nathan Heathcote, scored a dream debut victory in Supercar at round one, but was plagued by mechanical problems in round two and failed to score a single point. With the car re-fettled, Heathcote will be looking to make up his points deficit this weekend, and prepared by racing in a round of the single-make RX Academy series in Finland last Saturday.

Jake Harris will continue his Supercar learning at Pembrey, having finished fourth last time out at Lydden Hill, while five-time champion Godfrey is still hunting for his first podium of the year. The Ford Fiesta driver crashed out of the final in round two. Citroen Xsara campaigner Mad Mark Watson is one of only a few drivers to have already sampled the new layout at Pembrey, by winning a round of the Clubmans Rallycross Championship last month, while James Grint is set to make his debut in a Spencer Sport-run Mitsubishi Mirage RX Supercar, having been forced to delay his start to the season in the new car.

Steve Hill showed solid pace with his similarly unique Mitsubishi Evo X at Lydden Hill, but retired with a broken driveshaft and will be hoping to make amends this weekend, while British RX welcomes Andy Grant back onto the grid with his ex-Will Gollop Ford Focus. Having missed the opening two rounds, the Devon racer expects to complete the remaining seven rounds of the season, starting this weekend.

Lotus Exige campaigner Paige Bellerby is so far unbeaten in the MSA Supernational Rallycross Championship and is targeting a hat-trick of wins at Pembrey to extend her points lead. Tristan Ovenden dominated proceedings at his home event, Lydden Hill, but retired from the final with broken suspension on his Renault Clio. Ovenden is another driver who has already sampled the new Pembrey rallycross circuit, which could pay dividends this weekend.

Welshman Mike Howlin will compete in his rear-wheel drive Ford Fiesta at his home event, with his eyes on the podium, while Allan Tapscott will make the journey North from Devon to continue his Supernational challenge, with just eight points covering second to fifth in the standings. Gary Simpson is currently second, two points ahead of Guy Corner who fought back from crashing in a qualifying race at Lydden Hill to finish on the podium. Todd Crooks also made it to the top three in round two and is fifth in the standings. Reigning champion Tony Lynch is yet to qualify for a final in 2017, having endured mechanical problems in the opening two rounds of the year with his Ford KA.

MSA Junior Rallycross Championship leader Tom Llewellin made his rallycross debut at his home circuit last season and claimed a maiden victory, but is the only regular Junior RX racer not to have already driven on the new Pembrey layout for 2017. Tom Constantine won in the Clubmans Championship at the circuit recently and is eight points behind Llewellin in the standings after the opening two rounds, with Morgan Wroot third overall, two points ahead of Tom Middleton and Norwegian Ole Henry Steinsholt. James Constantine will start his third British RX event sixth in the points, while Ethan Rees will return to Junior RX for his home event.

The full range of supporting rallycross championships will also be in action at Pembrey to provide door-to-door action. Home victory for Simon Ovenden lifted him into the lead of the Swift Sport Rallycross Championship, ahead of round one winner Chris Woollett by just two points. Series newcomers Morgan Bailey and Rob Sheild are separated by three points in the standings having impressed in their opening events of the year, while Adam Weaver will make his first start in the series since 2015. Philip Cruickshank, Conor James and Matt Maxted will make their Championship debuts at Pembrey.

Former double-champion Marc Scott will return to the RX150 Championship at Pembrey and is likely to fight for victory. The Championship is led by Irish driver John Ward, who ended Chrissy Palmer’s run of victories in round two at Lydden Hill. Brett Harris is currently third overall, equal on points with Jake Taylor, while Kirk Langley is fifth.

In the amalgamated Super1600 Rallycross Championship, BMW Mini Rallycross Championship and Hot Hatch Rallycross Championship class, Super1600 racer Paul Coney is so far unbeaten in 2017, but will again face stiff competition from a quartet of Citroen C2s at Pembrey, in the shape of Darren Scott, Craig Lomax, Michael Boak and Phil Chicken. Martin Hawkes tops the BMW Mini standings having taken a maximum score twice, he is eight points ahead of former champion David Bell, with former Junior RX Champion Bradley Durdin just two points further back. Polish driver Thomas Marciniak will race his Citroen Saxo Hot Hatch car in the category this weekend.

Welshman Roger Thomas will make his Retro Rallycross Championship debut in an MG Metro 6R4 at Pembrey for only his second weekend of rallycross competition. Ray Morgan leads the points with his Ford Escort but Barry Stewart has been forced to miss the event due to damage sustained in a demonstration race at the British round of World RX last month. Lance Foster is currently second in the under 1600cc division but is likely to take the lead at Pembrey with Stewart Bowes skipping the event.