British RX 2017: Debutant Heathcote wins British Rallycross Opener


(Photo by Matt Bristow/rubberduckdoes.com)

Defending Swift Sport Rallycross champion Nathan Heathcote won the opening round of the 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship’s Supercar class ahead of Kevin Proctor and Ollie O’Donovan.

The 20-year-old took the victory on his debut in the Supercar class of the championship in the LD Motorsports-prepared Citroen C4 after a fantastic battle at the front of the six lap Final race at Croft.

Any one of Heathcote, Proctor, O’Donovan, Julian Godfrey and fastest man in the heats, BRX debutant Warren Scott could have taken the victory as the five drivers all diced at the front, however it was the youngster who kept his cool and took the win.

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From the start, Scott and Heathcote battled together after a great move by the C4 driver to take the lead going into the first corner and it was a LD Motorpsorts battle for the win until midway through the final when Scott ran wide enabling Proctor and Godfrey to take advantage and drop Scott to fourth.

A lap later and Scott’s day was to be ruined after a move from O’Donovan forced the ex-BTCC racer to spin and ultimately retire despite showing some incredible pace throughout each of his heats in the Citroen DS3.

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Winner Heathcote was pleased with what he’d achieved on his opening Supercar event and can’t wait for round two of the championship. He said: “I’m so, so happy to come away with the win. I was buzzing when I crossed the finish line.”

“I saw Warren (Scott) had braked a bit early for the first corner and thought I’d go for it, and I managed to get round the outside. I couldn’t see anything in my mirrors all race, every lap I went round I could see more track markers in the road so I didn’t really know what was going on behind me. The next race is at my home track, Lydden Hill. I’ve already tested there and I was pretty quick, so I cannot wait to get back out.”

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After a poor start in his Ford Fiesta. experienced BRX man Proctor pushed Heathcote all the way to the chequered flag but had to settle for second at this local event with Irishman O’Donovan taking third in his Ford Focus.

Although the man from Northallerton was pleased with getting back up to second. He admitted: “We made some really good starts in the first two qualifying races but the third one was terrible. We turned the engines revs up, but I think we maybe didn’t turn the them up enough to account for the rubber on the circuit.

“The start was disappointing but I’m quite happy with the result and credit to Nathan for winning. If I’d had another lap in the final, I think I could have caught him but this is a solid start to the year and I hope we’ve put our issues from last year behind us now.”

Another debutant, Oliver Bennett, finished fourth in his first Supercar outing in the ex-Oslbergs MSE Ford Fiesta ahead of Godfrey, and Jake Harris in sixth in only his second appearance in his father’s Citroen DS3. The final was rounded out by ‘Mad’ Mark Watson who was forced to retire on lap four in his Citroen Xsara T16.

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Meanwhile in the Supernational class, Paige Bellerby led a Lotus Exige one-two to the checkered flag in the final as she won ahead of double Supernational champion Ash Simpson who finished in second. Completing the podium was Allan Tapscott in his Vauxhall Corsa and the final also featured Gary Simpson in fourth, Vincent Bristow in fifth and former double Swift Sport Champion Tristan Ovenden in sixth.

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Bellerby was delighted with her win at the opening round. She said: “The aim for this year is absolutely to challenge for the championship. We’ve had a lot of success at Croft in the past and it’s great to keep that going, especially at my home track. It was a really tough fight in the final.

“I knew when Ash (Simpson) entered that it would be a really tough challenge, I honestly didn’t think I’d be walking away with first place, so I’m really chuffed.”

The first round of the MSA Junior Rallycross Championship saw a familiar name take the victory as Tom Llewelin made it five victories from five appearances in the class where he competed part-time last season. Llewlin made the most of Tom Constantine’s mistake at the first corner of the final and didn’t look back as he took the lead and went on to win ahead of 2016 JBRX front runner Constantine.

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Llewelin commented on his victory: “This is a brilliant result. Tom Constantine was pushing me hard all the way through the final, it was a really close race and hopefully we can have more of the same at Lydden Hill. I’m looking forward to fighting for the Junior Rallycross Championship this season.”

Third was Norwiegan Ole Henry Steinsholt ahead of Tom Middleton and the pair had a great battle for the final step of the podium. Morgan Wroot took fifth ahead of James Constantine (cousin of Tom) and Ethan Rees finished sixth.

Chris Woollett took the victory in the opening round of the Swift Sport Rallycross Championship after a close battle with local racer Rob Shield throughout the final. Simon Ovenden looked set for a podium place in third but would be replaced by Christoffer Lia after Ovenden made contact with Shield mid-way through the race and dropped to fourth as a result. Fifth went to Rob Maynard who finished ahead of Morgan Bailey in sixth.

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Croft saw the first round of the combined Super 1600, Hot Hatch and BMW Mini categories to great effect with close racing throughout the field. It was however a S1600 lockout on the podium as Paul Coney took the win in his Vauxhall Corsa VXR ahead of third in 2016 Craig Lomax finishing second and experienced driver Phil Chicken in third.

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Martin Hawkes finished fourth in the final and was the first of the Mini drivers ahead of Bradley Durdin who took home fifth overall and David Bell in sixth.

Retro Rallycross saw Mark Flaherty win the race in his Metro 6R4 but would be penalised with a five second penalty for being the only four-wheel drive car in the field, meaning that reigning champion Ray Morgan in his Ford Escort BDA continued where he left off last year and won the opening round with Flaherty dropping to second.

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Stewart Bowes completed the podium in third in his Austin Mini, with Paul Easterbrook and his Toyota MR2 in fourth, Darren Grimston in fifth driving a Vauxhall Nova and Paul Smith in his Volkswagen Polo taking sixth.

The RX150 Championship’s first round went the way of defending champion Chrissy Palmer who won comfortably in front of John Ward and Kirk Langley who battled for second and third in a close race. Jake Taylor took fourth in his first buggy appearance with Mitchel Flaherty in fifth and Brett Harris in sixth.

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The next round of the 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship takes place at Lydden Hill on Easter Bank Holiday Monday on April 17.