The 2016 MSA British Rallycross Championship was one of the most competitive seasons so far as both new talent and an increase of numbers led to a hotly contested season in all classes.
As the Championship saw an expansion in entries, the series continues to grow with Rallycross as a sport becoming a more popular choice for many drivers to take in their Motorsport career. The sport itself is seeing rude health as the excitement and sideways action of Rallycross gains more and more fans at World Championship and European Championship level, meaning that at the national level, there is more interest and entries.
In 2016 there was a change in format as the series adopted the popular Qualifying system already in use in the FIA World Rallycross Championship where drivers earned points for their times in the heats which in turn will give then their respective place on the grid for the semi-finals. This change meant that race wins were worth more with the chance of making the Semi’s and then progressing through to the Final.
The MSA Supercar Class was one of the categories to see expansion as 16 cars were entered for the season. Joining the regulars such as 5 time British RX champion Julian Godfrey, 2007 Champion Ollie O’Donovan, British Rallycross legend Pat Doran and former European Rallycross event winner Kevin Procter were established names including Dave Bellerby, former Super1600 Champion Jack Thorne in a former World RX Team Austria Fiesta and 2015 MSA SuperNational Champion Dan Rooke.
Power Maxed Racing upped its participation in the series by entering the class with British Touring Car Championship race winner Dave Newsham in a Mk6 Ford Fiesta, however they would end the season early after various mechanical issues during the year.
As Procter took the first win of the season at Croft, Rooke raised his game as he learned all about the LD Motorsports Citroen DS3 to take wins at both Lydden Hill rounds and Maasmechelen in Belgium in his maiden MSA Supercar season that would see him go on to take the title at the penultimate round in Pembrey. There were stern challenges to Rooke’s Championship lead as Procter, Godfrey and O’Donovan all took wins to try and stop the youngster from his charge to the title. Rooke would end the year as Champion with O’Dononvan taking second ahead of Godfrey, Bellerby and Procter.
There were spectacular performances during a very close season with James Grint often getting the maximum out of the Albatec Racing Peugeot in his second year of Rallycross action whilst Simon Horton in the Subaru Impreza and Steve Hill in the Mitsubishi Evo X both showed improved results during the year as Andy Grant campaigned the venerable Will Gollop built Ford Focus that was often more reliable than the newer machines out there.
Liam Doran made an appearance at Lydden Hill in March before returning for the Championship finale at Croft where he would take his second British Rallycross Grand Prix victory. Steve Harris was on form in his SH Motorsport Citroen DS3 whilst fan favourite Mad Mark Watson showed that his Citroen Xsara was able to keep pace with the bigger machines in class.
With Dan Rooke moving up to the MSA Supercar Class for 2016, the MSA SuperNational class was host to a very competitive field of drivers all looking to claim the title. Paige Bellerby began the year by winning the first round at Croft in her Lotus Exige ahead of Gary Dixon in his Vauxhall Astra and Guy Corner in his Peugeot 206.
Lydden Hill saw the return of 2014 champion Stuart Emery, having missed Croft so make sure his Peugeot 206 was prepared. Despite having issues that stopped him from competing in two heats, Emery went on to qualify for the Final and go on to take the win ahead of Lynch and Bellerby. Due to her two podium finishes so far, Bellerby lead the championship standings.
However that changed after the two following rounds at Pembrey that took place in very difficult conditions. Whilst Corner and Bellerby took a win each, the consistent performance of Lynch over the first four rounds saw him take the championship lead that he would not lose for the rest of the season.
As the second half of the season got underway in Maasmechelen, Lynch took his first win of the year ahead of Corner and Bellerby as they looked to close down the points lead he held. He followed this up with a second win at Lydden over the August Bank Holiday weekend where Allan Tapscott in his Vauxhall Corsa took his first podium of the year whilst Emery, who missed Belgium due to injury, returned to take another podium finish on his return.
The penultimate round at Pembrey saw Guy Corner take another victory as he now posed the strongest challenge to Lynch whilst Bellerby endured a difficult time at Maasmechelen and Lydden. Mike Howlin made his second visit to the podium of the year at the welsh venue whilst Todd Crooks took his BMW Mini to its first podium visit.
Lynch rounded out the year by taking his third victory in the final round of Croft to seal the title whilst Emery and Joe Cunningham pursued him all the way to the flag. With Lynch as Champion, he finished the year ahead of a very competitive field which included talented drives by Vince Bristow and Steve Cozens to name a few. The variety in the class once again saw a close championship battle that is sure to be repeated in 2017.
The Super1600 category saw a competitive if small field battle for the 2016 title, however that didn’t detract from the racing spectacle that was presented during the season. 2015 Champion Craig Lomax started the year off well with victory in the opening round at Croft in a year that saw him campaign the Citroen C2 in both the British Championship as well as competing in the FIA European Super1600 Rallycross Championship.
He was joined on several occasions by both Michael Boak in the MB Motorsports Citroen C2 and Phil Chicken who also drove a similar C2. Tristan Ovenden made the move from the Suzuki ranks to the Super1600 class with the Peter Gwynne Motorsport run Suzuki Swift 1600 and was often at the front fighting for wins and podiums.
Eventual Champion Paul Coney in his Vauxhall Corsa VXR started the season by missing the opening round at Croft, however he followed this up with three wins in the class and two second places that would secure the championship for him by ten points after dropped scores were taken into account.
Ovenden, who won at Lydden Hill in August as well as taking two second places during the season would secure second place in the standings whilst Lomax would finish the year in third place with one win and several third place finishes. Chicken finished ahead of Boak whilst Andrew Twomey completed the top six having competed at both Croft and Lydden Hill in March.
The Lydden Hill meeting in March saw several of the Euro RX Super 1600 drivers and teams compete to gain further data ahead of the World RX meeting later in the year and it was Kasparas Navickas who won the event in class ahead of Boak and Chicken whilst Set Promotion duo Timur Shigaboutdinov and Artis Baumanis would complete the top five for the event.
The Suzuki Swift Sport Class is always big on numbers and with the equal machinery used by every driver, picking a winner form such a competitive field in 2016 required some experience and Luck. With Tristan Ovenden now in the Super1600 Class, this was another title up for grabs and Nathan Heathcote stepped up to take the title with four wins at both Lydden Hill events, Pembrey and the season finale at Croft.
He was pursued by a hotly contested battle for second place in the series between Simon Ovenden, Jack Brown and Aiden Hills, with Ovenden finishing the year as vice champion with two wins to his name. Brown was a regular podium visitor during the season whilst Hills took two wins at Croft and Maasmechelen but suffered with a lack of consistency at other meetings to finish the year in fourth place Chris Woollett.
With such a large field there were plenty of stand out performances during the year including Drew Bellerby who progressed from the MSA Juniors and finished the year inside the top ten standings whilst Martin Dalzell, Andrew Hawkes, Brett Harris and Christian Hainsworth would all finish in the top the standings at the end of the season.
Regulars from the 2015 season who would make limited appearances during the year were Jake Taylor who join forces with Power Maxed Racing before leaving the series after Maasmechelen Jeff Hankin, Luke Woodham, Bradley Durdin and Rob Maynard would all score points during their various participation in 2016.
In 2016, the Retro Rallycross and Super Retro Rallycross Classes were promoted to Official championship status, meaning that the fight was on to become the first ever driver to take the spoils in both series. Ray Morgan took the honour of becoming the first Super Retro Rallycross Champion he guided the ex Martin Schanche Ford Escort three wins, however his consistency on the podium meant that he beat Barry Stewart in the Porsche into second place.
Jordan Bowes finished the year in third place with Rob Gibson in the Metro 6R4 taking fourth spot despite only completing at two meetings. Meanwhile Stewart Bowes took the first ever Retro Rallycross Championship title in his Austin Mini.
The 2016 MSA Junior Rallycross Championship was a tight knit affair between Sam Jones and runner up Tom Constantine, with Jones taking the title by two points by the end of the year due to two wins and a consistent form of podium places. However it could have been a different outcome had Tom Llewellin taken part in the full season. Llewellin joined the series at round four in Pembrey and took the championship by storm with second place on his debut before going on to take two wins and a further second place despite missing out the penultimate meeting.
Tom Middleton and Matt Rainbow enjoyed several visits to the podium during the year as they finished the season in the top five ahead of Llewellin whilst Cameron Hawkes and Morgan Wroot competed in part seasons, getting to know the cars as well as learning the competitive nature of the class.
The BMW Mini Championship was a two horse affair between the Hudson brothers with the title going in favour of Kris ahead of Keifer. Whilst these two fought it out for the title, Martin Hawkes and David Bell took regular podiums during the year with Hawkes winning the final round at Croft to give him third place in the series ahead of Bell.
Taking part in their first full season of the class were Frankie Helliwell and Jennie Hawkes with both drivers taking several top five finishes during the year. Bradley Durdin moved across from the Swift Sport Championship mid season and made his debut in class by starting of with a win at Lydden Hill in August as a sign of things to come.
In the Hot Hatch Championship, Tomasz Wielgosz returned to defend his 2015 title in his Peugeot 106 against a fleet of Citroen Saxo’s that included debutante Graham Rumsey who campaigned the ex Craig Lomax car. Rumsey would go on to be a Championship challenger as he took two wins and three second places to finish the year behind 2016 Champion Robert Potyra who took his first Hot Hatch title despite retiring from the last round. Michael Labedz improved during the season to take a second place at Lydden Hill behind Potyra before going on to win the final round at Croft.
The RX150 Class was utterly dominated by Chrissy Palmer, who stormed to take his second consecutive title after beating rival Marc Scott to the 2015 title by one point. With Scott only competing in one round in 2016, Palmer romped away to victory whilst pursued by Stephen Jones and Jake Harris. Both drivers would tie for second place at the seasons end whilst Mitchell Flaherty and Kevin Feeney completed the top five in the Drivers Championship.
With 2016 showing that the MSA British Rallycross Championship enjoyed a classic season of competitive classes and exciting on track action, the series is looking good as 2017 sees the 50th anniversary of the birth of Rallycross itself and you can be sure that this next season will raise the bar even higher.