PREVIEW: 2017 British Rallycross Championship – Croft

Despite last season’s champion Dan Rooke missing from the grid to defend his title, the 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship is set to be another incredible season which begins at Croft this weekend.

The now traditional season opener in the North East of England is the first round of nine this season and will be followed by events at Lydden Hill, Pembrey and a double header at Mondello Park in Ireland. The series then has another round back at Lydden, followed by another double header this time at Pembrey before the championship concludes back at Croft in October.

Even though Rooke will be missing this weekend because of budget restraints, nine Supercars are entered in the headline class at Croft including former champions Ollie O’Donovan and Julian Godfrey who return in a Ford Focus and Fiesta respectively.

Joining them will be the winner of the opening round in 2016 Kevin Proctor, who continues in the championship in another Fiesta, Jake Harris who this season races his father’s Citroen DS3 after competing in the RX150 championship last year and series debutant Nathan Heathcote who moves up to the Supercar category after his Swift Sport championship win in a LD Motorsports prepared Citroen C4 that was driven by Pat Doran in BRX last season.

Rounding out the class are Steve Hill who once again enters his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, fan favourite ‘Mad’ Mark Watson who returns in his Citroen Xsara T16, ex-BTCC racer Warren Scott who moves into the championship driving an LD Motorsports prepared Citroen DS3 and Oliver Bennett who pilots an ex-Olsbegs MSE Ford Fiesta.

Credit: MSA British Rallycross Championship

2016 MSA Supernational Rallycross champion Tony Lynch will return to the class this season to defend his title in his Ford Ka and will compete against 10 other rivals this weekend including winner of last year’s opening round and second in the standings last season Paige Bellerby who re-enters in her Lotus Exige, third-placed in the championship last season Guy Corner in his Peugeot 206 and longstanding competitor Allan Tapscott who is back in his rear-wheel drive Vauxhall Corsa.

New to the championship in 2017 is Tristan Ovenden in a Renault Clio V6 who graduates from the Super1600 series where he finished second last season as well as former double champion Ash Simpson who returns to the class after a four year hiatus in another Exige. Completing the class are Gary Dixon who enters a Vauxhall Astra GTE, Todd Crooks in a Mini Cooper S, Gary Simpson who drives a BMW E30, Kirk Twyman who is in another Clio, Malcolm Boyd in a BMW 118 and finally Michael Labedz in a Ford Fiesta ST.

The Junior Rallycross championship has seven confirmed entries for the opening round, including three past race winners. Runner up and Croft victor last year Tom Constantine returns with the aim of going one better overall in 2017 and will be joined by younger cousin James in the championship who is fresh from making his Rallycross debut last weekend at Blyton Park. Tom Middleton again enters the championship for another title charge and another Tom in the form of Llewelin is also back in the class for 2017.

A level playing field is assured in Junior Rallycross with each competitor competing in a 1300cc Suzuki Swift and the entry is rounded off by debutants Ethan Rees and Norwigean Ole Henry Steinsholt and finally Morgan Wroot who returns after competing in the final three rounds of 2016.

Credit: MSA British Rallycross Championship

With 2016 Swift Sport winner Nathan Heathcote moving in to the Supercar class this season, all eyes will be on Simon Ovenden who will be hoping to take the championship win after finishing second at his first attempt last year. However Ovenden won’t have everything his own way with drivers such as Chris Woollett who could challenge him for overall glory in 2017.

Also competing this weekend are Don Macleod, Rob Maynard Christian Hainsworth and Rob Shield who all return after competing in rounds during 2016 as well as class debutants Morgan Bailey, Martin Kjaer, Lewis James, Ada Marie Hvaal and Christoffer Lia.

For 2017, the Super1600, BMW Mini & Hot Hatch Rallycross Championships will race as one with the aim of making the classes much easier to understand for spectators as well as ensuring that the grid numbers remain high. Super 1600 defending champion Paul Coney returns in a Vauxhall Corsa VXR and will be pushed again this season by Craig Lomax in his Citroen C2, experienced racer Phil Chicken in another C2 and Darren Scott and Michael Boak who also join the C2 contingent this season.

Eight BMW Mini’s are entered alongside the S1600 cars with three of the grid being driven by the Hawkes family with Andrew, Martin and Jennie all set to compete. Experienced youngster Drew Bellerby (sister of Supernational racer Paige) will compete in the class after competing in the Swift Sport series last season as well as Rob Methold, David Bell and Bradley and Terry Durdin all also competing. Jason Bowes in a Citroen Saxo VTS and Mark Henry in an Alfa Romeo 147 complete the entry for this weekend.

Credit: MSA British Rallycross Championship

The Retro Rallycross class features eight cars on the entry for Croft with five in the Super Class. Defending champion Ray Morgan is back for another title in his Ford Escort BDA and will have to battle with Terry Maynard in a Triumph TR8, Mark Flaherty in a MG Metro 6R4, Darren Grimston in a Vauxhall Nova and Paul Easterbrook in a Toyota MR2 with Lance Foster entering a Mini Clubman, Paul Smith in a Volkswagen Polo and Stewart Bowes in an Austin Mini completing the grid in the Retro class.

The spectacular RX150 buggy championship returns in 2017 with 10 entries for round one. Chrissy Palmer, dominant champion in 2016 is back to defend his title this year and will be up against drivers including Jake Taylor, John Ward, Larry and Adam Sergent, fourth in 2016 Mitchel Flaherty, Brett Harris, Richard Moore and Georgia Shiels.

The 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship is set to be another incredible season and begins this weekend at Croft Circuit.