SEASON REVIEW: 2017 British Rallycross Championship – Heathcote’s Heroics Seal Maiden Title


Credit: Matt Bristow/mattbristow.net

The 2017 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship in a sense had a feel of its 2016 counterpart, with eventual champion Nathan Heathcote claiming the Supercar title in his maiden season in the top class, just like Dan Rooke did twelve months ago, with the pair also driving the same Citroen DS3 prepared by LD Motorsports on the way to their titles.

Photo Credit: Matt Bristow

Having announced a deal to drive for Liam Doran’s team alongside former BTCC driver and Team BMR owner Warren Scott, Heathcote went into the opening round of 2017 at Croft as a Supercar rookie but would show exactly why he would become the champion of the UK’s premier Rallycross championship.

Many of the 2016 field returned, with drivers such as Ollie O’Donovan, Kevin Proctor, five-time champion Julian Godfrey and Mitsubishi Evo driver Steve Hill battling with Heathcote and newcomers Oliver Bennett, in an ex-Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta who would go on to finish strongly on numerous occasions and Jake Harris who entered the series in another LD Motorsports prepared DS3 after previously competing in RX150 Buggies.

Beginning the season in the team’s C4 rather than the newer DS3 machinery, the defending Swift Sport Rallycross champion Heathcote showed his potential right from the beginning of the year and won round one of the 2017 season ahead of Proctor and O’Donovan after a tight race in the final of round one where at one point five cars were battling for the win.

Bennett on his debut finished a strong fourth, while fifth went to Harris and ‘Mad’ Mark Watson rounded out the top six in his Citroen Xsara T16.

 

Photo Credit: Team RX Racing

Round two saw the teams head to the ‘home of Rallycross’, Lydden Hill in Kent where O’Donovan claimed his first win of the season with former BTCC driver Scott taking second in just his second event in Rallycross despite suffering a puncture after contact at the very first corner of the final and Bennett again finishing strongly this time in third.

Five-time BRX champion Godfrey looked set for a strong finish in his Ford Fiesta, but Scott was again in the wars with his DS3 and the pair made contact damaging the Irishman’s suspension and forcing him to retire with Scott again holding on to finish.

Fourth at the first of two visits in 2017 to Lydden Hill for the BRX championship went to Harris who was still getting used to driving his father’s Supercar class machinery, while fifth went the way of North Yorkshire driver Proctor who was the final classified runner. Eventual champion Heathcote had a weekend to forget after suffering mechanical issues throughout the day of the event and he was unable to qualify for the final.

The end of June saw round three of the season take place at Pembrey in Wales, with the track being ran in the less-used opposite direction and it was Heathcote’s closest title rival, Julian Godfrey who would claim the win to make it three different winners from three events in 2017.

Photo Credit: rallycrossbrx.com

Second in Wales went to Bennett, who again finished on the podium and incredibly took the championship lead in still his first season of Rallycross, while to-be champion Heathcote recovered from issues in qualifying to fight back to third in the final and earn vital championship points.

Fourth went to the series-returning James Grint in a Spencer Sport ran Mitsubishi Mirage while fifth went to Andy Grant in his Ford Focus and Watson rounded out the top six in his Xsara.

Rounds four and five of the nine event season were a double header in Ireland at Mondello Park and it was again Godfrey who proved exactly why he was a five-time former champion by taking a fantastic double win.

Photo Credit: rallycrossbrx.com

With the two events being ran in opposite directions across the two days, Godfrey used his joker laps to his advantage and timed them to perfection on his way to leading the championship at the mid-way point in the season while Oliver Bennett again continued his fine start to the season and made it five podium finishes out of five races with a third in round four and a second the next day in round five.

As Godfrey dominated at the front, Heathcote was again to suffer more trouble in the aging-C4; a mechanical issue in round four saw him retire from the event and the 20-year-old looked set to miss out on the following day’s action also. However Pat Doran, who was competing as a replacement for the injured Warren Scott chose to give up his drive in the team’s RCIB insurance-backed DS3 so Heathcote could continue in his charge for the BRX crown and he was able to repay Doran with a fantastic third-place finish in round five.

Round six was a return to Lydden and this time it was the returning Scott who claimed his maiden Rallycross win. The Team BMR owner showed throughout 2017 his raw pace and at Lydden he proved he could go all the way and take the win.

Behind Scott finished his teammate Heathcote, with Bennett again on the podium. Godfrey finished fourth keeping his title-push alive and Proctor in his Fiesta rounded out the top five.

Next up was another double header, this time back at Pembrey and the two title challengers each took a win over the two days. Godfrey took the round seven victory ahead of Bennett who continued his podium finishing run and O’Donovan in third.

Photo Credit: Matt Bristow

Round eight, the following day saw Heathcote at the top of the standings and he finished ahead of Godfrey in second and Scott in third, who again finished strongly in his maiden Supercar season.

And as the season concluded at Croft in October, any one of championship leader Godfrey, who had a ten point advantage over Heathcote in second and the ever-consistent Bennett was going to become the 2017 champion in the Supercar category.

Although both Heathcote and Godfrey both made the final on Sunday morning, the five-time champion had it all to do after a mechanical issue struck his Fiesta during the heats on Saturday afternoon meaning he would line up on the third row of the grid for the final.

As Heathcote led away the field from pole position, Godfrey in an attempt to make up as many places as possible hit the Citroen C4 of Pat Doran as he battled to get past the former champion and this would damage his Fiesta’s suspension and force him to only manage a sixth placed finish, giving Heathcote the BRX title in his maiden season in the Supercar class.

Photo Credit: Matt Bristow

Despite suffering a heart-breaking retirement in the final at Croft, Godfrey held on to second in the standings and Oliver Bennett who finished third at the final round would earn a fine third in the overall standings after a very consistent season.

MSA SuperNational: Ovenden Seals Title After Fantastic Second Half Of Season

The MSA SuperNational Championship went down to the wire in 2017 and it was Tristan Ovenden in his Renault Clio V6 who would come out on top in the standings after winning four events out of the last five races of the 2017 season.

Ovenden won the title in his first season in the class ahead of title rivals Paige Bellerby in her Lotus Exige; the youngster winning the opening three rounds of the season and round four winner and defending champion Tony Lynch in his Ford Ka who finished third in the standings in 2017.

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Fourth in the championship positions went to Guy Corner ahead of Allan Tapscott in his Vauxhall Astra and rounding out the top six in 2017 went the way of Mike Howlin.

MSA Junior Rallycross: Llewllin Dominates In 2017

The MSA Junior Rallycross Championship saw Tom Llewllin take the championship victory with a round to spare. In the eight rounds of the championship that the youngster competed in, Llewllin claimed an incredible seven victories with his only dropped points coming in round four.

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The man who beat Llewllin to the victory at Mondello Park, Norwegian driver Ole Henry Steinsholt finished second in the standings ahead of Tom Middleton in third. Fourth in the Junior category went to Morgan Wroot who had a string of strong performances across the season while James Constantine finished fifth and ahead of his cousin Tom who rounded out the top six overall.

Looking ahead to 2018, Llewllin entered the Swift Sport Championship for its final event of the 2017 season at Croft and showed that he is definitely a driver to look at for the future in the sport of Rallycross; the youngster went on to claim the victory in the class in his first event in the more powerful machinery.

Swift Sport Rallycross: (Another!) Ovenden Wins In 2017

The Swift Sport Rallycross class, where 2017 Supercar champion Nathan Heathcote graduated from last season, saw another Ovenden become champion on the BRX package. As Tristan won the Supernational crown, younger brother Simon was also victorious and after a season long battle with Rob Shield with the Swift Sport series another going all the way to the wire at Croft.

Ovenden won four out of the nine events throughout the course of the season, more than anyone else in the class and the wins backed up by strong finishes in the other five rounds with no retirements shows that consistency was the key to becoming a champion in one of the most competitive classes in BRX.

Photo Credit: Matt Bristow

Behind Shield in second was Morgan Bailey who was always towards the front of the standings across 2017 with a brace of second place finishes the signs of a fine season that confirmed him in third in the championship. Fourth went to Chris Woollett while Rob Maynard took fifth in the standings.

Super1600/BMW Mini and Hot Hatch

For 2017, the Super1600, BMW Mini and Hot Hatch championships were announced to be ran as one race to help to boost grid numbers and give the drivers on-track more competitors to battle against.

The Super 1600 class saw Paul Coney in his Vauxhall Corsa take the title with six wins out of nine events ahead of Darren Scott and Phil Chicken. The championship was somewhat of a two horse race, with Scott taking the remaining three victories securing a lock out of wins for the pair at the top of the championship.

Photo Credit: Matt Bristow/rubberduckdoes.com

The BMW Mini class was won by Martin Hawkes ahead of Drew Bellerby (sister of Paige) with David Bell rounding out the top three while the Hot Hatch championship went to Leigh-Anne Sedgwick with Szymon Zatylny and Lee Keeler claiming second and third in the standings despite only part-time campaigns in 2017.

In the RX150 Buggy series, it was Chrissy Palmer for the third season in succession who won the class ahead of title rivals John Ward and Stephen Jones, while finally in the Retro Rallycross championship, Lance Foster beat Paul Smith to the championship crown.

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The 2018 Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship will begin on March 17 2018 on the brand new Silverstone World Rallycross circuit, before trips to Lydden Hill, Croft and Pembrey across the season.