After a long wait due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Autosport International BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship presented by Cooper Tires finally got underway with round one being held at the home of rallycross itself, Lydden Hill in Kent on Saturday 12th September.
With a huge entry list of sixty five cars in five different classes the day was packed with forty races.
Free practice gave the drivers a chance to stretch their legs even though some had raced a few weeks ago in the 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship, for others, it was their first time on track since last season. The fastest time in practice was set by Tristan Ovenden in his rear-wheel-drive Renault Clio V6, completing a lap of the 0.87 mile long track in 47.309 seconds, averaging 66.19 mph!
After the early morning free practice session was out of the way, the day’s racing began with the first round of qualifying races. The Cooper Tires Production 4×4 category cars were first out with a grid of four Subaru Imprezas of different ages and one Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 RS. This was an uneventful race with the Subaru Impreza STI of Paul Davis coming home the fastest.
Following this were the three qualifying races for the SG Haulage Ltd Production category. There had to be three races for each qualifying session for this category as there were twenty drivers in this class. In qualifier one race one, TCF RX Cup regular esports racer Lee Keeler drove the fastest time. There was a bit of excitement in qualifier one race two with Jonny Chrisp almost losing control at devils elbow but still gaining a track limit warning and then James Orton thought he won, only to be handed a thirty-second-time penalty as he forgot to take the joker lap leaving Rory Dening to take the top spot. The best time in race three of these qualifiers was claimed by Dale Ford in his Citroen Saxo VTS after Ryan Randall misjudged the chicane after Paddock bend and span his own Citroen Saxo.
Next up were the qualifying races for the AS Performance Super Modified category. Race one for these was an easy win for Slawomir Woloch in his bright white BMW M3 E92. Race two began with Stuart Emery jumping the start light and then retiring his Peugeot 206 after lap one with mechanical issues and was joined by Todd Crooks’ Mini Cooper S who had a similar problem. Ovenden went on to claim the fastest time in this qualifier race.
Then the classic cars came out for their first qualifier sessions of the Steve Gaunt Trailer Hire Pre-1995 Classic category. Race one being won easily by John Cross in his Lancia Stratos R, with race two producing some great battles between the BMW 318i of Vince Bristow and the Ford Fiesta Evo of David Ewin at the front before Ray Morgan thundered past the pair to claim the win and the fastest time in his Ford Escort Mk3 BDA.
The final group to join the track were the teenagers (14-17-year-olds) in the first qualifying races of the Questmead Ltd & 710 Oils Junior Category. These youngsters really do show some racing promise and I may even say, are better racers than some of their older counterparts. These two races went without drama with Luke Constantine in his newly repaired Suzuki Swift which was damaged a few weeks ago in a collision at the British Rallycross Championship, taking the fastest time in race one. Race two had some great racing between Kacper Potyra in a Citroen Saxo and Owen Robbins & Caitlin May in their Suzuki Swifts, none of whom could catch up with Tom Ovenden’s Swift.
After a short break for track repairs, the second round of qualifiers began and things started getting serious here onwards. In the 4×4 category, the Subaru of Davis was pushed over into one of the plastic barriers but luckily returned to the track and there was a heated battle for first between Christopher Baker in his Subaru Impreza WRX and the Evo 6 of Bradley Sampson who took both the lead and the fastest time.
The second qualifier sessions for the Production class produced some great racing and race one was red-flagged due to the over-enthusiasm of two of the drivers, Keeler and Chrisp who came together in Devils Elbow leading to Keeler’s Saxo spinning and dragging gravel all over the track. Ford was the overall fastest in qualifier two the production class.
“There was quite a big gap on the inside and I was carrying quite a bit of speed coming out of the loose, Jonny Chrisp kind of didn’t leave me enough room and we came together.” Said Keeler. “After the officials viewed the videos it was deemed a racing incident as it was both our faults. I was probably a little bit too fast and he came across me a little bit too tight and the inevitable happened”
Super Modified qualifier sessions two saw Guy Corner leading throughout the race with both Fred Ling and Woloch right on his bumper and in the last section of lap four, Woloch finally overtook Corner to take the win. Race two was the most dramatic race of the day with both ambulances, the rescue unit and recovery trucks launching into action after Kenny Hall rolled his Renault Clio RS 2000 at speed in the loose section of Chesson’s Drift ending up laying on its side. Luckily with all of the safety gear that’s required nowadays, Hall was totally unharmed, just shaken up. The same cannot be said about his car. “I was going around the corner on the inside with a wee bit too much lock on and this side wheel [front right] hit the rubber tyre and that was it. Now the intercooler and supercharger are broken” said Hall. This meant his day was over and after the restart, Tristan Ovenden took the win and fastest time once again.
Qualifier two races for the Classics went well for all except for Morgan who received a thirty-second penalty for not completing the joker lap and Rob Buckmaster who finished his race backwards after spinning his Ford Fiesta just before the finish line. Marc Jones was the fastest overall in his Toyota MR2 Turbo.
The Juniors’ second qualifiers again went well with Tom Ovenden being the fastest overall.
During the lunch break, there was an investigation into Woloch and his team which ended in a disqualification and order of removal from the circuit. This was due to several members of the team not following the strict COVID regulations despite everyone being informed and warned several times throughout the morning.
Once lunch was out of the way, the third set of qualifying races could commence. Sampson took the fastest time just ahead of Shaw in the 4×4 class. The Production class drivers gave us some unfortunate action again with the Ford KA of Tony Chrisp hitting the tyre wall, leading to a red flag whilst Chrisp was taken from the track by the on site medical teams for a thorough check over. After the restart, there was a great battle between Keeler and Orton for second whilst John Rook sat in first until Rook took the joker lap and Keeler took the win. The fastest overall driver in Q3 was Maciel Florczak in his Peugeot 106 GTi.
Both the Super Modified and Classics third qualifying sessions went without issues with Tristan Ovenden quickest in Supers and Morgan the quickest of the Classics.
The Junior third qualifiers almost went bad with Corey Padgett being a little over-aggressive and forcing Amy Baines towards the tyre wall at the top of Hairy Hill. Luckily Baines was able to avoid the collision and get her Vauxhall Corsa back on track to complete the race. Tom Ovenden was the quickest of the bunch.
After another short break for the officials to work out the grids, came the big races, the finals.
The C Final of the Production class was dominated by Louis Kershaw in his MG Rover ZR 25 who received a thirty-second penalty for missing the joker leaving Rook the victor.
Classic category B Final was won by the Austin Mini of Ian Clark. Followed by the B Final of the Production class which was won by Dale Riches in his Citroen C2 VTS who had a clear lead right from the start.
The A Final for the 4×4 Production class was a clear win for Sampson who showed the Subarus just what a Mitsubishi is capable of and picked up the first of the event’s silverware. The Junior A Final started off on the wrong foot with Padgett and Watt colliding in the joker section leaving Padgett unable to continue and needing recovery. Once the race restarted we were in for a great fight between the favourites, Tom Ovenden and Constantine who were so far ahead of the rest of the pack it was like they had their own race. In the end, Ovenden won by less than a second to collect his silverware.
In the A Final for the Classics, Morgan took the lead immediately with the others chasing hard until Morgan and Cross came together sideways in paddock bend causing Morgan to pull off into the grassed area and retire. Jones was showing promise until something broke on his MR2 leaving him to crawl around the track and eventually pull over on the last lap. This left the field wide open for Cross to take the checkered flag in his Lancia.
The Super Modified A Final went without any issues with Tristan Ovenden flying round the track to take the win a full eight seconds ahead of rival Corner and his Lotus Exige.
The last of the A Finals was for the Production class which was a whopping ten car grid! Dennings spun his car around in the loose gravel section in lap one, Keeler almost lost it at Paddock Bend and had to take the long, tarmac route to avoid crashing and Orton had to retire. All within the first half of the race. The rest of the race went well with Ford extending his lead to almost six seconds by the time he crossed the finish line ahead of Harry Vaulkard. Unfortunately, TCF RX Cup esports regular Wesley Wickens experienced a few issues and came home in last place. “It was a mixed day, started off ok then in Q2 the clutch gave in. It just survived Q3 and then in the Final it completely gave up and I lost the complete chance of getting it into gear so I forced it into third and got round to the finish. There was no way of stopping the car when I got back [to the paddock] so I had to stall it and just park it down the hill.” Wickens is hoping to participate in the Winter Series at Lydden Hill if the clutch can be replaced in time and with a suitable sponsor.
The final race of the day was the Super Final in which the top two cars from each category were invited to race against each other and was an optional race. Nine cars entered and it was a straightforward race, no issues, no real racing. Each of the drivers seemed to use this as a chance to show off and simply boot it around the track. They all had their silverware, they had each shown their racing prowess in their Finals and not surprisingly, Tristan Ovenden took the win with an eight-second lead over Corner and Ling. Crooks had to retire in the final lap due to mechanical issues.
Overall this was a great day of racing, excellently organised and if you are interested in getting started in rallycross, then the BTRDA Clubmans Championship is the way to go. Head over to the BTRDA Clubman’s Rallycross website for more information.
Round Two of the Autosport International BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship presented by Cooper Tires will be held at Blyton Park on Sunday October 4