After major issues around trying to make race arrangements during the pandemic led to previous race weekends being cancelled, rounds two and three of the Motorsport UK British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy Presented by Cooper Tires eventually took place at Lydden Hill in Kent over the first weekend of December although with no spectators.
Alongside the main championship for Supercars (specially built cars with 600 BHP), there were many support categories running over the weekend. The Motorsport UK Junior Rallycross Championship, the Motorsport UK Supernational Rallycross Championship, the Super 1600 Championship, the Swift Sport Rallycross Championship, the BMW MINI Rallycross Championship, the Retro Rallycross Championship & the RX150 Championship.
With the World Rallycross Championship brought to an abrupt early end for 2020 and with not many other races happening, this weekend’s competition attracted some additional drivers to the line up such as WRX drivers Liam Doran, Oliver Bennett and Isle Of Man Champion Superbike rider John McGuiness as well as his son Ewan.
Round two was held on Saturday 5th December on a very damp track with free practice allowing all drivers to stretch their legs and a chance to get the cars set ups dialled in. During this practice session, the top three times were set by JC Raceteknik team mates Enzo Ide and Liam Doran in their Audi S1s followed closely by Bennett in his XITE BMW Mini Cooper.
The qualifying sessions were fraught with excitement and damage probably due to the large gaps in track time this year. Biker, McGuiness’ debut in the Supercar class went horribly wrong when a driveshaft broke leading to him losing control, colliding with one of the dreaded plastic barriers and rolling the borrowed Team RX Racing Ltd Ford Focus. The race was red-flagged whilst the car was recovered and thankfully McGuiness was a little shaken but unharmed. Ide was so enthusiastic about his first race at Lydden Hill that he forgot to take the Joker lap in the first qualifying race, a mistake that was blamed on his spotter. XITE Energy boss Bennett suffered from mechanical issues in these qualifiers including gearbox and subframe issues but still qualified in fourth place overall. Doran and Ide dominated the qualifiers both posting the fastest times of the day.
The first Supercar semi final was lead from the start by Doran with some great battling between Ollie O’Donovan and Julian Godfrey. The second one gave us some good racing between Ide and Bennett with Ide coming out on top. As the sun set and the flood lights came on, we were getting ready for the first ever night races at Lydden Hill. After a bit of night practice, the Supercar Final was ready and proved to be a spectacular sight to behold especially when you think that these cars do not have headlights! Doran took the win with Ide and Bennett close behind.
In the Retro Class Stephen Cozens dominated in his Citroen AX even winning qualifier by almost thirteen seconds ahead of Tony Lynch being the top qualifier and then winning the Retro Final just ahead of rival Lynch by less than a second. Mark Finch didn’t have much luck with his Ford Fiesta on Saturday with various mechanical issues including having his front right wheel fold underneath him during the first qualifier.
Nigel Davey had his debut in the Super Retro class at the weekend as started in a manner that showed his competitors that he meant business and was the top qualifier after all three sessions were over. There were some bumps along the way in the class though. Steve Pascoe managed to spin his Ford Escort Mk5 and cross the finish line backwards for qualifier three! Then in the final for the Super Retros, Davey, Vince Bristow and John Cross almost collided and Bristow ended up on the grass. In the final lap Davey and Steve Pascoe came together and ended up in the gravel pit at Devil’s Elbow, resulting in both being unable to continue unfortunately.
The Supernational and Super 1600 classes were run together with all qualifiers running without much issue and the drivers were separated for the finals. Super 1600 Belgium racer Kobe Pauwels took the top spot followed by Yury Belevsky and then Championship leader Robert Vitols settling for third. Supernational final gave us some great battles between Guy Corner and Paige Bellerby for the lead but one all Jokers had been taken, Bellerby had dropped to second after Jason Bleasdale passed both her and Corner to take first place from the pair. Bellerby overtook Corner in a stunning move to take second place leaving Corner to be in third.
The young drivers of the Junior class all showed promise with Luke Constantine and Tom Ovenden battling for the lead in all races. In the final race, Constantine overtook well in the paddock bend loose surface to take the win. Ovenden took second and Ben Sayer took third.
The BMW Mini class was missing the 2019 Champion as she is expecting her first child. However Drew Bellerby was on trackside cheering on her Dad, Dave Bellerby who returned to race using her car throughout the day. The Mini qualifiers were rife with action, mainly with Rob Methold going ‘full attack’, having contact with a few cars and overcooking at Paddock Bend in Q2, spinning round and causing everyone to take avoiding action. In the semi-finals, Darren Bleasdale slid off into the tyre wall and then Adrian Turner and Martin Hawkes battled hard until Hawkes got pushed off track, hitting the plastic block and having to retire. In the Final it ended as a Dave filled podium with Bellerby taking the win, Bell in second and Ellis in third.
The Swift Sport class was basically a race between two cousins, James and Tom Constantine with the two swapping paces throughout each race with James Phillips taking the odd chance to take the lead. The final lead to Tom Constantine taking the win with his cousin in 2nd and James Chisman in third due to Phillips suffering a mechanical issue near the end of the race.
Patrick O’Donovan dominated the RX150 class, winning every single race including the final. Cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy suffered a puncture in the final, dropping him from second to third. Stephen Jones took second and Brett Harris came home in third.
Everyone enjoyed the night races and it really was a spectacle to behold, I only hope that there will be more of these type of races in the future.
Round three of the Championship took place on Sunday 6th December and the sun was at least partially shining, yet the track remained damp and greasy.
Sunday’s star was once again, Liam Doran but it was also a better day for Bennett. During the qualifiers for the Supercars, Ide made contact with Hill who then hit one of the plastic blocks putting him out of that particular race. The second qualifier race for the supers gave us the biggest mess of the day with Godfrey clipping the rear corner of O’Donovan’s Ford Fiesta then into Hal Ridge who was driving O’Donovan’s Ford Focus that was driven by John McGuinness the day before. Causing all three cars a lot of damage resulting in both O’Donovan and Godfrey to retire from the race but luckily Ridge was able to continue. This incident was investigated after an officially complaint was received from O’Donovan (not surprisingly when he has both the Fiesta and Focus up for sale) and Godfrey was given a written warning and two penalty points added to his race licence. The rest of the Supercar races went well for most except for the Championship leader Donnelly who span at Devil’s Elbow and then ended up in the gravel facing the tyre wall. Doran took the win ahead of Ide and Bennett.
The Junior class races went well with not much trouble apart from when Corey Padgett managed to lose control and spin coming down Hairy Hill, luckily everyone managed to avoid him. Watt somehow lost control and hit a plastic barrier during Q3. The Junior Final was dominated by Luke Constantine followed by Ovenden and Sayer.
The Retro, Super Retro and Group B +4WD classes all went well and then in a last-minute decision made by the stewards, the Final retro race was a combo of all three classes! This special race was red flagged in lap one as Lynch’s Toyota MR2 suffered a driveshaft failure on the start line and Paul Pascoe’s Ford Sierra Cosworth came to a stop on Dover Slope and blocking the track. Once the race was restarted, there was still ten cars on the grid, the other Pascoe lost power and retired to the pit in lap three then in lap four, Cozens lost grip and ended up in the gravel pit of Devil’s Elbow. Bradley Sampson takes the win, followed by Derrick Jobb and Dom Flitney.
The Supernational class started round 3 with some controversy, round 2 winner Bleasdale was stripped of his win and Guy Corner excluded from racing, both for contravening regulation C1.1.9. (Abusive language, behaviour or threat of assault). This meant that there was just two drivers remaining to race in qualifying and it was Paige Bellerby who took the win ahead of Slawomir Woloch’s BMW M3 RX. The Super 1600 races all ran without much drama and then the combo Supernational/Super 1600 Final created some tough fighting between Pauwels and Vitols with Pauwels nudging and eventually barging his way past Vitols to take second place behind Belevskiy for the Super 1600 class. Bellerby had to retire in lap one leaving Woloch to take the prize in the Supernational class.
The BMW Mini races all ran in a very similar vein to the previous day’s in that it was the Daves who dominated with the 2018 Champion Bell taking the win followed by Bellerby and then Ellis taking third.
Tom Constantine once again, dominated the Swift Sport class although newcomer Chisman performed a perfect pass from third to first in the second qualifier. The final ended with Tom Constantine taking the win ahead of his cousin James and then Chisman took the third spot.
The RX150 class was again led by Patrick O’Donovan who won every single race with Sir Chris Hoy claiming second in the final and Jones taking third place.
Plans are to complete this season of the championship with another weekend in January 2021. We shall keep you updated when we have confirmation of the dates.