British Rallycross

SEASON PREVIEW: 2023 British Rallycross Championship

13 Mins read

The 2023 British Rallycross Championship kicks off this weekend at the home of rallycross, Lydden Hill. With some revised rules and returning drivers it looks set to be one of the hardest fought seasons. Anticipation is high before a large grid of 600hp beasts battle over the Easter weekend.

Calendar

All tracks used last year make a welcome return across six weekends. The only change comes in the form of Pembrey circuit losing its May date being replaced by a third Lydden Hill weekend in July. There the Supercar class will support the return of the World Rallycross Championship to the UK. The Irish Rallycross Championship will support a pair of weekends at Mondello Park and Pembrey. After a well received round in support of the Rallycross France finale at Druex, the British Supercars will join the field at the French track again. Round nine will once again be run under the lights. 

RoundDateCircuit
18 April 2023Lydden Hill, England
210 April 2023Lydden Hill, England
33 June 2023Mondello Park, Ireland
44 June 2023Mondello Park, Ireland
522/23 July 2023Lydden Hill, England
619 August 2023Pembrey, Wales
720 August 2023Pembrey, Wales
814/15 October 2023Dreux, France
94 November 2023Lydden Hill, England
105 November 2023Lydden Hill, England

Rules

A few rules have been tweaked in a bid to get drivers signed up for as many rounds as possible. Drivers can now drop any two rounds, save for the last round. This is double the allocation from last year where only entered rounds could be ignored. The points distribution has been simplified, now only awarding points based on the final classification of the event. This is the fourth change of format in as many years after points were previously allocated based on qualifying, semi-final and final positions.

Final ClassificationPoints
1st20
2nd17
3rd15
4th13
5th12
16th1

The last major change comes in the addition of a teams championship. Drivers can now pair up to score towards the new award. This new rule brings it more in line with other Motorsport UK championships such as BTCC and British GT. Should a driver miss a round they can be swapped out. 

Teams

Team RX Racing

Patrick O’Donovan – Peugeot 208

The reigning champion will be racing across the Easter weekend. Over the off season winning his maiden title finally sunk in. “It got to the end of December when it started settling in. Something I’m really proud to have done,” said O’Donovan.

Since wrapping up the title he has tested the team’s Proton Iriz and took it to victory at Mondello Park in the Irish Rallycross Championship. “It’s been a really good confidence boost going into this year. The car had a lot of teething issues. Starting the season on a high, would like to try and continue on that throughout the year.”

Now sporting GB1 the team recently acquired an ex-Hansen Motorsport Peugeot 208. The new car raced in the World Rallycross championship in 2021 and should be competitive on the continent. In his announcement vlog Patrick said, “It’s hard to convey how much excitement. The car’s absolutely mental. It looks like a spaceship. It just does what you want it to. Cannot wait to get it out at Lydden Hill. I’m really thankful to have been given this opportunity and I’m going to try and do anything so I don’t waste that.” 

Currently the RX2e race winner will compete in a full European Rallycross campaign with a partial British Rallycross season due to clashing dates. At Easter he will be one of the favourites in what is currently a bumper field. “There’s a lot of competitive drivers that have been announced. What we want is to put on a show for spectators. That’s what is going to grow the sport.”

Credit: 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship

Ollie O’Donovan – Proton Iriz

The 2007 British Rallycross champion returns for another campaign. He debuted the Iriz last year before teething issues put the car on the sidelines. Now after testing the car and adding a new Godfrey engine he will race the Malaysian car once again. “Last year didn’t go as planned with the Proton, far from it, but the team has worked hard to resolve the problems that we encountered. We will only get a chance for a quick shakedown before Lydden, but I’m keen to get going,” the Team RX Racing said in a statement last week.

Like his son, O’Donovan Snr will take part in both the European Rallycross championship as well as British Rallycross. There are two clashes of dates. The Mondello Park June weekend is one as well as the European finale clashing with the sole visit to Pembrey in August. “Both 5 Nations BRX and Euro RX will be very competitive this year. I want to get the best results I can, both for myself and to repay the effort that has gone into getting this car to a place we believe it should be.”

Credit: Callum House

Steve Hill – Mitsubishi Evo X

Long time rallycross competitor Steve Hill will once again be out in his Mitsubishi. Over the winter he got back into rallying in a Group 5 Mitsubishi where at Cadwell Park he missed out on a win by a single second. This year he’ll take the British Rallycross season one race at a time. “Hope to be competing at Lydden and then take it from there and see if the money holds out.” 

Last season he secured a podium, his first since 2019. He will certainly be aiming to return to the rostrum though admits the effort it takes to get there is high. “It felt good. Hard earned this time.” Only two drivers can score points each weekend for the teams. However, he will become a super-sub at any events the O’Donovans miss. 

Credit: Callum House

Team Duo

Julian Godfrey – Citroen DS3

The six-time British Rallycross champion will head into the new campaign joining up with LD Motorsport to run in a two car team. The Engine builder and tuner recently purchased Liam Doran’s DS3 and will run the car through the entire year. “Liam’s DS3, the one I drove in Knockhill [in 2021]. I’ve jacked it up to see what’s there. The main problem is the fuel tank. That’s gone down to Italy to be re-dated. The rest of it is no problem. I’ve gone right through the whole car and just a few things loose on it. It is a really good car. There’s a few things I want to change. I think most of the problem is the maintenance isn’t the best it could have been.”

He will compete in a full season once again. “Still aim for the championship. I’d like to think I can still be near the top.”

Credit: Callum House

Roberts Vitols & other drivers – Citroen C4

The young Latvian driver will return to pilot the car he took to three victories in 2021. “I am really excited to be back in the British Rallycross championship driving with the same car from the same team. I have to say I missed this place.” The plan to return to the championship came about late one night, says Vitols, “one night I couldn’t get to sleep and it was 2am Latvian time. When I checked my phone I saw a message from Pat Doran. I had a talk with my family and we agreed that this option goes very well with our plans this year.”

Whilst he hopes to return to the top step of the podium he knows the competition has heated up in the past two years. “Every time I step into a race car I only race for the win. I expect some high level cars to attend. We could be powerless against these much newer cars, but in my career I have had to race against drivers with better equipment and it always has made me better as a driver. I believe we can be at the top. I have been training hard this offseason, this same approach allowed me to win already on my Supercar debut.”

While the C4 is entered in the team’s championship for the entire year Vitols is currently not. Last year the car was used for guest entries for Jack Thorne and former champions Christopher Evans, Mark Donnelly and Nathan Heathcote. Vitols added, “for me the full season is not the objective at the moment. We have a lot of things planned to do outside racing this year. I have been looking in some other motorsport directions as well.”

Credit: Callum House

No other teams have been confirmed with drivers either focusing on improving themselves or without the necessary commitment to join forces with another outfit. 

Solo Drivers

Tristan Ovenden – Citroen DS3

Fresh off a third place in the championship the three-time Supernational champion returns for a fourth consecutive season in his DS3. “Last year’s results still remind me that we had a really good season. That could have been better at a few meetings, so aspirations are to do better. More wins and always aiming for a podium at least. I do appreciate that the level will be pretty high so we will have to be right at the top of our game.”

Not resting on their laurels the team have attempted to make improvements wherever possible. “We have touched everything on this car, in some way, since we have had it! Nothing really major, but lots of small adjustments and changes to improve overall performance. And in the driver, of course! The cars aren’t sitting here waiting for the day, there’s always something to do.”

Credit: Callum House

Oliver Bennett – Mini Cooper

At Easter Oliver Bennett will return to the series where he claimed his maiden Supercar victories. At last Easter’s event he dominated the competition before racing in Nitro Rallycross the remainder of the year. While he will be back at Lydden Hill, he’ll only be racing in round two due to schedule conflicts. Despite this he is looking forward to a return to the paddock. “I’m excited to be back, I had a good result at Lydden this time last year and it’s a good bit of fun downtime between our Nitro Rallycross seasons,” Bennett told British Rallycross. “It will be nice to be back in the Mini again because it’s a while since I’ve driven it. Unfortunately, I have clashing commitments on Saturday but we’ll be making sure to put on a show on Monday!”

While a full calendar has not been released the first pair of weekends of British Rallycross do not clash with the American series. Currently he is only expected to race over Easter though a return to Lydden Hill later in the year is not outside the realms of possibility.

Credit: Callum House

Steve Harris / Jake Harris – Mini Countryman 

Two years after first sampling a STARD powered car Steve Harris’ ex-World RX Mini has been fully converted to electric power. The car is set to be one of the most powerful on the grid. Due to electrification the instant acceleration will be a big help though an additional 240kg will dampen that advantage.

A quick shake down last week was followed by a full day of testing at Bicester. The last steps have now been completed. “EV licence needed granting, but has been confirmed and probably 2 days work.” After a long time in the making Steve can’t wait to give the car its debut, “very much! I can’t wait, this car is really special.” 

He remains realistic for the opening rounds but wants to challenge the front of the field by the end of this year. “[At Easter] to be in the top 10 or in the final would be great. Lydden Hill is my favourite. [At the end of the season] I want to be first, haha.”

Jake Harris will take the wheel of the car at round two on Monday and will pilot the car through the majority of the rest of the season. The team has not yet committed to a full campaign but Steve wants to compete in, “as many as I can afford.” 

Credit: Callum House

Mike Sellar – Citroen DS3

In the off-season Sellar confirmed his commitment to the series as he looked to upgrade his machinery. After that didn’t come to pass he returned to the car he has raced over the past seasons. Sellar said he aims to move up the grid, “this year maybe moving forward. Getting used to the car has been the main thing. Car’s been reliable and although we haven’t always been up with the front boys. Sometimes reliability is an issue [for others] like the finale where you finish the race and you end up finishing fourth.”

Last year he took home a pair of fourth place finishes and now has his sights sent on a podium finish. “If I’d known that Derek [Tohill] in front of me was struggling [in round ten final] I’d have had a podium and that’s what it’s all about.”

Credit: Callum House

Dom Flitney – Volvo C30

Flitney will bring the popular C30 back to the track once again, this time for a full season. However, he will be on the back foot at the opening weekend as the car is still using the original engine which is down on power compared to the rest of the field. “Haven’t really done a lot to the car. Been waiting for the new engine to come to the car. Was umming and arring about whether to race. Some points are better than none. I expected to get the engine in November. The car hasn’t missed a beat. Everything that’s gone wrong is down to me.”


Over the Easter weekends he’s only expecting semi-final appearances though will try to sneak into each Final. Once he’s up to full power he has set his expectations higher. “I’m a long way difference in horsepower and torque compared to everybody else. When I have the same spec as everyone else I think I will have a good chance. Definitely with the likes of Tristan [Ovenden] and he came third in the championship. Certainly on that level. I’m hoping somewhere fourth to sixth. ”

Credit: Callum House

Roger Thomas – Ford Fiesta

The Welsh business owner will again jump into his 600hp beast in a bid to achieve a podium finish again. “I’ve had three third’s. The plan last year was to better that. Drive well and improve. Keep learning the car really.”

Due to prior commitments he will miss some rounds but hopes to make it out as many events, especially those overseas. “I know that some of the rounds will clash. I should be going to Ireland and the second Lydden. Pembrey I think it clashes. France or the last Lydden clashes. I’ll be doing at least half the season. Work is more on the agenda. I’ll do what I can.”

Credit: Callum House

Jack Thorne – Peugeot 208

The double Super 1600 championship winner will once again drive in the top class of the British championship. In 2021 he purchased Andy Scott’s Peugeot 208 and ran it at that year’s season finale. Despite racing steadily to not be involved in the title fight he claimed a win and second place across the weekend. After coming close to selling the vehicle he’s returning to the track in the car that claimed the 2018 British RX title. “I’m feeling good actually, really looking forward to it.”

Despite a winning record in the car he knows the competition has stepped up since his last race. “With a long time out of the seat I have low expectations to be honest (laughs).” The budget to race came in the form of additional sponsorship. Currently he’ll only compete at Easter but wants to race more rounds. “A very good customer, who has become a good friend of mine through work, he offered to help, which I’m very grateful for. It’s a round by round thing for me I’m afraid as it all depends on work commitments.”

Credit: Callum House

Colin Anson – Ford KA

After 7 years away from racing, initially Anson looked to return to the sport last year. He took ownership of Christopher Evans’ championship winning Opel Astra before buying back his old Ford KA. Now he’s ready to compete this year in as many rounds as possible. Anson said, “I’ll see what happens with the KA after this event. I might go to Ireland. Definitely do Pembrey, maybe go to France. It depends on what breaks and whether I can get stuff fixed. I’m not doing it to be serious. The KA hasn’t been upgraded since I owned it four or five years ago.” 

At the World RX supporting event he does want to wheel out the Astra though would be happy to run both of his cars there. “I would like to bring the Astra to the World championship round. Even if I let someone else drive it because it’s a bit of history. It’s ready to go, almost. I had to rebuild a whole load of parts. There aren’t many spares. You can’t just get a gearbox.”

Despite a relaxed attitude he is aiming to move up the grid, either selling the fully rebuilt Astra and purchasing a new car or upgrading the KA. “I really had to rebuild the Astra. Once I sell it I will buy something. Although I’ve got a little plan in the background if I do keep [the KA] to upgrade it.”

Credit: 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship

Michael Boak – Skoda Fabia

Long time rallycross competitor Boak will make the step up to Supercars in 2023 for the whole season. He purchased the Fabia last year, running it at a sole BTRDA event where he won on debut. “I’m very nervous about racing at Lydden Easter weekend. It’s my first time on the new track to add a bit more pressure. The car is going well. It’s an awesome thing to drive. My expectations are just to make it through the event and improve on my lap times.”

Boak said it was always an ambition of his to race in the top class, “I’m just a working class man from the North East of England with some big dreams and some good friends who support me in what I’m trying to achieve. I’ve always raced self-built cars and have had some very good success but decided it was better to buy a good proven car.”


He’ll be flying solo this year, though will be supported by those around him “We tested and had a small gearbox problem but with the help of Tony Bardy we will make Lydden. The team award would be good. I thought about inviting Andreas Bakkerud but looks like he is a bit too busy.”

Credit: 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship

Viktor Vrankx – RX2e

Reigning RX2e champion will join the grid at Lydden Hill in his car. With World RX and the support category RX2e returning to the Kent track in July he will use this opportunity to experience the track. Speaking to British Rallycross organisers he said, “I’m very excited to race in 5 Nations BRX at Lydden Hill. I had an amazing first season in RX2e last year and I really enjoyed racing against the Supercars in the RallyX Nordic series. But, to start my 2023 rallycross season at Lydden Hill, where I went many times as a kid in the paddock to race in the Easter Weekend event will be very special for me and my family.”

Mondello Park also takes place before the season opening RX2e round. However, his testing programme has focused on tracks that will be used this year meaning it is unlikely he will return to any other rounds.

Credit: 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship

Additional entries

Both Andy Grant and Simon Horton may well return for select rounds later in the season. Grant has the ex-Gollop and Jordan Ford Focus Supercar but has been more keen to run Supernational and Retro class Vauxhall Corsa in recent years. Horton meanwhile is preparing his Subaru Impreza to race later in the year. 

The Irish Rallycross Championship has had an influx of cars arrive on the island. Three OMSE Fiestas have been joined by an ex-Marklund World RX car. The car was initially set to run in the UK with Paul Poulter before being bought by Shane Murphy who will run at select events in Ireland. It remains to be seen if any of those cars will join the grid at the remaining events with the intention of scoring points towards the British championship.

Round one takes place on Saturday 8 April with round two on Monday 10 April. Come Monday evening we’ll know who has started their season on a high and who has been left behind in the dust.

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I've been watching motorsport for over a decade and rallycross since 2014. I love to get up close to the action and rallycross paddocks such a friendly place to be in. If you're ever at a British RX event you'll see me trackside with a camera or with a microphone out interviewing drivers. Always happy to chat even if I don't have much time. He/Him.
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