For a decade or so after its 1982 inception the British Rallycross Grand Prix was the showcase end-of-season event that attracted drivers from across Europe and which delivered epic duels, amazing David v Goliath battles, the improbable, and sometimes the impossible, all played out in front of huge crowds and then replayed on national TV. After the last ‘real’ winter GP at Brands Hatch in 1994 the event has been reincarnated a couple of times and has recently settled at Croft, where this year’s version was, again, run as half of a double-header weekend; the final round of the British championship taking place on Saturday with the GP on Sunday.
The business of the British championship was by and large done, Julian Godfrey already assured of his third successive title, which was a good job for the prolific engine-builder who had his worst finish, the first time he has not been on the podium this year. The event was, of course, full of the kind of stuff national championship fun you would expect; Supernational diverstity and Ash Simpson’s awesome ability in his Lotus, cut-throat closeness in the one-make Swift series where champion Graham Rodemark just lost out to Tristan Ovenden after a race-long battle and a magnificent weekend from RX150 series champion Marc Scott who was allowed to make his Supercar debut in his father Andy’s beloved 306 and drove with aplomb and maturity to bring the car home third on Saturday and fifth on Sunday.
Late events are always a chance to try new ideas, test components and begin the preparation for the next season. After dipping into the British championship during what we like to think of as ‘summer’ and winning a wet event at Knockhill in Scotland in the 306, Andy Scott ventured to Croft with one of his Albatec Peugeot 208s. The car benefitted from suspension changes before Croft and was visibly better, nicer, than before. Determination and confidence up, Scott Snr. took victory on Saturday, and led again in the GP final on Sunday, before a tiny slip left a space into which Kevin Procter needed no second invitation; the Focus driver then taking the win in an event he has long coveted.
Testing was also Anton Marklund’s raison d’etre, the VW Polo driver running at Croft to trial a new engine. he may have won on Saturday but suffered steering breakage in the first lap elbowing and had to park the car. Sunday ended in the first heat when the head gasket failed. “We knew it was the weak part of the engine and there is a better gasket coming but it was not ready. They [engine tuner Trollspeed] tried really hard t make the gasket fail in the dyno but it’s never the same as having the engine in the car and racing. We came to see how hard we could push the new engine and we pushed it hard, now we know what it will take,” said Marklund.
The Grand Prix is not the event it was in the 1980s, but we do not live in the 1980s, things change, time moves on. For all the GP was the ‘season closer’ there was never really an end of season in those days; winter racing was an integral part of rallycross at least in the UK. That has been missing in recent years but in a concerted effort to breath life into club-level rallycross and winter racing, there is one more event in the British calendar this year as the BTRDA and Darlington &DMC return to Croft in a month to run an event that has long since closed its entry list with a maximum field and reserve list. It’s not over yet.
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