It may not seem like it, but today’s club event at Croft might well have been the single most important rallycross to have taken place in the UK this year.
How so? Without raking over ground that need not be disturbed here, this year there was no clubmans rallycross championship in Britain. The UK has a licencing structure that means new drivers start at National B and can then progress to National A and International licence levels. There are places within the categories on offer in the MSA British Rallycross Championship events that allow new competitors to enter and make that progression, but until 2013 there had also been events for those up and coming drivers, and also for those who wanted no more than to race at a club level with all that involves in terms of car specification, cost of competing, style of event, etc.
In a concerted effort to change this situation for 2014, the BTRDA and Darlington and District MC, together with other interested parties, worked hard through the year to plan an end-of-season event that would demonstrate the viability of clubmans rallycross. With an entry list that was full, and with reserves, months before the event took place, the meeting succeeded on requirement to gain the support from competitors that would make it financially viable to organise; in the UK where clubs have to pay commercial circuit hire fees to use a track, that is a crucial factor.
More than anything at this level, where almost everybody is paying for their own sport, is that those competitors go away having enjoyed a good day’s racing. By and large, Croft appeared to succeed on that point too. Run on the ‘classless’ format pioneered by Bill Chesson at Lydden, the event pitched cars of all varieties – except for Supercars which were not eligible – in together and provided for some good racing in proper winter conditions.
At the end of the day it was local rally driver Paul Swift who came through to win, his Escort Mk2 rally car the ideally suited to the conditions and its driver, nicely warmed-up having done a rally at Oulton Park on Saturday both in the groove – he set fastest time in the second heat – and willing to mix it with the fastest rallycrossers on the day. Stu Emery led the final before Swift passed. Charging through from the back of the field, Lance Foster reached second at the end in his Mini. John Gaskin, fastest in the first heat in his Citroen Saxo, recovered from a heat two crash to make third in the final.
There were also those kind of personal triumphs that this level of racing all about; novice racers Andy Bedford “I wasn’t last, so I’m happy” and Mike Yates, “I had a good day and the car is still in one bit”.
The event was also used to launch the 2014 BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship, projected to run over six events using a new course at Blyton Park, Pembrey and Croft. All those involved managed to make this event a success, the real trick now is going to be maintaining the momentum and creating a consistently well supported championship.
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