World RX stars on BBC Top Gear as rallycross season begins

by Hal Ridge |

As the rallycross season got underway in Belgium and Britain last weekend, it was BBC Television’s Top Gear programme that stole the rallycross headlines. In a special feature in programme, ‘Captain Slow’ James May raced a Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen Polo against a host of World RX stars at Lydden Hill. In the feature, May proved that even the most experienced drivers find RX Supercars hard to handle, failing to make it to the final.

Indeed, following pre-event tuition from American star and fellow Top Gear presenter, Tanner Foust, May was lapped in his semi-final by Foust himself, with Swede Timmy Hansen close on his tail. Colleagues Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson acted as May’s spotters in the event, but their typically unhelpful advice did nothing to help May’s cause. The three presenters were full of praise for the sport; Clarkson stating at the end of the show “We have to say… rallycross is brilliant.” May agreed, stating that rallycross is “pound for pound the most exciting sport in the world.” Over 5.4 million viewers watched the sport in the UK alone. The programme can be watched again on BBC iPlayer, here.

The Top Gear feature was also the first public airing of JRM’s Mini RX, which the experienced firm plan to race this season, and recently signed engineer Paul Eastman from Prodrive to work on the project.

Two drivers announced their participation the European Rallycross Championship this week. Albatec Racing will field a brace of cars in the championship, with former French championship Jerome Grosset-Janin the first driver to be announced. The second driver is expected to be announced soon. “I am very happy to have been hired by Andy Scott to drive the Albatec Racing Peugeot 208 Supercar. I had the opportunity to drive the car for the first time on Tuesday, and it was a day to discover the car and my new environment,” said Grosset-Janin.
“I have a very good feeling driving it, the car has a good balance and everything went well! I’m really pleased that MTechnologies is also involved in this new adventure.
I am sure that with Albatec Racing, MTechnologies and myself, we have everything in place to have a strong season! I can’t wait to get back behind the wheel for the next test.” Lukas Walfridson has also announced that he will contest the European series in a revised Helmia Motorsport Renault Clio. He will also race in the RallyX Scandinavia series, and hopes to graduate to the World Championship for 2016.

The first round of the Belgian Rallycross Championship took place at Maasmechelen. Supercar drivers Jos Kuypers (Ford Fiesta) and Johnny Verkuringen (Subaru Impreza) withdrew before the start of the event, Kuyers still awaiting a wiring harness for his new car while Verkuringen was suffering with flu. Another car was lost when 2014 champion Ron Snoeck (Seat Leon) suffered technical problems in practice. Jos Jansen (Ford Focus) set the pace through the day, and qualified on pole position after only two heats. In the final, Jansen, who showed significant improvement having spent a season at World Championship level, made a poor start before another mistake on the loose section cost him a chance of victory. Jochen Coox (VW Scirocco) beat Jansen away from the line and won the first race of the year. Marcel Ottink (Skoda Fabia) finished third. Will Teurling’s Volvo S40 was removed from contention in an optimistic overtaking move by Ronny Scheveneels (VW Scirocco). Davy Van Den Branden (Citroen DS3) claimed Super1600 with Dennis Remans (Ford Fiesta) second and Bart Stouten (Peugeot 206) third. Reigning champion Steven Stessens (Vauxhall Nova) won the SuperNational – final, ahead of Yves Teelen (Citroen Saxo). In the SuperNational + division, Steve Volders led thoughout, winning in his Ford Escort ahead of Kristof Bex (Volvo S40) and Luc Maris (Volvo 242).

The first round of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship took place at Blyton Park in Lincolnshire. 2012 BTRDA champion Gary Cook (MG ZR) won the SuperModified category, despite loosing the lead at the start of the final to Irishman Philip Kelly (Toyota MR2), who wound up second. Todd Crooks (BMW Mini) finished third. In the Production category, reigning champion Jeff Hope-Davies claimed victory ahead of father and son duo Eugene and John Ward in a pair of Peugeot 106s. Jordan Bowes was one of many drivers making their rallycross debut in the event, driving a Mini originally built by Mike Dresser. Bowes impressed, but retired while leading the SuperModified B final with driveshaft failure.

The MSA British Rallycross Championship gets underway this weekend at Croft, where 11 Supercars are entered for the first round of the season. Reigning champion Julian Godfrey (Ford Fiesta) is joined in the Supercar line up by Andy Scott (Peugeot 208), Ollie O’Donovan (Ford Fiesta), Kevin Procter (Ford Fiesta), Andy Grant (Ford Focus), Steve Mundy (Ford Focus), Mad Mark Watson (Citroen Xsara), Geoffrey Dolan (Opel Astra), Steve Harris (Citroen DS3), Pat Doran (Citroen DS3) and Steve Hill (Mitsubishi Evo) in the best opening round line up of British drivers for some time.




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