Former British Rallycross Champion Steve Palmer died on February 15, just a few days after his 59th birthday.
By the time Palmer arrived in rallycross in 1988 he already had a good track record of success on two wheels under his belt. Encouraged into sport by his father Gerry, Palmer rode motorcycles from seven-years-old and competed in trials from 14.He was British Schoolboy Trials Champion at 16 and won five South Eastern Centre trials titles as an adult rider. At 24-years-old he moved to motocross, quickly getting to the ‘expert’ category and placing 11th in the British Championship in 1985.
Introduced to rallycross by his close fiend Vic Moyce, who had mentored the youngster in motorcycle trials, he bought a ‘club’ spec MG Metro 6R4 in the winter of 1987-’88 and made his debut at Lydden in January 1988, placing fourth in the final. Quckly getting to work on upgrading the car, which had been used a show car for the Rothmans rally team, Palmer took in as many events as he could and quickly became a leading player. His first major win came in the penultimate round of British Championship at Swindon. Seventh place, and Driver of the Meeting award, in the end-of-year British Rallycross GP opened Palmer’s eyes to International competition and in 1989 he drove in seven of the 11 European Championship events, finishing second in France and Britain on his way to fourth place in the series.
Palmer pioneered the development and use of large capacity engines in the 6R4, 3.6 and 3.8-litre versions put to use with great effect. In 1990 he bailed out of a strong start to the European championship – second place in Austria – to focus on his British campaign where he won the title.
Europe continued to be a pull for Palmer, and while he always posted strong results in his 6R4, the 1992 switch to a ’93 spec Group A-based car proved to be the beginning of more difficult days. The Escort he chose for the new era took more development than expected, and arguably never really provided Palmer with a competitive basis for his campaigns. Eventually the absence of serious backing and the costs of developing new car curtailed Palmer’s rallycross days.
After a break from regular activity he made the move to rallying in 1999, moving Group N and A Escort before driving an RED-run WRC version. Moving back to Group N cars, he used various Mitsubishi Lancers, an ex-Ritchie Holfeld Mitsubishi Evo 4 used on the Network Q rally in 2000. Two seasons of regular appearances in the Scottish and British national championships followed with a best finish of fifth overall on the Border Counties in 2002. The car was replaced and upgraded to a clubman Gp A Evo 6 and increasingly competitive results led to a works supported Gp N Evo 7 for the 2003 ANCRO championship.
Off the track Palmer’s life was a colourful and action-packed as it was in competition. In recent years he ran a successful guest house and built engines for karts and classic trials bikes. He is survived by his father, wife Karen and sons Craig and David.
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