A tale of two circuits

by Tim Whittington |

In February 1992 rallycross events took place on two new circuits in Britain. 25-years later one is but a distant memory while the other continues to play an important and active part in national events and is even getting a makeover as it notches up a quarter of a century.

On February 2 1992 Langbaurgh Motorsport Park on the outskirts of Middlesbrough staged its first rallycross event. A test had been run the previous autumn, after which the circuit layout had been tweaked. The entry comprised a mixed group of mainly northern racers; nearby Croft by now well established and offering a large pool of competitors.

 The rallycross track added a gravel section to the kart circuit that was built on a brownfield site left by a former steel works and while the first event passed off without any great difficulties, Langbaurgh failed to develop as a rallycross venue; limited paddock space, issues with noise pollution and the narrowness of the asphalt sections combining to limit the track.

Langbaurgh did not find a long term use as a rallycross track, the venue, now known as Teesside Autodrome, remains a busy kart circuit, describing itself as the World’s longest kart circuit – some of that length achieved when the gravel loop used in 1992 was surfaced in asphalt.

Back in 1992, it was Dave Knowles who came out on top of a competitive day’s racing in his lightweight Peugeot 205. Knowles won the class in a closely contested final in which he passed the Escort MkII of veteran racer Ian Smith. Richard Watts won the smaller capacity section in his Lada Samara and then chased throughout the Superfinal which Knowles led from the start.

Two weeks later Pembrey opened its door to rallycross. In the strictest sense this was actually a reopening as the Welsh Motorsport Centre had run British Championship events in the middle 1980s, the last event being in 1986. Between then and 1992, the venue had been redeveloped as a full race circuit and the new rallycross layout was formed by sections of the race circuit and gravel sections on the infield. The circuit remained almost the same through until this winter when a redesign was undertaken.

The first event, on February 16 1992, had a small entry of rallycross cars, supported by classes for rally cars, autograss racers and quads. A handful of drivers started at Pembrey having also been at Langbaurgh, among them Roger Matthews whose day in the North East had been troubled but who hit his stride in Wales and became the first winner on the new track.

Welsh legend George Warren won the B final but missed the start of the A final, for which pole position had been secured by Nova Challenge racer Nick Jones. Leading through the first half lap, Jones was soon passed by the more powerful cars of Matthews, Mark Thomas (Fiesta BDG) and Mike Howlin (Fiesta).

Dave Pritchard started in the front row but was delayed in an incident that also slowed Gareth Thomas (who had also raced at Langbaurgh). Pritchard fought back to third place with his lightweight Nova, Thomas second and Matthews the winner in his Escort MkII.

Pembrey hosted the British round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship in 1997 and 1998 and broke new ground in 2016 when it ran separate days of a British Championship double header using the circuit in anti-clockwise and clockwise configurations.

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