The British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy announced on Thursday that Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy and Isle of Man TT star John McGuinness will race a Citroen C4 Supercar in rounds of the series this season, at Lydden Hill and Knockhill respectively.
While Hoy has already tasted rallycross first-hand in the Spanish round of the World Rallycross Championship last year, McGuinness’ Knockhill run will mark his rallycross debut. The pair are not alone though in the list of celebrity names to have graced a British RX grid over the years.
Arguably the most famous and remembered of those star names, by rallycross fans of a certain age at least, is WBA Feathweighht Champion Barry McGuigan. Having moved to Kent following his boxing retirement, McGuigan lived close to rallycross legend Will Gollop. McGuigan first drove in some Standard Production Car Rallycross (SPC) events at Lydden Hill in a Saab with Gollop’s team in 1989, before later John Welch got him into a Vauxhall Nova for the Nova Challenge series. McGuigan was fast, but also had some huge crashes, for which he is probably best remembered.
Former Formula 1 driver Martin Donnelly was another to sample rallycross through the hugely-popular Nova Challenge, in 1992. His rallycross appearance at his home circuit, Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland, was his first competitive start following the huge accident during qualifying at Jezez in 1990 that ended his F1 career.
Another ex-F1 driver to try his hand at rallycross, although in the top category, was Jonathan Palmer, in a number of different machines. He drove Ford Motorsport’s own RS200 a couple of times, in the Rallycross Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, a circuit he now owns, and in British RX at Lydden Hill. That Lydden outing in 1989 didn’t last long however, he crashed out early in the event.
Arguably better known for his television presenting exploits, but another driver with F1 experience, Tiff Needell, was a familiar face in the Rallycross Grand Prix in various cars, including Will Gollop’s MG Metro 6R4 in 1988 and 1989. But in 1997, he made several appearances in British RX, driving a Tony Bardy Motorsport Vauxhall Nova.
Nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastien Loeb prepared for his and Peugeot Sport’s 2018 World Rallycross Championship effort during the opening round of British RX at Silverstone in 2018. The Frenchman won, flanked by team mate Timmy Hansen and EKS Audi Sport driver Andreas Bakkerud on the podium. Hansen and Bakkerud have also made other guest appearances in British RX, in the Swift Sport and RX150 classes.
Another WRC champion, Marcus Gronholm, also raced a Supercar in British RX, driving an Olsbergs MSE Ford Fiesta as team mate to British driver David Binks in 2011, ahead of a Global Rallycross Championship programme in America. Gronholm won the final.
In that GRC effort, Gronholm was an OMSE stable mate to Tanner Foust, best known for his Drifting and television presenting prior to racing in rallycross. In 2010, Foust drove an OMSE Fiesta at Lydden Hill.
Another former WRC driver, Malcolm Wilson, didn’t actually race in British RX, but he did do demonstration laps in a works MG Metro 6R4 at Swindon in 1986. Kept secret and labelled as a PR stunt, the reality of the exercise was to see if Will Gollop’s big push to Austin Rover boss John Davenport that the 6R4 could be competitive was on the money. Wilson’s lap times that day changed rallycross history, they ensured that Davenport signed-off the deal for Gollop to get a 6R4 at the end of the year. Gollop won the European Rallycross Championship in 1992, the most recent British driver to do so.
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This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of stars to have graced British RX, just some interesting drivers of note, including another, like McGuinness, to have swapped two wheels for four, Leon Haslam. The former British Superbike Champion and World Superbike race-winner competed twice in the Swift Rallycross Championship, at Mallory Park in 2009 and at the Blyton Night Race in 2010, driving a Peter Gwynne Motorsport-run car.