It’s 35 years since one of the biggest days for rallycross in Britain; John Welch’s victory in the 1985 British Rallycross Grand Prix. The first British driver to win an event that had quickly established itself as the end-of-season showcase, Welch’s win came a year after he had brought his brand new Xtrac Escort to Brands Hatch for the corresponding event.
The freshly completed car did not go the distance on that occasion, but in December 1985, with a year of competition under his belt in the four-wheel drive Escort Supercar, Welch was at the top of his game and in the hunt throughout the weekend.
Starting from second place on the front row of the grid for the final, Welch, like almost every other driver in the Grand Prix final, had an adventurous race, but survived the carmageddon to work his way through to the front and then land a hugely popular win.
Britain was not exactly a backwater of rallycross, but it was close a decade since a British driver had won an event of this scale and importance. With Group B cars about to come over the horizon and make top class machinery more widely available, that would soon change, but here was the breakthrough win. The event that shone a light on British drivers, and in which the limelight, centre stage, was held by one of the strongest British advocates of rallycross, John Welch.
Much mythologised, the British Rallycross Grand Prix was not just about the big name drivers. back in 1985 much was made of the fact that 24 of the 90 entries in the event were for four-wheel drive cars, and that is an incredible number given that the second coming of four-wheel drive in rallycross had only really begun in 1982.
But the Grand Prix was not elitist; this was a big day out for all rallycross drivers and for the 66 fortunate enough to be selected to take part (there were also five reserves on the entry list), it was the big chance to get out there and race allcomers.
This was a key to the nature and atmosphere of the British Rallycross Grand Prix, national and club racers lining up alongside those who’d spent the summer duelling for the FIA European Rallycross Championship.
In 1985 the man who made the most of this great opportunity was Dave Pritchard. At the wheel of a 1480cc MG Metro of his own building – a masterpiece of lightweight design and construction – Pritchard qualified straight into the Grand Prix final, starting seventh on the ten-car grid. His was the only one of those 66 two-wheel drive cars to make the main event, a true giant-killing act in an event that itself became a giant of rallycross.« Previous Post Next Post »