When British Touring Car Championship star Matt Neal tried a rallycross car at Lydden Hill recently he was breaking some new ground by driving an electric car. But in terms of touring car racers trying their hand at rallycross, Neal is the latest in a very long line of ‘tin top’ drivers to turn their hand to the mixed-surface discipline.
So many have crossed the tracks to either test or race rallycross cars that we will not attempt a difinitive list, but here is a pictorial look at some notable touring car drivers who have come to try rallycross.
From the earliest rallycross events saloon car (as they were known in the day) racers took part. Indeed Vic Elford went on to race the Porsche 911 in which he won the first event in the 1967 British Saloon Car Championship which was at that time open to the 911.
Bringing things right up to date, Neal’s run in the Ford Fiesta ERX car developed by STARD put one of the most successfull BTCC racers into a state-of-the-art rallycross car. At the end of the 2017 British Championship season British RX champion Nathan Heathcote took part in a car swapping test day at Lydden with new BTCC Championship Ash Sutton. This was also the year in which Sutton’s team owner Warren Scott had raced in British RX.
You could have a long discussion about the relative merits and value of the BTCC versus the DTM, but nothing can detract from Mattias Ekstrom’s reputation as a racer. A racer who has the ability to turn his hand to almost anything. At the dawn of the World Championship era in rallycross Ekstrom decided to establish his own team. With that team Ekstrom went on to win the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship in an Audi S1.
There is no question that the World Championship put a focus on rallycross that has not always been there. In 2015 four-time World Touring Car Champion Yvan Muller lined on the rallycross grid at Loheac. Two years later his unrelated namesake Nico Muller joined the EKS squad, the DTM racer driving in France and Latvia and repeating his Latvian appearance the following year. His fellow DTM racer Markus Winkelhock was briefly, very briefly, an EKS driver in rallycross, but when the car was retired after practice in Finland 2014, Winkelhock’s event was done almost before it had started.
While Ekstrom formed a team with which to transition to rallycross, in 2016 BTCC team Power Maxed Racing decided to take a look at rallycross. Team boss Adam Weaver, a former autograss racer, had tried his hand at some lower level events and then acquired a Ford Fiesta Supercar from Polish racer Marcin Wicik. BTCC driver Dave Newsham drove but the car was troubled by poor reliability and the squad decided to focus on its core business and parked the rallycross car.
Tom Ingram got his wheels dirty with an outing in the RX150 class of the British Rallycross Championship in 2015 while in 2005 Mike Jordan and Michael Caine shared a Stock Hatch Peugeot 205 in an event that comprised both the British and BTRDSA Clubmans Championships. The poor car took a battering but it’s safe to say that the two BTCC racers enjoyed their day out.
In 2015 there was a ‘talent search’ competition using RX Lites (RX2/Supercar Lites) cars at Lydden. It pitched a range of british drivers against each other to find a potential new rallycross star. The winner of that contest was GT and Touring Car racer Tom Onslow-Cole who got to race in the RX Lites series at Instanbul Park in Turkey later that year.
The RX Lites/RX2 series also afforded Swedish racer Mikaela Ahlin Kottulinsky the opportunity to try rallycross. She also raced in the RX150 category in the UK. She was perhapos not truly a touring car driver at the time she did rallycross, but was certainly on the ladder and went on to race and win in the STCC.
Which brings us to Andrew Jordan… Touring car racer turned rallycrosser or rallycross racer turned touring car star? Yes. Both of the above. Jordan commenced his career in junior rallycross, progressed through the ranks, went to circuit racing, got to the BTCC quickly and won the title in 2013. But he’s never been far away from rallycross and driven a wide range of cars in the FIA World Championship as well as being a co-commentator in the championship.
And how do we classify Tommy Rustad? In the early 1990s here was the Crown Prince of rallycross. The young Norwegian in the ascendancy and looking like a shoo-in to succeed Martin Schanche. Then he went off to try circuit racing. A succcessful career uincluding touring car titles in Britain and Sweden under his belt, Rustad returned to rallycross in the 21st century. In 2015 he became the FIA European Champion.« Previous Post Next Post »