Defending title-holder Julian Godfrey extended his narrow advantage in the MSA British Rallycross Championship in association with the Shannon Group by triumphing in the sixth round of the 2015 campaign at Pembrey – with spectators treated to non-stop, nail-biting action throughout.
Early morning rain gave way to a day of brilliant sunshine in south Wales, and following the conclusion of the heat races, the tension truly mounted ahead of the all-important finals.
In the MSA Supercar class in association with Odyssey Battery, it was Godfrey on pole position in his Ford Fiesta, courtesy of a hat-trick of good heat times. Alongside him was the Peugeot 208 of Albatec Racing team boss Andy Scott, with Ollie O’Donovan rounding out the front row in his Ford Fiesta. Andy Grant lined up on row two in his Ford Focus, with the Mitsubishi Evo 10 of Steve Hill completing the grid.
From the off, it was Godfrey in command, getting the jump to lead into the first corner. He was pursued by Scott and O’Donovan – both of whom, along with Grant, took their jokers immediately – with Hill in fifth.
By the end of the opening lap, Hill had overhauled Grant for fourth, but up front, Godfrey and Scott were already locked into a battle for victory of their own.
Of the leading duo, it was Scott who took his joker first, managing to rejoin still in second whereupon he set off in pursuit of Godfrey. Although on occasion he closed him down, Godfrey had a big enough margin to be able to joker on the fifth lap and stay in front right the way to the flag.
“Today was all about making sure we got a good finish, and that we did,” reflected a delighted Godfrey once the chequered flag had fallen. “It helps our title challenge.”
“It was always going to be tough to beat Julian here when he was on pole,” mused Scott, content with the runner-up spoils. “Pembrey is a difficult circuit but I drove well, and the team did a great job running the two cars we had.”
O’Donovan dropped back to fourth when he picked up another puncture in his Fiesta – having suffered a similar issue in an earlier heat – allowing Grant into third place, while mechanical issues meant Hill did not finish the race.
Engine dramas thwarted Kevin Procter, who was a non-starter for the final, as was Kristian Sohlberg in the second Albatec Peugeot 208. The Finn had impressed spectators with his style and speed, but issues with the car during some of the heats and fumes entering the cockpit spelled an early bath. Steve Mundy in the Ford Focus was another to non-start.
In the MSA SuperNational class, Gareth Wood in the Ford Ka cut the deficit to championship leader Daniel Rooke by winning the final ahead of local hero Mike Howlin in his Ford Fiesta. Steve Cozens drove well to take the glorious-sounding Renault Clio into third place.
Rooke had been on the front row of the grid for the final, but gearbox woes stymied his progress and restricted him to fifth at the flag, having managed to hold the car in third gear to ensure a finish. Todd Crooks had been on the front row along with Wood and Rooke and finished fourth, while Stuart Emery endured various engine problems throughout the day, and a morning engine failure in her Lotus Exige ended Paige Bellerby’s hopes for any kind of result.
The MSA Juniors saw Bradley Durdin head home Drew Bellerby after a closely-fought final, with Sam Jones taking third. Bellerby held onto her championship lead by just four points as the next round at Lydden Hill in August beckons.
In the Swift Sports, it was Aidan Hills who took another win, this time heading home championship leader Tristan Ovenden. Hills made a good start from the front row as did Ovenden, and they battled for the lead to the end of the race.
Jack Brown pushed Ovenden all the way through the final before settling for third, while Rob Maynard finished fourth with Darren Scott fifth. Although Ovenden holds a 25-point lead, the next four places are blanketed by just 24 points, ensuring that the fight is far from over.
Craig Lomax won the Super 1600 class, while in Hot Hatch it was Tomasz Weilgosz that prevailed in his Peugeot 106. He headed home the Citroën Saxo of Tomasz Marciniak, with the similar car of Robert Potyra placing third.
In the RX150 Buggies, there was a late entry in the form of Tony Bardy, who joined Nissan star Jann Mardenborough in a great final. Mardenborough impressed all day, and led the final for several laps. However, a series of spins by several of the front-runners allowed championship leader Chrissy Palmer to come through to assume control, which he retained to the flag. Stephen Jones finished second, as Mardenborough recovered to take third.
Retro Rallycross also provided some superb heats during the course of the day, and in the final it was the Porsche 911 of Barry Stewart that triumphed from the MG Metro 6R4 of veteran Rob Gibson. Ian Shelley took third overall in his Mini after a great tussle with Stewart Bowes, with Paul Smith winding up fifth.
MSA Supercars: Albatec Racing
Andy Scott took second place in the British Rallycross Championship round at Pembrey this weekend to keep himself and Albatec Racing in the title hunt. Fastest overall in timed practice, and with it a valuable additional championship point, Andy didn’t have the best of heats but still managed to secure a crucial front row position for the all-important final.
His main championship rival, four-time British champion Julian Godfrey starting from pole, got the perfect line into the first corner, and despite a stirring drive from the Dumfries racer, that included posting the fastest lap of the race, he was unable to capitalise on the Peugeot 208 RX Supercar’s 600bhp and find a way past.
Finishing runner-up for the second time this season, added to two victories earlier in the year, puts the Albatec Racing Team Principal second overall with two rounds remaining.
There was drama aplenty for rapid Finn Kristian Sohlberg on his British RX debut. Quickest overall on his very first competitive run around the 1.46 mile track in untimed practice, the former WRC driver showed all the flair of a seasoned rallycross contender with a stunning display of car control.
Lining up on pole for his first qualifying race, the 37 year-old was quickly challenging for the lead after a poor start, moving ahead on lap two, which he held to the flag. Overnight rain meant the track was still damp in places, and the subsequent faster heat relegated Kristian to fifth overall, amid a small but quality field.
Heat two pitched Kristian against the experienced Godfrey, and a sterling performance allowed the rallycross newcomer to chase down the race leader for the opening two laps, despite smoke from a cracked manifold seeping into his car. On lap three, with smoke now billowing around the interior making visibility impossible, Kristian had no alternative but to stop, where fire marshals attended to the stricken Konttorityö-backed car.
After a precautionary check-up by paramedics at the track for smoke inhalation, Kristian was transferred to the Prince Phillip Hospital, Llanelli, for further assessment but later released. Returning to the track with the intention of taking up his position alongside his team-mate in the final, discussion with his engineer and mechanics led to the decision not to take the start, as it was felt that the issue had not been completely resolved.
Double and reigning British RX150 champion Marc Scott also had an eventful day in Wales, that saw his joint lead at the head of the tables disappear after finishing fourth in the Final. A cracking performance in practice put the Lochmaben racer sixth quickest overall in his 1000cc buggy.
However a series of lowly heat results, by his standard, put him on the outside of the front row for the final. A good start to the race was brought to a finish with a spin that dropped him down the order, recovering to finish fourth.
Andy Scott, Albatec Racing Team Principal and driver :
“The heats didn’t really go particularly well, but nevertheless we managed to get a front row start for the final. I knew Julian being on pole would be difficult to beat, I tried to go round the outside at the first corner but he drove a perfect corner and had that line covered. I lost a bit of time on the first lap because of the dust, it was otherwise a good race, just not good enough.
“It’s really disappointing for Kristian, we had some issues with his car, without that I’m sure he’d have been challenging for the win in the final. The man’s got speed and amazing car control and he demonstrated that today in practice and the other heats. I hope we see him back in the British championship.
“It’s not been Marc’s day today either. He was obviously quick as he always is, made too many mistakes, and just couldn’t string together consistent heats and final. But we’ll all come back fighting for the next round at Lydden Hill.”
Kristian Sohlberg :
“I’ve really enjoyed the day, obviously the championship is full of good drivers, and it’s been a really good learning day, and that’s what I need to do, to drive different tracks. I know the speed was there today, I was fast in all the practices but the mechanical problems we had, including the fire, didn’t help! Just before the final I decided not to start as the car didn’t sound right, so it was my call not to risk any damage to the engine or the car.
“I’m disappointed of course as I wanted to put on a good show for the spectators. I’ve really enjoyed working with Albatec, it feels like home, I have good engineers and mechanics and they’ve been spot on, it’s really important to build a team around you. I’ve been really happy with the car, OK we had some technical issues but that’s motorsport. I’m very happy to be part of the Albatec team and I hope we can build on this for Turkey and have some really good results together.”
Marc Scott :
“From start to finish it’s been a pretty terrible day to be honest. The first heat was a mixture of spins, small mistakes, which cost me valuable time and positions and it was the same throughout the day. The morale of the day is there isn’t any room for error, if you make a mistake you’re going to get penalised and you’re going to lose places.
“I think it’s been a mixture of things, the track conditions, playing catch-up in the heats, and a bit of red mist. I was just trying too hard to get back to the position I want to be in. The speed was there, the lap times have been there all day I just haven’t managed to string them together four in a row to get a good race time. But I feel more determined than ever to turn it all around at Lydden Hill.”
MSA Supercars: RX Racing Ltd
Team RX Racing driver Ollie O’Donovan just missed out on a podium finish at the sixth round of the MSA British Rallycross Championship in association with the Shannon Group at Pembrey in Wales.
In the latest event with the team’s Tony Bardy Motorsport built and prepared Ford Fiesta, 2007 British Rallycross Champion O’Donovan qualified for the front row of the all important A final and ran in third on the first lap, only to pick up a left rear puncture on the second lap after hitting a hole, effectively ending his challenge.
O’Donovan got his head down and drove hard despite the puncture. On the sixth and final lap, the Yokohama-backed driver chased the Ford Focus of Andy Grant for fourth place, which became third when O’Donovan’s Team RX Racing team-mate Steve Hill was robbed of a richly deserved podium with transmission problems. O’Donovan was promoted to fourth as a result, under two seconds shy of a podium finish.
“It wasn’t a great weekend for us. We had two punctures during the day and we’ve had a problem with the engine, so Tony [Bardy] will sort that before the next event. We were probably down 100 horsepower. We tried very hard to hold on to third place in the final but trying to do five laps round Pembrey with a puncture is hairy stuff, but I still managed to make 98 mph down the straight on three tyres. I’m disappointed for Steve [Hill], he deserves some luck. I think we’re going to have to lock Julian [Godfrey] away to stop him wining all the time,” said the London-based Irishman, who remains third overall in the British series.
The team continued to develop the new for 2015 Fiesta at Pembrey and are looking to make progress at the next event in Norway. “We’ve taken more steps forward with learning about the Fiesta at Pembrey so onwards and upwards. The next event is in the European Championship at Hell. I’ve never been there before but I’m looking forward to it and our new engine should freshen things up for us in the next events.”
2015 MSA British Rallycross Drivers Championship, Supercar Class:
1. Julian Godfrey 202
2. Andy Scott 189
3. Ollie O’Donovan 169
4. Andy Grant 168
5. Kevin Procter 160
6. Steve Hill 124
7. Steve Mundy 96
8. Mad Mark 87
9. Steve Harris 76
10. Pat Doran 52
MSA SuperNationals: Dan Rooke Racing
SuperNational rallycross racer Dan Rooke finished fifth at the sixth round of the MSA British Rallycross Championship at Pembrey, South Wales [July 19], to maintain a 14 point lead at the top of the championship standings with two rounds to go.
The Devon driver ran at the front of the competitive category throughout the day in Wales, driving his 1600cc Citroen AX. He set a pair of second fastest times in heats one and three and was fastest overall in heat two, securing the two additional championship bonus points for setting the quickest race time of the weekend.
Starting from the front row of the A final grid in second position, Rooke made the best launch away from the start line and ran second in the opening laps, pressuring leader Gareth Wood (Ford KA) for the lead. Unfortunately for the Dan Rook Racing team, the car suffered a transmission problem on the second lap, leaving the 18-year old to nurse the car to end of the race and collect points for a fifth place finish. “The heats went very well, the traffic wasn’t too much of an issue and we had fairly clear runs. In the first heat we suffered from under steer, but the team made a few alterations to the suspension, which soon fixed that. I felt a lot calmer at this event compared to the last round at Mondello Park and it paid off by being in the top two all day, until our problem in the final,”explained Rooke. “We had a gearbox issue on the second lap which caused us to only have first and second gear. Still, I managed to nurse the car home. We won’t know what the problem is until the gearbox is stripped, but we will work hard to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Despite the disappointing result, Rooke remains upbeat about his championship chances; with his fighting fifth place finish he continues to head the title race.“We have come away from Pembrey feeling quite positive, we now know that the pace is there to win with recent developments we’ve made to the car, we just need to string it all together for a strong result. We haven’t lost out too much in the championship because some of our rivals also had problems. Getting the bonus points for setting the fastest heat time of course helps too – every point counts! The car ran well all day, I wasn’t losing too much time out of the tight corners which was a problem we had at the last Pembrey event, so we’re very pleased about that and think we can be strong at the next round at Lydden Hill,” concluded the former autocross champion.
The next round of the MSA British Rallycross Championship takes place at Lydden Hill, Kent [August 31] – the home of rallycross – where Rooke scored his maiden rallycross victory in April.
MSA SuperNationals: Lucas Oil Team Geriatric
Wigan racer Tony Lynch has vowed to bounce back from a weekend to forget at Pembrey after mechanical woes hampered his challenge in the sixth round of the MSA British Rallycross Championship in association with the Shannon Group.
Westhoughton-based Tony made the trip to South Wales seeking to replicate the kind of form that had seen him secure a stunning victory at the wheel of his Lucas Oil Team Geriatric MINI Cooper S during the previous double-header at Mondello Park.
That win had been Tony’s first of the season in the Super National class, but came before a gearbox failure that then hit his hopes in the second event of the weekend in Ireland.
A race to get the racing ’box repaired for Pembrey ended with the team refitting the unit just in time for the MINI to be loaded onto the trailer for the journey south – although it meant that the team was unable to check everything was well until practice.
It soon became apparent that an issue existed with third gear, with the team entering into discussions with its gearbox supplier to determine whether the problem could be managed at the circuit.
While the decision was taken to continue, Tony’s hopes of success came to a premature end when the issue proved to be terminal – forcing him to withdraw from the event before the qualifying heats were complete.
The team will now seek to resolve the gearbox issue in time for the seventh event of the season at Lydden Hill in late August.
“Anyone who knows me will know I’m not someone who gets lost for words often, but I really was speechless when it came to the weekend,” he said. “We’d worked hard to get the close ratio ’box repaired and back in the car but we didn’t have time to do any kind of shakedown test before we went into the weekend.
“In practice, we had a problem where the car was popping out of third gear and we spoke to our gearbox people to see if it was something we could manage in order to pick up the points. We gave it a go, but sadly the casing cracked and that was it – game over.
“It’s obviously hugely disappointing for me and the whole team as we’d worked hard to get the car repaired after a bruising second event in Ireland and it’s unfortunate that we’ve now had two below par results after our win in round five. However, these kind of problems are the things you have to deal with when you are developing a car and we’ll make sure there is no repeat when we go to Lydden Hill next month.”
2015 MSA British Rallycross Drivers Championship, SuperNational Class:
1 Dan Rooke 181
2 Gareth Wood 167
3 Allan Tapscott 161
4 Tony Lynch 148
5 Stuart Emery 140
6 Paige Bellerby 135
7 Mike Howlin 134
8 Todd Crooks 114
9 Gary Simpson 92
10 Slawomir Woloch 88
Former Formula Ford Festival winner Chrissy Palmer won the sixth round of the RX150 buggy championship, a support category to the MSA British Rallycross Championship in association with the Shannon Group at Pembrey, as GP3 star Jann Mardenborough joined the series for his local event.
Palmer started on pole position for the final, thanks to fastest heat times in the first and second qualifying heats, while debutant Mardenborough was fastest in the third heat and started from second position. RX150 regular Stephen Jones completed the front row.
Mardenborough made the best start and initially led on lap one before being passed by Palmer into the hairpin on the loose section for the first time. Double-champion Marc Scott hadn’t had a clean run in the heats, never quicker than third, he made it up to third on lap one of the final as Jones ran fourth with RX150 newcomer Tony Bardy in fifth, ahead of Richard Moore.
On the second lap, the top three began to increase the gap over the rest of the field, but Scott’s weekend of misfortune would continue on lap three when he spun on the loose section. Mardenborough pushed Palmer hard, and made a move around the outside for the lead on the fourth lap but spun the Jelf-Insurance backed buggy in the process. As Mardenborough recovered, Albatec Racing driver Scott pressured Jones for second position, only to spin again, allowing Mardenborough back into a podium position on his debut. At the front of the race, Palmer was untroubled in the final laps and cruised to his third win of the season, and the championship lead.
“The racing was great as usual, I’m just gutted that Marc wasn’t there to battle with, which would have made it even more exciting. I’m really happy with the result, I couldn’t have asked for any more,” said Palmer.
RX150 championship coordinator Ollie O’Donovan was impressed with the performance of both Palmer and Mardenborough at Pembrey. “Jann gave Chrissy a very good push all the way in the final and it was really a pity that Jann did spin, it would have been very close between them, they both drove very well. I predicted that Jann would be on the podium, ok he made it because of Marc’s misfortune, but to finish first, first you have to finish. Again, the buggies have proved to be very competitive and it was nice to give Tony Bardy the chance a run in one, he does a lot for me with running my Supercar so it was nice to give him a run out,” said O’Donovan.
RX150 Championship Standings
1. Chrissy Palmer 203
2. Marc Scott 194
3. Stephen Jones 164
4. Mitchell Flaherty 101
5. Richard Moore 73
6. Larry Sargent 71
7. Dave Bellerby 65
8. Brett Harris 54
9. Kevin Feeney 52
10. George Tracey Jnr 50
Round Seven of the 2015 MSA British Rallycross Championship comes from Lydden Hill in Kent on 31st August, where I will be visiting my first ever Rallycross event and it will be a family affair as my two stepsons and my partner will be joining me!!!
Looking forward to that!
All the best!!