Saturday, April 20, 2024

SEASON PREVIEW: 2024 British Rallycross Championship

The 2024 5 Nations British Rallycross Championship starts this weekend at the birthplace of the sport, Lydden Hill. 14 Supercars are entered for the double header event that will kick off a condensed calendar. 

Series organisers have listened to feedback that 2 overseas trips per year was too burdensome. To combat this the championship will host 6 weekends of competition with each class racing 5 times. For the Supercar class this means 3 meetings at Lydden Hill with an event at Mondello Park and Pembrey each. In a further bid to draw in larger entries at every round, dropped scores will be removed. This will prevent drivers from being able to freely skip an event without consequence. 

After Cooper Tires ceased production at their UK plant they were unable to continue supplying the paddock. MRF have been brought in as part of a multi-year deal. With limited testing for the majority of entries it remains to be seen who can get to grips with the new rubber. 

Supercar Calendar

Round Date Circuit
1 & 2 30 March/1 April Lydden Hill
3 & 4 25/26 May Mondello Park
5 & 6 20/21 July Lydden Hill
7 & 8 5/6 October Pembrey
9 & 10 2/3 November Lydden Hill

Drivers 

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Patrick O’Donovan – Ford Fiesta

The reigning double British Rallycross champion will return to his 2022 title winning Fiesta for the opening 2 weekends of the season. The teenager took a clean sweep of event wins that he contested last year in the team’s European event winning Peugeot 208.

“I have a lot of good memories from racing the Fiesta two years ago. It is far from the most modern car on the grid. It’s going to be competitive. I always aim to win though, so we will embrace the challenge. The car is different to drive compared to the 208, which is currently being rebuilt at SCM.” told 5 Nations BRX.

Since lifting the crown last year he took a podium on his World Rallycross debut before racing in the Nitrocross finale. The whole team remains uncommitted as to which series they will race in this year. 

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Ollie O’Donovan – Proton Iriz

The 2007 champion and father of Patrick has set his sights on another title. The Proton he will race has experienced teething troubles throughout its 2 year lifespan. However, after being re-shelled last summer and with some testing the car has begun to show its true potential. It helped secure the Irishman second place in the standings last year after picking up 3 class podiums in the final 3 rounds. 

“We’re getting on top of the Proton now. Racing alongside Patrick is always special. I don’t know how much longer it will just be me and him together, so I will enjoy these times. We are 100% confirmed for the first two weekends, after that is a little more uncertain. I certainly want to take the fight for the title.”

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Tristan Ovenden – Citroen DS3

The Kent local will embark on his 5th season with the team’s DS3. He suffered several setbacks last year but fought on to be tied on points for 3rd place. Ovenden has won at Mondello each of the last 2 years and hopes to carry that performance to Lydden Hill and Pembrey.

“Similar to last year there are a few small developments mainly around car handling. It’s still a fairly tricky thing to drive just because of its [transmission] layout. Against [Irish drivers] we’ve been there and beaten them a couple of times, we haven’t been fair off the Proton. We’ll see what other new cars there are. You’ve always got a chance”

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Julian Godfrey – Citroen DS3

Last year Godfrey took ownership of the LD Motorsport DS3. Reliability proved to be an issue but flashes of speed came through, the highlight being a win in Ireland. Now with more time poured into the car the engine builder and tuner is looking to be consistently challenging for wins.

“The plan is to do all the rounds. You have to be a bit more aggressive with the DS3 [compared to the Fiesta]. It took a little while to learn that style. Hopefully have less time repairing the car and concentrate on driving it.”

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Steve Harris – Mini Countryman

Last year it was Harris’ son Jake who campaigned the electric Countryman at the majority of rounds. With the younger Harris taking a step back to focus on his family this year it leaves Steve Harris to drive the car once again. 

“I’m trying to do the whole season. I’ve only done the first round [of 2023] and we’ve changed quite a lot of suspension and diff set-up. That’s what I’m trying to do [score podiums] but I’m older, my reactions are slower [than Jake] so I’m just going out for the fun factor.”

Photo credit: MAS Motorsport

Michael Sellar – Volkswagen Polo

Since 2020 the Kent driver has raced an ex-Hvaal Citroen DS3. Now for 2024 he has purchased an ex-Kristofferson Volkswagen Polo from Ales Fucik. For Sellar he will surely be aiming for an elusive first podium having finished 4th twice since his return to the 5 Nations paddock. A full season campaign is expected.

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Steve Hill – Mitsubishi Evo10

Hill enters the car he has driven for over a decade now. Last season he competed at the trio of Lydden Hill events. Over the past 2 years he has also returned to rallying. With more recent time behind the wheel you can expect to see the experienced racer pick up the pieces should any issues befall his competitors. 

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Dom Flitney – Volvo C30

After purchasing the car in 2021 Flitney has continued to gain experience with the unique car. However, in that time the car’s potential has been held back due to an older drivetrain being installed. Now the car will be at full power while the driver is better prepared for each event. 

Flitney said to 5 Nations BRX “Since I got the Volvo not everything has really been in place for things to go how I would like. This year it is different. I’m getting outside help with preparing the car, which will make a big difference. For myself I’ve made changes too, part of that is racing a Cross Car. Just to get me seat time, to be sharper than I was coming to events.”

Flitney will miss this weekend but is expected to attend the remaining events.

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Oliver Bennett – BMW Mini

A double British event winner in 2022, Bennett will look to repeat that success at the opening weekend of the year. Xite Energy’s Mini which was previously raced in World Rallycross and Nitrocross has seen sporadic entries domestically since. Now the car has had a full engine rebuild he should be one to watch across the Easter weekend. 

Photo credit: Colin Anson

Colin Anson – Mitsubishi Mirage

Anson has taken big steps in a bid to challenge the front runners in the Supercar class. He drove a Ford KA and Opel Astra last year but both have been sold and replaced. The car was originally developed by Spencer Sport in 2017.

It’s a very special car, all the right stuff, gearbox, suspension, and engine. Godfrey had a massive roll in the car in 2018. They re-shelled it and it’s only done 1 or 2 meetings since. It hasn’t been run since 2019. Touch wood it’s going to be fairly ready to go. I’ll build up myself in the car, straight away I’ll know how far I can push it.” 

He has committed to all 4 rounds on the UK mainland with hopes of racing in Ireland, though only if there is minimal work to do after the opening weekend. 

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Michael Leonard – Ford Fiesta

The Irish driver stepped up to Supercar for the first time last year competing in the Irish championship. He took multiple wins en-route to second in the series while also competing at Lydden and Pembrey once each.

“It was my first year in a Supercar last season so it was lots to get my head around and we got so close to winning the Irish Championship, so that was great. I’m looking forward to going back at Easter where hopefully we can have a clean weekend and be there in the mix. My plan is to race in the full 5 Nations BRX and Irish Championships, and some European events too,” he said to 5 Nations BRX

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

John McCluskey – Ford Fiesta

McCluskey is another driver set to compete on both sides of the Irish sea. However, this marks a return to the series in which he has 5 victories, the last of which came in 2005. He will compete in an ex-OMSE Ford Fiesta that gave him his return to rallycross last year. He has already taken event wins in the car and the affable driver is well placed to challenge for wins in the UK. 

“I feel a lot more confident in the car now, probably driving the car to 90% of its ability. Really excited about our return to Lydden, where I got my 1st UK outright win. We won’t rest until we are competing for the outright win. Our first ambition is to win the Irish or British title.”

Photo credit: Wrap Co

Gary Donoghue – Ford Fiesta

Completing the trio of Irish Fiesta drivers is Donoghue. The New York based competitor entered rallycross last year and now he’s looking to compete in the opening 3 events of the season.  Unfortunately he will miss round 2 on Monday due to a family event. 

“I’m going to compete in Mondello and Lydden for the July round. Then I’m actually going to go over and do 2 Nordic rounds in Denmark and Germany. I’m just looking to have fun. If I’m going pretty good in 5 Nations I might try and do the August round [at Pembrey] on the way back. I’ve been to Lydden twice, about twenty years but never driven.”

Photo credit: KMS

Ian Barrett – Volkswagen Polo 

Irish circuit and rally driver Barrett will debut in Rallycross this weekend. He has bought another KMS Polo that was raced by Johan Kristoffereson in last year’s RallyX series en-route to the title. The 6-time World champion affectionately named the car “Killer Pig” as it proved a worthy vehicle. He has been tipped by fellow Irish drivers to be at the front come the end of this event. He will be assisted by some KMS team members this weekend.

Speaking to 5 Nations BRX, “We got the car from Sweden last week, it’s been fully rebuilt and I’m excited for Lydden Hill. We have no time for testing at all, will do the best we can and most importantly, enjoy it! We’ll do the first weekend at Lydden, then go to Mondello and go back to Lydden in July, and see how we are getting on.” 

He is looking to compete in Europe as well.

Photo credit: Callum House Photography

Nick Priddy – Citroen DS3

The RX150 race winner will step up to the Supercar category after purchasing Sellar’s Citroen DS3. MAS Motorsport will continue to run the car for Priddy alongside Sellar’s new Polo. However, due to the car needing new parts Priddy won’t compete until Lydden Hill in July. 

“We have got a good car, it needs some basic tidying and we are working on some updates to the engine. I’ve had a great time racing the RX150 but I’m sure Supercar will be a whole new experience. I wish I’d done this years ago.” he told 5 Nations BRX.

Additional Entrants

Currently double digit entries are expected at every round this year. Other drivers may compete later in the year though it remains to be seen who and when these drivers enter. The performance level has been stepped up and with Patrick O’Donovan returning to the team’s older Fiesta it leaves victory realistically open to over half the grid. 

Action kicks off with Practice on Saturday morning before a full day’s racing with the same again on Monday 1st April. 

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