returned to the Britpart MSA British Cross Country Championship in
style as he took a win in the opening round at Pikes Peak.
Blue skies and sun
greeted the crews as they got their cars ready on Saturday morning
but by the time run one started snow was falling around the course.
It was Birchall who set the fastest BCCC time on the opening run in
his Lofthouse Freelander, three seconds ahead of the Milner LRM-1 of
Ryan Cooke. In third was Ben Duckworth who was using a Milner R5 as
his usual LRM-1 was not ready.
to set the pace throughout day one and he held a lead of over two
Other BCCC crews
didn’t fare so well on day one. Steve Smith, who had flown in from
Dubai the day before the event, didn’t even make the start on run
one after problems with his Clio. Richard Coleby rolled his Polaris
out of the event mid-way through the day after setting some quick
times. Martin Gould, whose Buxton 4x4 Rivet was not ready in time,
broke a shaft on his Polaris.
Cooke’s hopes of
challenging for the win on day two were dashed when he was forced to
stop his car on the third run. With a good lead Birchall backed off
slightly but in doing so he broke a propshaft on the penultimate run.
The shaft was replaced and Birchall completed the final run of the
event to win by over three minutes from Duckworth.
“I’m very happy
with the result,” said Birchall. “It was a fantastic course and
the very changeable weather made it extremely challenging. I think we
broke the propshaft by going slower in one of the rutted offroad
sections so we went back up to normal pace on the last run.”
In third place was
Colin Gould on his first event in his Clio V8. Gould commented “I’m
extremely pleased with third, I’m still learning the car and we’ll
get quicker – the car has the pace, the driver needs to improve a
bit! It looks like it will be a good championship, there are some
very talented drivers and quick cars out this season.”
Chevy-powered Lofthouse Freelander was fourth with Andy Powell, who
had a new engine in his Simmbugghini, was fifth despite suffering
brake problems on day one.
In the BCC Trophy
Phill Bayliss enjoyed a successful first event as he took the win in
his Land Rover 90 ahead of the Tomcat 100 of Ben Clay. Steve Anning
Challenge champion Ian Linford had suspected head gasket problems on
the recce lap so decided not to start. Brian Chase was leading the
Freelanders after day one but electrical problems dropped him to
third behind Graham White and Pat Masters.
Chris Bird led the
Clubman category after day one and he was setting times which
would’ve seen him leading the event overall. He didn’t contest
the second day so it was Toby Jefferson who was the first Clubman
home. In second was Phil Ibbotson who was using his Metro 6R4 for the
first time since 2013. Jonny Koonja was third, driving on his first
event for around ten years after spending recent years in the
Myherin forest in Mid-Wales will echo to the sound of racing engines next weekend when the 2016 Britpart MSA British Cross Country Championship season gets underway, together with the accompanying BCC Trophy and Freelander Challenge championships.
After winning their second BCCC title last year Warrington duo Mike Moran and Tony Coid will once again run at car 1 this season. They’ll be in a new Lofthouse Evo which should be debuting at round two of the championship.
Andy Powell will be at car 2 in his Simmbugghini and he will have a new navigator with Efka Kazla joining him. Ryan Cooke will be next off the start line in his Milner LRM-1, looking to build on the third place he achieved in 2015.
At car 4 will be Mark Jacques, with Steve Smith rounding off the top five in his JRG Indy Clio V8. Smith will resume the class battle he had last year with Richard Green (Car 7 - Tomcat 100) and Paul Harris (Car 10 - GSR Maxilight).
Neil Davey runs at car 6 and, having sold his GSR 206, he'll be debuting a Yamaha YXZ1000R UTV. Joining the UTV battle will be ex-BTCC driver John Thorne (car 11) in a similar machine to Davey's and Richard Coleby (car 18) who will race a Polaris RZR XP Turbo.
Britpart's Paul Myers returns in his Land Rover Tornado at car 8, one ahead of Ben Duckworth who will use the Milner LRM-1 he took to three victories last year.
Alan Thomas will contest his second BCCC season in his Warrior Indy and he'll be hoping for better luck after having to miss two events last year waiting for engine parts. At car 14 will be Martin Gould in his Buxton 4x4 Rivet, a car that was previously used in the French Tout Terrain championship by Manu Castan.
Contesting his first full championship season since 2012 will be Justin Birchall who will run at car 15. Birchall debuted his Lofthouse Freelander at round four last year and was immediately on the pace.
“We did two BCCC rounds last year and they went really well,” said Birchall. “I expect there will be a great battle for the championship this year as there are several drivers who could potentially take the title, it’s the best quality entry list for many seasons. What makes it especially interesting is that quite a few drivers will be in new cars, it’s very hard to predict who will win.”
Another Lofthouse Freelander will be next off the start line with Richard Wynne-Williams returning to the championship and he'll be followed by former-BCCC champion Colin Gould who has bought brother Martin's Clio V8 and also has a Polaris available to use.
In the BCC Trophy Nick Pritchard and Steve Anning, who finished first and second in 2015, will both return to the championship as will Jon Damrel in his Insanity Racing Tornado. They’ll be joined by two drivers making their Trophy debuts, Phill Bayliss in a Land Rover 90 and Ben Clay in a Tomcat 100.
At the time of writing the Freelander Challenge had received 10 registrations, a record for the opening round. Running at one and two in the Challenge will be the Team Sheepie cars of Ian Linford and Louisa Felice. Linford has been busy upgrading his car over the winter, including fitting a V6 engine. He’ll also have a new navigator with Wil Hoole joining the team. Felice will once again be partnered by Jess Reynolds as she embarks on her second season of competition.
Pat Masters will be third Freelander away ahead of Alastair Moore-Myers and Paul Cumpstone. They'll be followed by Richard Roberts before four new crews - Alex Howard, Michael Wilson, Brian Chase and Graham White.
Six drivers have entered the event as non-championship "Clubman" entries. Martin Cox and Toby Jefferson will both bring their GSR 206s. The Metro 6R4 Evo of Phil Ibbotson will be seen at a BCCC event for the first time since 2013 while Sian Rogers will compete in her Mitsubishi Pajero after contesting the Trophy championship last year. James King will compete in his 3M 206 and an entry has also been received from Warren Roper.
John Pickering will bring his Discovery for the "Sunday Cup" competition.
The event starts at 10am on Saturday and there will be action up to around 5pm. Day 2 starts at 9am with the final run expected at around 2pm. Spectator information is available at www.marches4x4.com/spectator.html. Pictures from the event will be available on Sunday evening at www.facebook.com/msabccc.