Rallycross 50th Anniversary Celebrations at Autosport International Show 2017
Celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the first ever rallycross event began in earnest last weekend at the Autosport International Show in Birmingham, where Retro Rallycross was an integral part of an emotive performance from rallycross drivers and machinery in the Live Action Arena.
Joining cars and drivers from the present day were a range star names and legendary cars on show for the enthusiastic crowd in the action-filled arena. 2016 Retro Rallycross Champion Ray Morgan drove his championship-winning Ford Escort BDA with his usual exciting style, accompanied by giant-killing Mini Clubman driver Lance Foster in his familiar Green and White Mini Spares machine and the similar car of the Retro series’ youngest driver, Jordan Bowes, driving his father Stewart’s Mini.
“It was quite an honour to be invited. Okay I’ve won the championship a couple of times but this was the NEC with so many brilliant cars and people to celebrate rallycross,” said Morgan. “The way all the old cars started off first to show what it was like, and then the modern cars showing what it is like now was fantastic. That’s what’s made it special and everybody I spoke to who watched it from the audience said it was really, really special.”
A replica of John Taylor’s Ford Escort MkI that carried him to the first ever European Rallycross Championship title in 1973 was driven by owner Simon Hart, while Taylor was one of the stars who joined the cars in the arena for interviews, along with the most successful rallycross driver ever, Kenneth Hansen. “I really enjoyed the Autosport Show. I’ve not been for 10 years, I’ve really been out of motorsport. I’ve been to Lydden Hill a couple of times which was enjoyable, but to actually see the rallycross cars from 50 years ago and through of the generations right up to the monsters of today was absolutely sensational,” said former European Champion, Taylor. “It made me really quite proud.”
Preparation expert and former Mini and Vauxhall Astra driver Tony Bardy drove a Ford Escort Mk2, while the Group B era was celebrated with a pair of MG Metro 6R4s; Rob Gibson driving his European Rallycross machine and Adam Keeler piloting the car that Will Gollop ran for Tiff Needell in the 1989 MSA British Rallycross Grand Prix. Four-time British Rallycross Champion Pat Doran drove his Group B Ford RS200 with which he won the French round of the European Championship in 1992 and Dave Halford also took part in his Audi Quattro.
Sadly, six-time European Rallycross Champion Martin Schanche was unable to drive his Zakspeed Ford Escort (which remained in the paddock for spectators to enjoy) after breaking his leg, while Vic Elford, the winner of the first ever rallycross event at Lydden Hill on February 4 1967 was also unable to make the intended trip to the event from Florida due to ill health.
The Porsche 911 that Elford drove to that first victory was in attendance, and it was current owner Rob Russell who enthusiastically led pack of cars out for each of the 13 performances. “I am so, so proud of the sport. The whole weekend was absolutely fantastic,” said Retro Rallycross co-ordinator, Shirley Gibson. “I don’t think we could have done it much better at all. The weekend in the rallycross paddock was one big family atmosphere, and the performance all of the guys produced in the arena, be that driving or being interviewed was brilliant. This starts our year really well, I’m really excited about the Retro Rallycross Championship in 2017 and continuing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the sport.”
The 2017 Retro Rallycross Championship gets underway on March 19 at Croft Circuit.