Retro Rallycross Champion Morgan begins title defence in style at Croft
The first ever Retro Rallycross Champion, Ray Morgan, began the defence of his title in style by winning the first round of the 2017 season at Croft Circuit (March 19) in his Ford Escort.
Morgan became the inaugural Retro Rallycross champion last year and qualified on pole position for the final at Croft by virtue of setting the fastest time in each of the three qualifying races. A consistent day with three third-fastest times for Vauxhall Nova driver Darren Grimston netted the Croft local second on the grid, while Paul Easterbrook also qualified on the front row in his Toyota MR2.
The first round of the 2017 Retro Rallycross Championship – which featured a variety of fantastic machinery covering a range of the sport’s colourful history – was all about ‘the tortoise and the hare’, as the two-wheel drive competitors took on the might of Mark Flaherty’s former British Rallycross Championship winning Group B MG Metro 6R4.
Racing with a time-handicap in the qualifying races, contact with another car in Q2 meant Flaherty had to sit out Q3 while the Dom Buckley Motorsport team repaired a front brake caliper and upright on the iconic car. Starting from the second row of the grid in the final, Flaherty took the lead before the first corner, knowing he had to pull out a five second gap over the second placed finisher to secure victory (five seconds were added to Flaherty’s time to compensate for his four-wheel drive advantage.) But try as he might, over the four-lap encounter the 6R4 driver could only extend his margin to just over three seconds, victory being handed to Morgan, with Flaherty second.
“I really enjoyed hanging on the shirt tails of Mark’s 6R4 in the final,” said Morgan. “I knew that if I could stay within five seconds of him I’d get the win. Obviously he was gone off the line and on the loose, but my car handles really well and I could get around the corners reasonably easily. Another lap or two and I’m afraid he would have got it, but I’m really pleased to have got the win. The final was really fun having someone to chase like that. Barry Stewart (Retro Porsche 911 racer) sent me a message after the final to congratulate me and said he hopes to be out for the next round, so I’m really looking forward to Lydden.”
Easterbrook ran third on the opening lap of the final, pressured by Stewart Bowes, as Grimston tried a move on the Triumph TR8 of Terry Maynard at the end of the first lap for fifth. Both drivers spun at the chicane onto the loose section on lap two and dropped down the order while Bowes passed Easterbrook for third, where the pair remained to the finish. Grimston passed Paul Smith to claim fifth, but Maynard retired on the final lap. Green and White Mini Spares racer Lance Foster qualified on the second row of the grid for the final despite not finishing Q3, but the transmission problems that caused the retirement put the Washington-based driver out of the event completely.
“It’s always nice for us to get to the first event of the year,” said Retro Rallycross Championship Manager, Shirley Gibson. “There was some great action through the day, and the final was really exciting. It was really good to see the Retro team of drivers arrive at Croft in good spirits and leave in the same way, despite a few teething problems for some and sadly a transmission problem for Lance (Foster). We’re looking forward to having more cars join us at the following rounds, hopefully some in time for the next event at Lydden Hill on Easter Monday.”
( All photos© Trev Coulson/Retro Rallycross – Full gallery here)
2017 Retro Rallycross Championship: Round One, Final Result:
1 Ray Morgan Ford Escort
2 Mark Flaherty MG Metro 6R4
3 Stewart Bowes Mini Clubman
4 Paul Easterbrook Toyota MR2
5 Darren Grimston Vauxhall Nova
6 Paul Smith Volkswagen Polo
7 Terry Maynard Triumph TR8
8 Lance Foster Mini Clubman
Round two of the Retro Rallycross Championship takes place at the ‘home of rallycross’, Lydden Hill on April 17.