Retro Rallycross stars with Rallycross Legends in front of 75,000 strong crowd in France
Retro Rallycross played an integral role in celebrating the rich history of the sport with an evocative on-track display alongside the ninth round of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Loheac in France last weekend.
Joining the French Rallycross Legends series, three Retro Rallycross competitors were on hand to join an eclectic range on European machinery, which included 1993 FIA European Rallycross Champion Jean-Luc Pailler and his recently restored Citroen BX.
Former European Championship front-runner and Retro Rallycross winner Rob Gibson travelled to the Loheac circuit with his familiar yellow MG Metro 6R4. Stewart Bowes also took part in the on-track activities that were held in between the races for the huge 110-car entry in the French round of World RX.
The weekend began with a parade through the Loheac village centre, allowing the adoring French public, renowned for their passion for the sport of rallycross and its history, to get up close and personal with the drivers and cars. Alongside Gibson and Bowes, Dave Halford also took part is his fabulous replica of Herbert Breiteneder’s Audi Quattro Group B machine.
On track, the drivers faced both very dry and torrentially wet conditions on the unique French circuit, the numerous displays receiving a fantastic reception from the crowd, which included fans from across the world.
“It was absolutely amazing and brilliant to be part of, especially with all the history in the museum at the circuit, in the paddock and on the track. I’d not driven on the Loheac circuit before even when I was doing the European Championship, so that was special too. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many Group B cars out on track – I love Peugeot 205 T16s and I enjoyed following them around and trying to catch them, along with the other 6R4s too. It was great,” said Rob Gibson. “Being next to Jean-Luc on the grid again was brilliant. I raced him in the past and he is a very good driver – one of the best. To get all these cars together at an event like this was just magic and I can’t wait for the next time.”
Bowes also thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “The French crowd seemed to take the little Mini to their hearts, they absolutely loved it. It was brilliant being at Loheac with all these absolutely fantastic cars. The racing was good, everybody was at their own pace, I was trying a few different lines and having lots of fun,” said the Retro Rallycross Mini Clubman driver. “There were thousands and people, loads of smiles and applause, whether you were first or last. They made us feel very welcome and it was absolutely brilliant. It was a totally one-off unique occasion and I absolutely leapt at the opportunity to come. It was very special, and with Sebastien Loeb doing well [in World RX], it was the icing on the cake for the spectators.”
The event, which continued Retro Rallycross’ year-long celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the first ever event (in 1967) took place just a handful of days after a highly successful fourth round of the Retro Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill, the birthplace of the sport. “To come from a great event at Lydden straight to Loheac was very special for us, two of the world’s best rallycross circuits, and it was great that we could join the Rallycross Legends series again,” said Retro Rallycross Promotor, Shirley Gibson. “We had a fabulous weekend, the atmosphere at Loheac has blown my mind when I have visited as a spectator, but to be there with the cars was something else. We have a great relationship with the Rallycross Legends organisers and have some exciting plans to continue working together for the future too.”
The Retro Rallycross Championship will be back in action in just over a fortnight’s time, with rounds five and six taking place at Pembrey, joining the MSA British Rallycross Championship in South Wales (September 23 – 24).