1990 RAC British Rallycross Championship

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Steve Palmer's 1990 MG Metro 6R4The 1990 RAC British Rallycross Championship was like a soap opera. There were five different winners in 11 rounds,  an acrimonious split between Steve Palmer and his sponsor Practica Computers, drama supplied by John Welch's blazing Vauxhall Astra at Cadwell Park and the departure of defending champion Michael Shield. Shield's retirement started the year. He turned up at Brands Hatch, the opening round of the championship in  February, with his car painted plain red, the GB1 holder was carrying no sponsorship. Crunch time came and sadly without any backing he had to pack up his rallycross bags and move on, although not before he proved his point. At Brands no one came close to Shield, he got fastest time of the day, 'A' final and Superfinal honours were all his  and won with ease. A few months later the series came back to Brands for the second round. Steve Palmer moved into  the lead after Barry Squibb suffered a puncture. Palmer was running a 3.8 litre engine, a fact he chose to keep  quiet until after the event. Palmer started what was to become a very successful championship campaign, even though  the year was punctuated by some fairly controversial incidents. Rounds three and four took place in Ireland, a double header weekend which saw the championship runners pushed to  the limit at Nutts Corner and Mondello Park on consecutive days. These two events marked the debut of Will Gollop's BiTurbo Metro 6R4 - and what a start to the year for the man from  Kent. He won both events handsomely giving him and his G-Tech team a real boost. Palmer arrived in Ireland with his  3.8 litre fitted into a new bodyshell. Second place at Nutts Corner was a decent start, although an engine bay fire  and subsequent electrical failure at Mondello Park soured the weekend. Mark FlahertyEaster weekend again saw two events. At Croft on Good Friday Gollop continued his winning ways while at Lydden on Monday Palmer claimed a wet weather victory to head the points table. As short break followed before the series  moved back to Croft at the end of May for the seventh round. John Welch this time collected the honours, whilst Palmer suffered overheating problems. It was after Croft that Palmer decided to dump Practica Computers. "The deal" he said "was not worth having".  Accusation and counter accusation were fired back and forth during the next couple of weeks but despite numerous  threats, Palmer arrived at the eighth round with his car painted green, blue and white, lifted straight from his Kawasaki motorcycle. The event was not so good for Steve Palmer, a faulty crankshaft sensor preventing a Superfinal start and presenting  John Welch with a chance to close in on the championship lead. Then, an untimely fire onboard Welch's Astra allowed  Mark Flaherty to grab his first overall victory, Ulsterman Denis Biggerstaff taking second place as the highpoint of  his year. Knockhill hosted the ninth round of the series. However, the return of the major rallycross leagues to Scotland  turned out to be a strange affair. Welch took his second victory of 1990, inheriting the lead from Biggerstaff at  the end of the first lap and hounded all the way by Palmer, but circuit owner Derek Butcher took offence from  innocuous comments made about his operation and pulled the plug on rallycross in Scotland! Steve Palmer sold the 3.8 litre engine to finance further development and was now relying on a 3-litre engine. He  had the last laugh at Knockhill though, as second place meant Welch could not take enough points out of Palmer's lead  to maintain a realistic chance of challenging for the title in the last two rounds. Going into the penultimate round, palmer needed just three points to seal the British title. A superb performance  saw the 6R4 driver, now backed by Dianetics and Sikkens, lift his first maximum score of the year, putting the title  beyond the reach of Welch. The final round again saw Gollop present and lifted the honours. We also saw Guy Williams strutting his stuff in the  RAC series and demonstrating he is more than equal to the task with his 3.8 litre Metro. Pat Doran, who had debuted  his RS2000E at Cadwell Park, reappeared at Lydden and achieved fastest time of the day while Brodie Branch sneaked  into the top five with his Metro. Away from the Supercars things were a little more conservative. Tony Bardy (Formula B) and Johnny Milner (Formula C)  attacked the year with factory-backed cars; Bardy in a 16v Vauxhall Astra and Milner in a radical 205 GTI. 1990 British Rallycross ChampionshipTwice at Brands, twice at Croft, once each at Lydden, Knockhill and Swindon, Bardy crossed the finish line first,  winning seven 'A' Finals and managing to set the fastest time of the day on each of those occasions. Indeed until  the final round, Bardy had proven fastest in Formula B, never being headed in the qualifying heats and bagging the  five 'fastest time of the day' points on every occasion. The 100% record was denied him at Lydden when Roger Newbould arrived in fine form for the final round and no amount  of effort from Bardy could prevent Newbould from taking the last fastest time of the day. Rivals Brian Betteridge  and Newbould managed just one and three wins respectively.

1990 RAC British Rallycross Championship Standings

Final positions after 11 rounds, with 7 scores counting.
  • 1, Steve Palmer (3.6 MG Metro 6R4) 158 points
  • 2, John Welch (2.1 Turbo Vauxhall Astra 4x4) 131 points
  • 3, Mark Flaherty (3.0 MG Metro 6R4) 120 points
  • 4, Will Gollop (2.3 Turbo MG Metro 6R4) 108 points
  • 5, Barry Squibb (1.9 Turbo Ford Escort 4x4) 105 points
  • 6, Denis Biggerstaff (3.0 MG Metro 6R4) 85 points
  • 7, Tony Bardy (2.0 Vauxhall Astra) 84 points
  • 8, Jonny Milner (1.6 Peugeot 205) 86 Points
  • 9, Trevor Hopkins (2.1 Turbo Ford Escort RS200E) 58 points
  • 10, Brian Betteridge (2.1 Ford Escort BDX) 56 points
If you have any images from this year then please email us at info@classiccarmag.net,. Steve Palmer Profile Steve PalmerPalmer's introduction to rallycross was at the 1987 Grand Prix at Brands Hatch, just six weeks prior his Lydden Hill  debut in which he finished 4th overall. By the end of that weekend Palmer had parted company with a bag full of cash  in exchange for the brand new Rothmans display Metro 6R4 via Barry Hathaway. That year came and went with some notable performances, culminating in a fine 7th and 'Man of the Meeting' award in  his opening Grand Prix. For 1989, 33-year old Palmer fully intended to win the British Championship but, despite his  determination, he had to give best to Michael Shield and wait another year. With the onset of the 90s came mixed fortunes. On the plus side Practica Computers agreed to sponsor him for a  second year. "I intended to race in the British as well as European events but unfortunately after getting off to a  start in Europe, I was unable to continue the British Championship." Of the rounds which he did compete in Europe, his most notable performance was in Austria where he finished 2nd  behind Herbie Breiteneder. Sweden didn't quite go so well, a clash with Schanche sending Palmer into the barriers  and leaving him 5th at the end of the final. Still 2nd in the Championship as they headed to Finland, he was intent on retaining the position but it didn't work  out and a collision with Tommi Kristoffersen resulted in a broken thumb and 7th overall, dropping him down to 4th in  the Championship. A trip to Mondello Park proved fruitless, after being sidelined after practice with a broken crossover shaft. Back  home things were going a lot better and he was soon established at the top of the British Championship pile. A  constant overheating problem with the 3.8 litre engine was causing headaches and the financial pressures were taking  their toll! By the time Croft came, round seven, Palmer was beginning to rethink his future; "I took 2nd to Welch an again the  engine overheated badly. It was then after a difference of opinion with Practica over team colours and the fact that  I was having to work hard and keep going along with a sick engine for the small amount of money, that I decided it  would be better if I only had a sponsor providing they paid the right sort of money or not at all. When I told Derek  Lightfoot of my dilemma, he didn't understand at all and the rest is history!" To ease the financial burden, Steve sold the 3.8 litre engine to Paul Kumpen, taking the Belgian's 3.0 litre engine  in part exchange. "I felt I had enough points in the British to just take 2nd's and 3rd's and by Swindon I'd wrapped  up the title". As well as winning the British title in 1990, Palmer also took victory in the lucrative Sherwood British Open  Championship. A win at Brands in the GP would have made a tidy hat-trick. "I set my sights on winning the Grand Prix. I had the 3.8 litre engine which was going well but problems on the Saturday with a broken quill shaft meant I  had no times and had to be seeded through to Sunday. "I was disappointed with only qualifying 6th for the GP but I'd got up to 4th before the accident. I was planning to  pass Rantanen when Will lost it and his rim parted company with the tyre. I saw what he did as he came through  Langley's Gap. He gave it a bootful, hoping to pass Schanche along the knife-edge but as soon as he got there the  back end flicked round sending him into a tank-slapper up the straight and he lost it. There were two gaps to go through and I chose the wrong one - so did Welch!"Tags:, ,