1991 British Rallycross Grand Prix Preview

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Will Gollop in 1991It's difficult to believe that it is ten years since Rolf Nilsson emerged through the mist and rain to win the first British Rallycross Grand Prix. Difficult too, to believe the pace of technological development within rallycross during those ten years, the two wheel driven Porsche that Nilsson used to win with a decade ago may well struggle to match the fastest of the drivers in the 1991 Brands Hatch British Rallycross Grand Prix. However, ten years on, with Autoglass taking over the sponsorship and the cars going faster than ever. New for the 10th anniversary running are a couple of features, including a non-championship race for Vauxhall Nova Challenge specification cars as the support act while on Saturday there was 'Indy' qualifying laps to determine who gets into the main event. The fastest six men out of these single timed flying laps will get a second bite of the apple, a run off competition being staged with the fastest driver pocketing £500 for what is likely to be around 50 seconds in the car. The first GP qualifying heats take place on Saturday afternoon as do the 'A' and 'B' Finals for the two wheel drive men. The meat of the event though is saved for Sunday when the remaining two sets of qualifying heats and the decisive Finals take place. Trevor HopkinsTwice already this year Will Gollop has climbed to the top step of the Brands Hatch podium and there is every indication that the Canterbury-based driver will be up there again on Sunday afternoon. Gollop has carried all before him in the British Championship and fought long and hard for the European crown, eventually finishing 2nd after a huge accident in the penultimate round. Since that crash in late September, Gollop's G-Tech outfit has been hard at work rebuilding the car and has taken the opportunity to include some modifications aimed at further enhancing the cars handling. So, with Gollop aiming to be even quicker than he already has been, remember that in August he ran a race time in 2m 17.5s, who is going to head the chase of the distinctive Silkolene/Piper backed BiTurbo Metro. Of those coming from overseas the most likely challengers are Thor Holm, Pekka Rantanen and Olle Arnesson. The latter is the dark horse of the bunch, having driven only a handful of events in the last couple of years. The Swede, winner at Brands Hatch in 1983, has become something of an enigma, sometimes highly competitive and sometimes way off the pace. If he has a good day at Brands, this mighty Quattro S1 will be one of the fastest cars in the place. Holm and Rantanen both drive RS200Es and both have run well in the ERC this year. Holm was the better of the two, attaining 3rd at this year's end even though he missed two events and failed to score in another. The portly, happy-go-lucky Norwegian was 3rd at Brands last year and often manages to pull a single outstanding performance from the bag when least expected. Barry SquibbAs with all the others Thor will need his share of luck and, with it, will be a serious victory threat. Rantanen's RS200 has had a hard year. Inverted in France, this is one of the oldest RS200s around and is beginning to show its age. Possibly the biggest factor affecting the performance of the RS200 over the Metro or Audi will be the weather and the prevailing track conditions. The Metro, short and stubby, is better able to cope with a rough and bumpy track while the Ford's long, low chassis, with very much more race car tendencies, is more at home on a slick, fast, flowing raceway. Turning into tight corners is not the Quattro's best quality and Arnesson may well be best at home with a slippery track where the smooth power of the five cylinder, 20v motor and lower grip levels will allow him to slide his way through the tightest corners. A particularly slippery event would also play into the favour of many of the home grown challengers for top honours, particularly all those with naturally aspirated engines and especially the handful of drivers running the torquey 3.8 litre units. Olle ArnessonOf those Steve Palmer is the man most likely to be at the forefront of the action. The 1990 British Champion has been Gollop's closest rival in each to their two encounters at Brands thus far this year and starts the GP with a car which has undergone a ground-up rebuild in the last couple of months. Guy Williams and Mark Flaherty also rely upon the large capacity motors, the former having been particularly impressive these last couple of years. Pat Doran brings an RS200 and has been making the car last longer with every event this year. There can never be any question of Doran's pace, but reliability is going to be the crucial factor for the Medway-based driver. Trevor Hopkins will be back with his RS200, the 'Haynes of Maidstone' backed driver having gone through a year of no great prominence but being another who could well put together the kind of balanced performance necessary to do well in this two day test. Rob Gibson, Barry Squibb, John Welch, Denis Biggerstaff and many more besides will be bidding for top places and the battle is likely to live up to the standard of previous Grand Prix. The new 'Supercars' are beginning to appear but at present it is unlikely that they will be as quick as the now highly developed 'Group B' cars which have come to dominate the sport. For the time being at least the mid-engined Metros and RS200s to continue their winning ways, but keen an eye on the likes of John Cross and the new Escorts as the performance gap is coming down. If you have any images from this race then please email us at info@classiccarmag.net,.Tags:, ,