1991 RAC British Rallycross Championship

Filed under: Classic News |
Will Gollop 1991Remodelled and revitalised for 1991, the leaner, meaner RAC MSA British Rallycross Championship revived the competitive sprint. Defending champion Steve Palmer fought hard for his crown but it was to be Will Gollop's year. In 1990 the British Rallycross Championship was a mammoth 11-race tour of the nation with an ill-planned schedule and contestants faced a hard and expensive trail. Criticism was not short at the end of the year and for 1991, the RAC MSA's Rallycross Working Group formulated an eight-round calendar, incorporating a summer break and a later finish to the year. With the total prize fund at the same level, there was more to fight over in each of the eight rounds. These changes saw the British Rallycross Championship blossom into a well contested and highly competitive series that truly represented the best of the sport. Will Gollop may have had a rather easier time of things at home than he did on the cross-channel excursions, but the championship didn't fall into his lap. Barry Squibb 1991At the start there was never any intention to drive the whole series, the first few events were contested as part of the ongoing development of the BiTurbo Metro. Crunch time came with the two Irish rounds though and with some additional backing enabling Will to go to Nutts Corner, the decision was made to tackle the remaining rounds. Will Gollop returns to Brands intent on putting the major incident on the knife-edge at the 1990 British Rallycross Grand Prix behind him. Those that witnessed the accident will recall that the popular Metro BiTurbo driver was driving flat out in a bid to overtake Martin Scahnche, as the pair turned into Langley's Gap for the third time. At that point, a tyre came off the rim and sent Will into an uncontrollable high-speed spin, he was subsequently collected by Steve Palmer and John Welch, causing the race to be stopped a lap later. Having won the Grand Prix title twice, Gollop, who finished 3rd in the European Championship last year, was determined to scoop the crown for a historic hat-trick. Sadly it wasn't to be and Schanche won the Grand Prix for the second time in four years. It had been a busy winter for former British Rallycross Champion John Welch, who returned to Brands Hatch with his unique Vauxhall Xtrac. The last two seasons had been frustrating for Welch, who has endevoured to make the Astra-based Vauxhall reliable and competitive, although after a winter of modifications he was confident should see the Vauxhall/Sphere Drake/Kenwood sponsored car a front runner in 1991. A hat-trick of victories started Gollop's year, the third at Nutts corner where defending champion Steve Palmer, at that point the only one who had been able to challenge, blew the engine in his 6R4. For Palmer it was a bitter blow, his budget was already stretched and the failure came at the most inopportune time, effectively curtailing his year. The next day the championship protagonists moved down the road to Mondello Park and here Gollop had his first taste of trouble, railroaded in the first corner by Dermot Carnegie. Coming on top of an attack at the start of the A Final from Pat Doran it was a bitter blow and one that inflicted heavy damage to Gollop's car. John Moloney scuttled through the chaos to take the lead, while Carnegie was excluded for his part in Will's downfall. The next round was at Croft and resulted in another new winner, Barry Squibb taking a much-needed morale-booster with his X-Trac Escort. The Heywood had pursued Gollop relentlessly through the event and when Gollop suffered a driveshaft failure in the Superfinal, Squibb closed in for the kill. A second failure within half a lap of the first ended Gollop's drive and Squibb scored a result that convinced him to stay with the series. Just three events remained after the summer holidays and Gollop was right back in top form for the first of them at Brands Hatch. So too was Steve Palmer and the pair fought mightily in the A Final, Palmer leading until the last lap when we was wide off Hoppy's Drop, scrabbling for grip as Gollop rocketed past for the win. The Superfinal was different, Gollop getting the start and leading all the way but again with Palmer in pursuit, the reigning champion battling gamely on the day that Gollop's fourth maximum score assured him of the 1991 title. The remaining events, though were no less interesting for the fact that Gollop had wrapped up the title. At Lydden Palmer was again firing the big guns and stole some of the glory by taking the fastest time of the day, the only time all year that anyone other than Gollop had emerged fastest. In the finals though, Steve could only take second place. At Croft we again saw the best of Barry Squibb, this time a stunning three-way A Final battle being led by the Escort driver, with Palmer's Dianetics Metro second and Gollop trailing in third. Squibb worked hard through the first three laps, keeping the Metros behind, but when, on the penultimate lap, the air filter came adrift and partially blocked the turbo, Gollop sped past both Palmer and Squibb in one move, to take the lead with a lap to run. In the Superfinal Gollop was away at the front, Squibb the closest challenger and again driving his heart out in pursuit. Behind these two the battle was between Denis Biggerstaff and Steve Palmer. The P&O Ferries backed Irishman had been second to Gollop for most of the year and had his heart set on the position. Palmer's late charge though, had brought it down to a straight fight, the highest finisher at Croft would finish second in the 1991 Championship. A transmission problem halted Palmer so Biggerstaff deservedly kept second place. The Irishman (and there were three of them) competing regularly in the British Championship this year, put in a larger effort than any to race and Biggerstaff worked miracles with his Metro, probably the lest powerful of its sort. Guy Williams regularly ran on the leading pace but slipped from a certain top three placing in the last two events of the year, not scoring at Lydden after a collision with Gollop in the first heats and then missing Croft altogether. Fifth was the talented young driver's eventual placing. Roger NewbouldAway from the leading cars there was a royal battle in Formula B where Roger Newbould and Tony Bardy, double Champions both, fought to the end over the class title. Bardy, the 1989 and 1990 winner, started the year with a new car, his Astra reshelled into a redundant touring car body which allowed use of the Pilbeam suspension. It was a rush to get it ready for the first round and with gear linkage problems eventually forcing retirement in the Final, the initiative was handed to Newbould. Newbould's Renault was little changed from 1990 when a 2.3 litre aspired Cosworth engine replaced the BDG which had powered him to championship titles in 1987 and '88. This year his car was razor sharp and Newbould was intent on winning a third crown. Neither man won at Lydden though, instead it was Brian Betteridge, very much the joker of the Formula B pack with his Quaife Power Systems Escort. When Tony Proctor half spun the Sierra in front of the field on the first lap there was chaos, Betteridge ran out of it best, while Bardy was again a retirement and Newbould only a placed runner. Normal service resumed in Ireland where Newbould won Nutts Corner and was leading Mondello before Bardy pulled out the stops to take the lead. It was Newbould's turn for bad luck in the next two races and each time it was Bardy who benefited, winning at both Croft and Brands Hatch in the Vauxhall Dealersport/Pentland Astra. By now Bardy was beginning to stretch the advantage a little but at Lydden the balance was redressed, a gearbox shift failure ending Bardy's day after just one heat while Newbould scored a resounding victory. Going into the final round of the year the two drivers were equal on points. The winner of the A Final would be champion. A the start Newbould made the most of mid-engined traction to take the lead and no matter how hard Bardy tried, and be sure he did, there was no beating the Renault driver on the day, to end a superb championship battle. If you have any images from this race then please email us at info@classiccarmag.net,.Tags:,