Future of rallycross under serious threat
It came as no surprise to me when the rallycross meeting due to be held at Lydden Hill on January 2, was cancelled. A very small entry had been received, making it financially impossible to continue.
Over the last two decades, we have seen a very big change in the way rallycross is situated.
Next year, rallycross will celebrate its 50th anniversary having been introduced at Lydden Hill in February 1867.
Intended originally for television, it gets its name from two other disciplines, rallying and autocross. The circuit over which the cars compete, represents the sealed and loose surfaces over which rally cars would compete, the format of finding a winner was very much in line with autocross.
With its launch coming in the winter months, it was developed as a branch of motor sport for that period of time, and its own format was to see it become very much a favourite with spectators.
Other circuits took it on board, with winter-based championships being held at circuits such as Croft, Cadwell Park and locally at Snetterton.
After an uncertain introduction, the Snetterton meetings were to come under the organisational wing of the Sporting CC of Norfolk and West Norfolk Motor Club.
Despite loose surfaced sections of the various layouts causing considerable problem, (they cut up very badly), rallycross at Snetterton could only be described as a success.
Perhaps it was a victim of its own success, as by the time it hosted its last event - a round of the British Championship in May 1983 - the circuit owners had already got the sport introduced to their flagship venue, Brands Hatch, which hosted the first-ever rallycross Grand Prix in December 1982.
By now, rallycross was running events throughout the year, and in 1984 no less than 35 events were held in the UK, plus Mondello Park in Eire.
Like all aspects of motor sport, the financial situation over recent years, plus the ever-increasing cost of building a competitive car, has taken its toll. Combine that with the fact that the sport is now very popular in Europe (the French round of the 2015 FIA World Championship attracted 75,000 spectators), and since its introduction to their countries the residents seem to want a summer-based sport.
And that is what we now have in the UK, from March to early November. This year, there will be - to my information - just 16 meetings in the UK competitions, seven BTRDA club meetings, eight rounds of the MSA British Championship (one of which will be in Belgium) and the British Grand Prix, which is but a shadow of what we saw back in the 1980s.
The winter months are now a time for rebuilding in the rallycross world, both cars and budgets, but I still wish it was a winter sport. There would be less competitions from other attractions in the quest for spectators, it would bring income into circuits during a quiet period, and even rallycrossing’s biggest problem - dust from the loose sections of track - would surely be largely overcome?
First it was Mildenhall, then Lydden Hill, now the short oval at Wimbledon needs our support in an effort to prevent its closure.
Last December, permission was granted for the redevelopment of the venue, which would then accommodate an 11,000 all-seat football arena for AFC Wimbledon.
An online petition has already gained more then 7,500 signatures, and also the support of Derek Warwick former F1 driver and president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club.
Can you imagine the outcry if another Wimbledon sporting venue faced the same situation? There would be huge coverage in the national press - sadly, motor sport does not seem to justify that.
Supporters of the petitions have been in touch with the London Mayor’s office, and intend to raise the situation with Boris Johnson, who has the final say regarding planning permission.
To sign the petition, visit change.org/P/boris-johnson-save-wimbledon-stadium-from-demolition-save-oval-racing-in-london
Car Trial. Roger Holmes Memorial Trial, Cambridge CC, Sunday. Round seven of the ASMC Challenge, Claypit Hill, Harlton, Cambs, 10am.
Exhibition. Autosport International, NEC. Continues until Sunday.
Rallying. Brands Hatch, January 31.
Short Circuit. Wimbledon, January 24; Mildenhall, January 31.