Friday 18 May 2012

Formula Renault BARC expecting increased Grid for Rockingham

Formula Renault BARC is doing really well to gain big grids this season.

Rockingham in Northamptonshire welcomes the Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship this coming weekend, 19th/20th May, for the second race meeting of the 2012 season with an expanded grid set to contest the fourth and fifth rounds of the campaign.

While an outstanding 25 cars lined-up for the season-opener at Snetterton last month, confirming Protyre Formula Renault BARC’s position as the healthiest and most popular series of its kind in the UK, an even bigger field of drivers is expected at Rockingham.

MTECH Lite, which already runs two cars for Sean Walkinshaw (Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire) and Mexican racer Jorge Cevallos, will double its entry this weekend after signing Lebanese divers Joe Ghanem – the reigning Formula Gulf 1000 Champion – and motorsport rookie Shahan Sarkissian.

Ghanem, who has been competing in the Middle East for the last few years, is a familiar face to the British motorsport scene having previously competed in the Formula Renault Winter Series in 2007 before graduating to British Formula 3 where he was a podium finisher in the National Class.

Former champion team Hillspeed, meanwhile, is working hard to finalise a deal to have a third driver on the grid for Rockingham to partner Marcus Allen (Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire) and Jacob Nortoft. Through its work with Nortoft, the squad has actually become an official partner of the Dansk Automobil Sports Union as part of the Danish federation’s talent development programme.

Webster aiming to increase points lead
Delivering consistently strong performances across all three Snetterton races last month, taking one victory and two further second place results, MGR Motorsport’s Josh Webster (Stowmarket, Suffolk) heads the championship standings going into rounds four and five by 14 points.

With his deal to return to Protyre Formula Renault BARC this year incredibly last-minute, due to the shelving of Formula Renault UK for 2012, Webster had zero time to prepare prior to the first three rounds but his experience shone through.

“Everything was so rushed for Snetterton, it was touch and go whether we’d be on the grid at all and the MGR guys had to get the car built in just a couple of days so it was pretty manic”, commented Webster, who currently holds the Rockingham lap record, “To achieve what we did, with no testing and only a base set-up, was fantastic and all credit to the hard work of the team.

“We’re all really looking forward to Rockingham now and feeling pretty confident. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and, now we’ve had a chance to properly work on the car, show what we’re really capable of and try and increase the championship lead.”

In the same boat as Webster with regard to having had no pre-season preparation was two-time McLaren Autosport BRDC Award finalist Scott Malvern (Barkingside, Ilford). His star quality was clear to see though, overcoming several mechanical glitches to take an excellent first win on his series debut and third in the points standings for the Cliff Dempsey Racing with Cullen Motorsport squad.

Fortec Motorsports’ Seb Morris (Marford, Wrexham) was a revelation on his maiden weekend racing single-seaters, the 16-year-old dominating qualifying by taking all three Snetterton pole positions and also going on to take a debut win in round two.

He will arrive at Rockingham four points ahead of Malvern while MGR’s David Wagner (Glasgow) is just two points further adrift in fourth place after a superbly consistent season-opener. Impressive first time podium finishers Macaulay Walsh (Northampton) and Jake Dalton (Stoke-on-Trent) are fifth and sixth in the standings respectively for Scorpio Motorsport and MGR.

Qualifying for rounds four and five of the 2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship will take place at 09.30 and 12.10 on Saturday, 19th May, with both races set to follow on Sunday, 20th May, at 10.55 and 15.35 respectively.

Along with headline sponsor Protyre, Formula Renault BARC is additionally supported by Michelin, The Lubricant Consultancy, Petronas Syntium and NGK Spark Plugs.

2012 Protyre Formula Renault BARC Championship Driver Standings (after Rd3):
1st Josh Webster, 88pts; 2nd Seb Morris, 74pts; 3rd Scott Malvern, 70pts; 4th David Wagner, 68pts;
5th Macaulay Walsh, 63pts; 6th Jake Dalton, 47pts

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Shelsley Walsh starts season in style

Aylesbury driver Trevor Willis was the clear winner in both rounds of the Midland Hill Climb Championship at Shelsley Walsh on 6th May.

Driving his V8 powered OMS 25, Trevor recorded times of 24.16 and 23.85 with two scintillating drives – taking less that two seconds for the first 64 feet and reaching the Bottom Ess at a speed of 130mph – beating Derek Young with his 4-litre Gould GR51 into second place, followed by Will Hall in the new V6 Force in third place, on both runs.

Several ‘new faces’ also made the run-offs, with current ladies hill record hold Sue Young joining her husband to qualify in their shared Gould, with Lyn Owen, wife of car constructor Steve Owen, also making the run-off in their OMS 25, as did Howard Savage-Jones in his beautifully sculptured Lola V8.

Will Hall of Halesowen, had mixed fortunes in his V6 Force, having to make a trip to constructor Ian Dayson at Rugeley for emergency repairs to the rear of the car on Saturday evening, before ably proving the potential of the new car in timed competition on Sunday.

Simon Fidoe of Fernhill Heath faired less well, having to retire his 1,000cc Empire racing car after suspension failure on Sunday morning.

The new spectator platform created over the winter months at Kennel Bend proved very popular throughout the weekend, giving visitors a splendid new view of the wide variety of sports, saloons and racing cars leaving the start line.

Guests for the weekend included a small number of drivers of the British Women Racing Drivers’ Club, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

Debut driver Tracey Cameron, from Malvern, overcame early nerves in her 600cc Honda powered Nemisis racing car to hit her target of beating 40 seconds at Shelsley Walsh, and did so by managing a 39 seconds run in practice and then a superb run of 35 seconds on Sunday.

The Paul Matty Sports Cars Lotus Championship was well supported with over 20 cars from 1960s racers up to modern day Elise variants taking part and their ‘boisterous’ prizegiving ceremony was taking place in fine humour on the terrace in the late afternoon sunshine, while the other competitors were packing up after a very successful weekend.

The next meeting at Shelsley Walsh is a round of The British Hill Climb Championship on the 2nd and 3rd of June.

The highlight of the weekend will be the BRM celebrations with the P25 that won BRM’s first World Championship Grand Prix at Zandvoort in 1959, Richard Attwood’s P261, and the BRM FF built by Roy Lane already confirmed. Notable BRM personnel will also be present throughout the weekend with BRM designer Tony Southgate and Team Manager Tim Parnell.

To buy tickets or find further information, visit

Friday 11 May 2012

Dominant DCC Stages victory for Vassallo

Vassallo gets some air in his Citroen C1 on the DCC Junior Stages Rally. Photo : Dave Hatrick
Fourteen year old rally driver Alexander Vassallo took a dominant win at last weekend’s DCC Junior Stages rally, his third consecutive victory in his debut season.

Vassallo, from Corbridge, is contesting both the Junior 1000 Rally Challenge and Junior 1000 Ecosse Challenge championships this year, both championships are for drivers aged between 14 and 17 using cars with engines of 1000cc or less. Despite only starting rallying this year Vassallo had already won two of the three events he had contested prior to the DCC Stages so hopes were high of a good result at the Ingliston-based second round of the Ecosse Challenge.

With experienced co-driver Janice Moore in his Birkbeck-prepared Citroën C1 Vassallo made a storming start to the event, setting a time 28 seconds faster than his nearest rival. He continued that form throughout the days eight stages, being quickest on each one despite the tyres going off on stage 4 and a small overshoot on stage 5. By the end of the event he had pulled out a lead of almost three minutes, a remarkable performance when Junior 1000 events are more usually settled by a few seconds.

“To get my third win in four events is fantastic, I did not expect such a good start to my rally career,” said Vassallo. “I was very pleased with my performance and the car was faultless all day. The tyres going off and the overshoot cost us a few seconds but we still managed to be fastest on every stage.”

“Thanks to Chris Birkbeck and his team and to Janice who was sitting with me for the first time and did a great job.”

Vassallo’s Ecosse Challenge season will continue with the Summer Stages at Crail in June while the next Junior 1000 Rally Challenge round is the TSH Stages at Portreath on 18/19 May.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Kev Monaghan heads to the Isle of Man

Kev Monaghan in action on the Tour of Epynt, before the problems that cost him a finish.
Photo : Songasport
Kev Monaghan is aiming to get his rally season back on track next weekend when he contests round 2 of the MSA Asphalt Rally Championship, the Manx National rally.

After retiring from the opening championship round in March Monaghan needs a good finish on the Manx to kick start his championship campaign.

With usual co-driver Chris Purvis out injured after an accident at work Monaghan will have David Jones on the pacenotes in the Pirtek-backed Vauxhall Corsa Kit Car.

“Having competed for more years than I care to remember I cannot wait to rally on the Isle of Man, it is a venue that I have always wanted to compete at,” said Monaghan.

“Losing Chris is a big blow - as most drivers know the confidence you get from working together with the same co-driver over a period of time is difficult to replace but David Jones has competed on the Manx before so that experience will be very useful. Everyone at Pirtek wishes Chris a speedy recovery and we hope to see him competing again soon.”

The front hubs have been strengthened on the Corsa following problems on the last event and an additional front engine mount has been added to cope with the paddle shift gearbox.

“Hopefully the work we’ve done on the hubs will prevent the problem we had on the last round reoccurring. I’ll be aiming to get into the top three of the class so that we pick up a decent amount of points. Thanks to Pirtek Tyne & Wear, F&R Belbin, GB Lubricants, Playskool Motorsport and Carl and Rob Tuer for getting the car setup sorted.”

The rally starts on Friday evening (11th May) before continuing with a full day of action on Saturday. Competitors will face 120 miles of stages all held on the island’s closed public roads.

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Rally 2 Raise passes £1500 in donations

Rachel Medich and the Rally 2 Raise Micra : Photo by Songasport
The Rally2Raise project, which is using motorsport to raise funds and awareness for charitable causes, recently passed the £1,500 mark in donations.

The project was set up in late 2011 by Rachel Medich to support the Nystagmus Network, the MS Society, Cancer Research UK and the Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation for post-natal depression.

As well as undertaking fundraising activities Rachel and her friend Katherine Begg have been promoting all four causes through participating in motorsport events in their DMACK Tyres and Clark Motorsport-supported Rally2Raise Nissan Micra rally car.

 “The support for the project has been absolutely fantastic,” commented Rachel. “I’d like to thank everyone who has helped us so far, I am delighted that we have been able to raise so much already.”

“We’ve got a lot more fundraising events planned over the next few months so hopefully we will be able to raise even more.”

Nystagmus Network development manager John Sanders said: "We are so grateful to Rachel and Katherine for all that they are doing to raise both funds and awareness through their rally driving. At around one in 1,000, nystagmus is more common than most people think - you've almost certainly met someone with nystagmus for instance. One of the challenges we face is getting that message across, and that's where Rally2Raise is making a big difference."

Rachel is hoping to contest the Dumfries-based Scottish rally in June and she has already agreed to take part in the Merrick stages in September after the rally organisers made Rally2Raise their nominated charitable cause for 2012.

For more information on the project please visit or Online donations can be made via

Tuesday 8 May 2012

David Wright hoping for success on Hamster

David Wright in action on the Wyedean rally : Photo : Songasport
After being out of action since the Malcolm Wilson rally in early March Bentham’s David Wright will contest the Tour of Hamsterley next weekend.

Wright retired from the Cumbrian event with gear linkage problems and since then lots of work has been undertaken on his Kumho Tyres, Drenth, York Brewery, Proflex and Grove Hill Garage-supported Mitsubishi Evo 9 to increase both pace and reliability.

“We were going really well on the Malcolm Wilson rally but the gear linkage issue meant we had to retire,” commented Wright. “We also retired on the Wyedean event in February and, with our hopes for a good BTRDA championship result pretty much over, we decided to miss last month’s Somerset Stages to concentrate on getting the car ready.”

“We’ve had the car on a dyno and we’ve found some good gains on the engine so we should have a bit more performance to help us try and keep on the pace of the World Rally class cars.”

“The Tour of Hamsterley is my co-driver Michael Wilkinson’s local event so we’ve decided to enter it to test out the modifications to the car. We’ll also hopefully do the Plains rally in Wales the weekend after if all goes well.”

The Tour of Hamsterley takes place entirely in Hamsterley forest in County Durham with the crews facing around 37 miles of competition.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Watch Porsche Action on TV this week.

The opening programme in the dedicated television coverage of the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup GB will be broadcast in the Motorsport UK programme on Tuesday 8 May on ITV4, on ITV1 on the night of Sunday 13 May and will also be shown on ITV4 on Saturday 12 May.

The Motorsport UK series, which features hour-long programmes, will cover all of the Carrera Cup GB action this season. Action from round two on the opening weekend of the season at Brands Hatch will feature in this programme.

Motorsport UK will be broadcast as follows:
Tuesday 8 May at 10am on ITV4
Saturday 12 May at 9.30am on ITV4
Monday 14 May at 3am (approx) on ITV1

Viewing figures from Motorsport UK in 2011 showed a typical total programme audience of between 300,000 and 500.000 viewers. Motorsport UK can also be watched at and is available for viewing for 30 days after the initial broadcast date.

Friday 4 May 2012

Sykes endures disappointing Pirelli Rally

 Sykes in action on the Pirelli before technical problems
Photo : Songasport
Rally driver Richard Sykes had a disappointing Pirelli Challenge rally last weekend when a mystery electrical problem caused him to retire from the event.

The Carlisle-based event was round 3 of the BRC Challenge championship and after excellent performances in his Bathams Brewery, G I Sykes Ltd, Boroughbridge Marina and Silverstone Tyres-supported Citroën C2 R2 Max on the opening two rounds Sykes went into the event at the head of the championship leaderboard.

The rally started well and going into the third stage Sykes was just six seconds behind rally leader Simon Moore despite not pushing hard as his target for the event was a podium finish rather than a win.

Part way through the third stage the car suffered an electrical problem which meant it had very little power as the engine would not rev above 1500rpm. Sykes and co-driver Simon Taylor carried on through the stage hoping to nurse the car to the end but there was a steep hill near the finish and the car did not have enough power to get up it. Despite frantic attempts to repair the car the event was over for the Stourbridge driver.
“Everything was going to plan, we were aiming for a podium finish so to be in second place early on was ideal,” commented Sykes. “Sadly the mysterious electrical fault ended our hopes. I tried changing various items on the car at the side of the stage but I couldn’t cure it.”

“It’s very disappointing as we’d prepared for the Pirelli more than any other rally we’ve done – I didn’t drink in the week before the event and I’d even been to the gym three times. The only positive thing is that the guys who took the podium places have already had retirements on the previous events so we’re still in a good position for the championship, especially as the next three rounds are on my preferred surface of tarmac.”

“Thanks to my service crew who have put heart and soul into the car for the last four weeks and were more gutted than we were at the retirement. We’ll get the little glitches sorted and move forward.”

Sykes’ next event will be the Jim Clark Challenge rally which takes place at the start of June.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Shelsley Walsh starts with high speed action

Tracey Cameron and her 600cc Nemesis

This weekend sees the first speed hill climb meeting of the year taking place at Shelsley Walsh, near Worcester, and it has attracted a full house of top drivers and their cars from across the UK.

2012 sees the 50th anniversary of British Women Racing Drivers Club, formed in 1962 to promote and support women in all forms of motorsport, and they have recently proudly announced that young Scottish member Susie Wolff has been appointed as a development driver for the Williams F1 Team.

On a local level, Tracey Cameron, a company secretary from Malvern will be making her debut in a single seat racing car and commented: “I have driven a 3-wheel Morgan in the past, but this machine is very different indeed, it is a 600cc Honda-powered Nemesis with wings and slick tyres and I will be aiming to do a sub-40 second run.”

Two championship contenders entered with a new car this weekend are father and son, Charles and James Williams, of Claverley, near Wolverhampton, who are competing in a Force PC racing car.

Charles commented: “I have competed at Shelsley in an F3 Dallara in the past, but this machine is very different indeed, it is very light and powered by a highly tuned 1585cc Suzuki Hayabusa engine and we will be aiming for a 26 second run if skill and the conditions allow!”

Shelsley Walsh will be hosting a special class for competitors from the BWRDC this weekend, and other clubs invited to attend including, ‘Flat Head’ historic cars, Aston Martin, and entrants in the Paul Matty Sports Cars Lotus Championship.

The event is a round of the TTC Group Midland Hill Climb Championship and attracts a wide variety of competition classes for saloon, sports and racing cars, with the action starting at 9.30am each day.
Practice and qualifying takes place on Saturday, with timed competition runs on Sunday, together with a separate ‘run off’ for the twelve fastest championship contenders, which takes place after the morning session and at the end of the afternoon competition runs.

Shelsley Walsh is run by the Midland Automobile Club which enjoys the sponsorship of Midlands prestige car dealerships Stratstone, who provide course cars for each event and Brightwells Auctioneers and Valuers of Leominster, one of the oldest salerooms in the country.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Pirelli Perfection for Cotton

This photo may have been taken at the Pirelli International Rally
Photo by Fiesta Sporting Trophy
British Rally Championship star Matt Cotton banished the memories of his 2008 crash when he finished a creditable 13th overall and 2nd in class on last weekend’s Pirelli International Rally. Partnered by co-driver Glyn Thomas, the rapid Cornishman from St Teath endured a hard fought battle with AVS Motorsport team mate Gethin Jones throughout the 96 competitive stage miles in Cumbria to lose out on a win by a scant 8.1 seconds at the finish.

Some of the world’s top drivers converged on Carlisle City Centre to kick off the event on Friday night as the International competitors headed towards the first 2 stages of the event which would be held under the cover of darkness. Crews would face a tough test within the ‘killer’ Kielder Forest complex - so called due to its notorious roads, deep ditches and unforgiving nature, meaning there would be no room for error without a substantial penalty.

Having finished second best on the first two rounds of the series so far, Cotton was conscious that a ‘flat out’ approach to the event would be the only course of action if he was to stay in with a chance to fight for championship honours. Taking the first stage win on Friday night was an important boost to his confidence as he dropped behind rival Jones on the second loop to ensure he was behind him on the road for the Saturday contest. “I’m pleased with our speed straight out of the box tonight” said Matt as he headed to the overnight halt. “We set some good times even though my style was a little too sideways for these stages. I’ll need to settle into a tidier rhythm tomorrow”.

The first stage on Saturday would prove to be the decider for the event as Cotton lost 17 seconds on the slippery Bewshaugh stage and would now need to push as hard as possible if he was to regain the lead by the time the crews headed back to Carlisle Racecourse for the finish ceremony. Responding to the deficit, Cotton set about trying to overhaul Jones and taking many stage wins throughout the remaining competitive miles. But despite his best efforts, the South West pairing crossed the finish ramp in second place by just 8.1 seconds. “It’s been an amazing battle all day long and we were trading times with Gethin throughout the event” said Glyn at the finish. I’m really pleased by our performance this weekend especially considering Matt ended this rally in 2008 upside down in a ditch! It’s clear to see we have improved on every event this season and are looking forward to the sealed surface of the Jim Clark Rally in a few weeks time”.

Matt Cotton and Glyn Thomas hard at work on the stages
Photo : Fiesta Sporting Trophy
This encouraging finish boosts Matt and Glyn to 3rd overall in the Fiesta Sporting Trophy which is run by the Ford World Rally Championship organisation, M-Sport. This result is even more worthy as other contenders in the series pilot the far more powerful R2 category cars. They also lie in 14th place in the British Rally Championship and 2nd in class 8.

The Jim Clark International Rally is the next round on the calendar and takes crews to the first tarmac round of the series on 1st – 3rd June in the Scottish Border towns of Kelso and Duns.

Keep up to date with Matt’s progress both on and off the stages by visiting, following us on Twitter (@mattcottonrally), or finding us on Facebook (