Monday, 28 October 2019

Walters win and Britpart BXCC title for Birchall and Koonja



J
ustin Birchall and Jonny Koonja claimed the Britpart British Cross Country Championship title with a victory in the final round of the season which was held at Walters in South Wales.
With one non-finish already this year Birchall could not afford another retirement if he was to take his first British championship. He made a great start, setting fastest time on the opening run in his Lofthouse M3. Mark Jacques and Adam Nicholson, second in the title race going into the final round, were in second place in their LS3-engined Lofthouse.
Jacques was fastest on the second run but Birchall was quickest on the remaining five runs of day one to take a commanding lead into day two. Jacques was second but with a broken gearbox it was doubtful that he’d start day two. Phill Bayliss and Lance Murfin were in third place in their Land Rover Special.
Torrential rain for 24 hours before the event had made the course very wet and the venue took it’s toll on some cars. Round 5 winner Andy Deguilio broke the clutch pedal on his Milner R5 which he managed to make a fix for but an ominous transmission whine resulted in him calling it a day before likely repairs became even more expensive. Andi Skelley returned to the championship but he was forced out with gearbox problems on his Milner. Steve Smith, fresh from starring in Autocar magazine, put his Clio V8 in a ditch but was able to continue after being extracted by the recovery crew.
Whilst the rest of the service area was asleep Mark Jacques’ team were busy trying to repair the gearbox. Two of the Lofthouse Motorsport team went to get some parts from Preston, around 200 miles away, and then work continued through the night with the fix finally complete at 4am.
The team’s work was rewarded with Jacques successfully making it to the finish in second place, a result which gave in second in the championship also.
“What a season and what a weekend,” said Jacques. “We had a good start to the event but then we lost fourth gear. On the final run of day one we were jammed in third. All the team did a fantastic job to get the gearbox repaired, we didn’t have all the right parts so a couple of the lads had to go to Lofthouse Motorsport to get spares.”
“We nursed it through the second day and made it to the finish. It’s been a brilliant season, thank you to everyone who has helped us and to the BXCC team for putting on the championship.”
Despite a broken alternator belt and a puncture Phill Bayliss finished third, taking third overall in the championship too.
“Like our other third places this season this result was very unexpected,” commented Bayliss. “The weather on day one made things very interesting but it was all good. We had a few issues, as well as the belt and puncture we had the wipers stop on one run and the brakes fail on another but the service crew did a brilliant job as did my navigator Lance.”
“I need to say a massive thanks to all the organisers, marshals, recovery crews and all the other volunteers who take their own time to put on the events for us to enjoy, you’re all awesome!”
The issued faced by Bayliss and Jacques meant that Birchall had a clear run to the win although he didn’t back off at all as his height over the jump on day two’s runs testified! The result gave Birchall his first British title with Koonja adding to the title he won with Dan Lofthouse in 2013.
“It’s been around 10 years in the making,” said Birchall. “The season hasn’t gone exactly to plan but I suppose that has kept everyone entertained! The pressure was on to get the result with already having one retirement but I felt really calm and kept focused. We pulled out a good lead out on day one and then it was a case of concentrating and bringing it home. I’m absolutely over the moon.”
Jason Rowlands was in fourth place in his Can-Am X3 with Dave Hooper in fifth in his new Bowler Tomcat. In sixth was the Lofthouse Freelander of Martin James. James commented: “It was a great weekend of racing. The weather was challenging but we made it through with just one puncture. It’s only the third proper outing with the car so I’m still learning with every lap.”
Oisin Riley completed his season in style with seventh place and another BXC Trophy win in his Polaris. Martin and Aston Cox were eight after a few issues with the GSR 206 including a broken wishbone.
Harry Nicoll and Emily Sibley finished ninth in their Bowler Tomcat despite blowing a front diff on day one. Rounding off the top ten were Steve Smith and John Griffiths in the Clio who, after their day one ditch excursion, required the recovery team again on day two when their steering broke.
With the 2019 championship complete preparations are now underway for the 2020 season which will start on April 4/5. Please visit crosscountryuk.org for more information.
Thank you to all the sponsors of the BXCC: Britpart, Voxcloud, Staffordshire Signs, Par Homes, OFG Land Rover Specialists, Birchall Foodservice, Nicky Grist Motorsports and Bowler.

Top 10 results:
01. Justin Birchall/Jonny Koonja (Lofthouse M3) 02:09:10
02. Mark Jacques/Adam Nicholson (Lofthouse LS3) 02:13:07
03. Phill Bayliss/Lance Murfin (Land Rover Special) 02:18:34
04. Jason Rowlands/Matthew Hall (Can-Am X3) 02:20:03
05. Dave Hooper/Leigh Higginson (Bowler Tomcat) 02:24:24
06. Martin James/Charley Morgan (Lofthouse Freelander) 02:25:00
07. Oisin Riley/Philip Richards (Polaris RZR XP1K Turbo) 02:28:38
08. Martin & Aston Cox/Simon Kerfoot (GSR 206) 02:31:38
09. Harry Nicoll/Emily Sibley (Bowler Tomcat) 02:38:20
10. Steve Smith/John Griffiths (JRG Clio V8) 03:18:54



Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Images from Britpart BXCC R5 Whaddon

















Britpart BXCC Whaddon win for Degiulio


Andy Degiulio and Paul Foley put their bad luck this season behind them with victory at round five of the Britpart British Cross Country Championship which was held at Whaddon in Buckinghamshire.

A quick start by Paul Rowlands and Neil Lloyd gave them a lead of 14 seconds after the opening two runs in their Polaris with Degiulio in second place. Fastest or joint fastest times on the next four runs saw Degiulio close the gap to one second after run 6. Rowlands’ victory hopes were dashed on run 7 though with a broken drive belt resulting in a maximum which dropped him down the leaderboard and left Degiulio leading the event overnight with championship leaders Justin Birchall and Jonny Koonja in second and Ian Gregg and Adam Evans in third.

Whaddon was a new venue for the BXCC and it proved to be tough for some crews on day one. Martin and Aston Cox damaged the steering on their GSR 206, Richard Green broke a track rod end on his Tomcat 100 and Michael Wilson’s Freelander was forced into retirement when the front diff housing exploded and holed the engine sump.

Degiulio maintained his lead throughout the second day, taking the win by 1m 24s.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Degiulio. “It’s a good feeling to be back on the podium after the problems we’ve had this season with crashing and mechanical issues. It was a case of keeping my head down and keeping at it. I enjoyed the event, I enjoy the driving and it’s a privilege to do what we do.”

There was a tense battle for second place. Mark Jacques and Adam Nicholson set the fastest time of the event on the last run of day one in their Lofthouse LS3 and they set the pace on day two also, with fastest time on every run. Jacques completed his runs with Birchall’s car still in service having the front diff changed. Birchall set out on his final run needing to complete the course in less than 6m 09s to get second place but he wasn’t able to achieve it and had to settle for third behind Jacques.

Jacques commented: “It’s been a tough weekend, we arrived late on Friday so didn’t get a chance to walk the course and then the first couple of runs were difficult as we had a misfire. After that though we started to enjoy it and the car was faultless. It was quite different terrain to what we usually race on but we gave it our best. It was a really good event, well organised with a great atmosphere.”

Birchall’s third place keeps his BXCC title hopes alive. He commented: “It was an extremely hard event, the nature of the course meant trying to do the same speed as usual was very difficult. It was tough on both car and crew, I’ve got blisters on my hands from hanging on to the steering wheel. We had a knocking noise on the car on day two so we changed the front diff but then we had no fourth gear on the final two runs. It’s been a good weekend though.”

Gregg finished fourth in his Polaris with Paul Rowlands fighting back from his day one disappointment to take fifth. Jason Rowlands also had a drive belt failure which meant he could finish no higher than sixth in his Can-Am X3.

Martin and Aston Cox had further steering issues on day two but were still able to finish seventh. Oisin Riley was eighth in his Polaris and Phill Bayliss ended his run of third places in ninth after a challenging event which included damaging his wrist on day one after hitting a bump at speed, resulting in the rest of the event having to be driven one-handed. Liam Griffin rounded off the top ten in his Bowler Bulldog on what was his first BXCC event.

Chloe Jones completed her class 7 championship win and finished 11th overall with Richard Green completing the finishers in 12th after several problems with his Tomcat.

The championship will finish in October at Walters in South Wales. For more information please visit crosscountryuk.org. For pictures from the event please visit www.facebook.com/songasportoffroad. Video coverage from the event will be available on www.youtube.com/specialstage.

Thanks to all the sponsors of the BXCC: Britpart, Voxcloud, Staffordshire Signs, Par Homes, OFG Land Rover Specialists, Birchall Foodservice, Nicky Grist Motorsports and Bowler.

Top 10 results:

01. Andy Degiulio/Paul Foley (Milner R5) 01:49:08
02. Mark Jacques/Adam Nicholson (Lofthouse LS3) 01:50:32
03. Justin Birchall/Jonny Koonja (Lofthouse Freelander) 01:50:51
04. Ian Gregg/Adam Evans (Polaris RZR) 01:51:05
05. Paul Rowlands/Neil Lloyd (Polaris RZR) 01:55:11
06. Jason Rowlands/Matthew Hall (Can-Am X3) 02:00:10
07. Martin & Aston Cox/Josh Thomas (GSR 206) 02:03:31
08. Oisin Riley/Philip Richards (Polaris RZR XP1K Turbo) 02:04:20
09. Phill Bayliss/Lance Murfin (Land Rover Special) 02:05:56
10. Liam Griffin/Robert Daniels (Bowler Bulldog) 02:10:40

Monday, 9 September 2019

Britpart BXCC crews to face new challenge at penultimate round


The penultimate round of the Britpart British Cross Country Championship takes place next weekend and the competitors will face a new challenge with the first ever visit of the series to the Whaddon venue in Buckinghamshire.
Justin Birchall got his season back on track at the last round in Bovington, a win taking him to the top of the championship leaderboard on 252 points. Birchall’s navigator has prepared for the event by taking part in Rallye Des Cimes, partnering Dan Lofthouse in Mike Moran’s Lofthouse Evo.
Fellow Lofthouse driver Mark Jacques is in second place with 243 points after salvaging fifth place at round four following transmission problems on the opening day.
In third place, with 233 points, is Phill Bayliss who has finished third overall on each of the last three events in his Land Rover Special.
Paul Rowlands was unlucky not to get a win at Bovington but the second place he achieved was enough to put him in fourth place in the championship on 203 points.
Just behind Rowlands, on 199 points, is Aston and Martin Cox who are in fifth place despite missing the last round.
“Unfortunately harvesting got in the way of racing at Bovington,” said Aston. “We’ll be out in the Can-Am X3 at Whaddon rather than the GSR 206. We’re looking forward to a nice local event for a change!”
Another driver returning after missing Bovington is Michael Wilson who will be looking for another production class win in his Freelander.
“Both the car and my navigator weren’t in a suitable condition to race at the last round but both are fine now so we’ll be at Whaddon,” commented Wilson. “A new screen is going on the car this week and there are a few other jobs to do when I get back from my holidays but nothing major.”
Chloe Jones presently leads class 7 and just needs to get a point for starting to wrap up the class championship.
“I start at university the day after the event so it’s likely to be our last racing of the year,” said Jones. “With only having to cross the start line to win the championship we’re going to be playing for overall points as we having nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
The action will start at 10am on Saturday with a full day of competition with the event expected to finish around 3pm on Sunday. An image gallery from the event will be online on www.facebook.com/songasportoffroad on Sunday evening. For more information on the BXCC please visit www.crosscountryuk.org.
Thanks to all the sponsors of the BXCC: Britpart, Voxcloud, Staffordshire Signs, Par Homes, OFG Land Rover Specialists, Birchall Foodservice, Nicky Grist Motorsports and Bowler.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Birchall wins at dramatic BXCC Bovington event


Justin Birchall and Jonny Koonja got their Britpart BXCC championship season back on track with a win at round four which was held at Bovington in Dorset, a venue which lived up to its reputation for causing drama.

Jason Rowlands set the pace on day one in his Can-Am X3 with fastest times on six of the seven runs of the course. His father Paul Rowlands was fastest on one run and was in second place up until run five when the drive belt broke, costing him around five minutes.

Birchall was in third place early on but moved up to second at the end of day one. Ryan Cooke had a good day one to finish in third position overnight.

The opening day didn’t go so well for some crews. Mark Jacques, who was leading the championship going into round four, had a locked transmission on his Lofthouse LS3, Richard Green’s Bowler stopped with a broken fanbelt, Chris Speakman had broken suspension on his Yamaha and Andy Degiulio’s bad luck continued with a snapped shaft on the transmission of his Milner R5.

Jason Rowlands continued to head the pack on the first run of day two, setting the fastest time of the event to extend his lead. It all went wrong on the second run though, a ball joint breaking as he approached the finish line causing the car to hit a bank before stopping in the course. Despite his father completing his runs and trying to use parts from his own car to effect a repair Rowlands was unable to continue and had to take maximums for the rest of the runs, dropping him to 12th place.

Birchall was now in the lead and he survived the rest of the day to win by almost three minutes.

“The crash at Sweet Lamb put me under pressure to get a good result at Bovington,” said Birchall. “I had a good lead there and then put the car on its roof when backing off on day two. I had to get my head into gear for Bovington, especially with the venue changing to the southern site a few days before. We did a few suspension tweaks on day one to try and improve performance over the bumpy terrain. The course dried out for day two which was in our favour and with the Rowlands’ cars having problems we managed to get the win.”

Paul Rowlands was left regretting the broken belt on day one as he finished in second place, despite being fastest on three of the five runs on day two.

“We’d been in second place behind Jason but then we had to stop to replace the drive belt. It took around five minutes to change it which dropped us to fourth overnight and, with Jason’s ball joint problem, possibly cost us the chance of a win.”

Ryan Cooke’s event ended in disappointment with his Milner LRM-1’s engine dumping its oil shortly before the finish of the final run. The resulting maximum dropped him to fourth place overall which meant that Phil Bayliss was promoted to third, his third consecutive third place.

“I’m happy to get third although not in these circumstances,” said Bayliss. “I was happy to be in the fifth place I was in at the end of day one, especially with Bovington being a very tough venue on the cars, so to end up with third is great. We had an alternator belt break on day one but luckily we had a spare with us so could do a repair on the course. On our final run I decided to push to try and beat our fastest time but around a third of the way in I drifted wide over a banking and into a drain hole. The radius arm bent and cut through the brake pipe which caused a loss of brakes but we managed to get round.”

Mark Jacques recovered from his day one issues to finish fifth. In sixth, and first BXC Trophy driver, was Oisin Riley in his Polaris.

“I’m pleased with the result,” said Riley. “It was a good course which suited our type of car, I enjoyed the experience.”

After missing the previous round Steve Smith returned in his JRG Clio V8 to take seventh. Harry Nicoll and Emily Sibley were eighth and first in class in their Tomcat on what was Sibley’s first time navigating.

Although they are more used to competing in endurance events Spanish crew Jesus Navarro and Raquel Dorado finished ninth and first in class in their McRae Enduro, the first time this make of car has raced in the British Championship. Another car making its first British Championship appearance was the Dacia Duster of Future Terrain team George Frost, Hannah Collins and Sean Whatley.

Rounding off the top ten was a Bowler Bulldog with driving duties shared by Richard Hayward and Greg Macleod, a result achieved despite suffering broken steering on day one.

With Rob Bool’s car not fixed after a fire at Sweet Lamb his usual navigator Victoria Vaughan raced her own car and finished 11th overall.

Richard Green and Richard Griffiths were 13th and first in class after overcoming their fan belt problem on day one. Chloe Jones and Chris Alridge took their QT 88 to 14th, Jones now recovered after ending the previous round in hospital in severe pain.

The final finishers were Richard Lane and John Tomley in a Land Rover Defender. Lane is a road tester for Autocar magazine so it will be interesting to read how his Bovington experience compares to testing supercars in exotic locations!

The championship will resume in September at a new site in Whaddon. For more information please visit crosscountryuk.org. For pictures from the event please visit www.facebook.com/songasportoffroad. Video coverage from the event will be available on www.youtube.com/specialstage.

Thanks to all the sponsors of the BXCC: Britpart, Voxcloud, Staffordshire Signs, Par Homes, OFG Land Rover Specialists, Birchall Foodservice, Nicky Grist Motorsports and Bowler.

Top 10 results:
01. Justin Birchall/Jonny Koonja (Lofthouse Freelander) 01:32:07
02. Paul Rowlands/Neil Lloyd (Can-Am X3) 01:35:01
03. Phill Bayliss/Lance Murfin (Land Rover Special) 01:39:45
04. Ryan Cooke/Darren Cooke (Milner LRM-1) 01:44:21
05. Mark Jacques/Adam Nicholson (Lofthouse LS3) 01:45:57
06. Oisin Riley/Philip Richards (Polaris RZR XP1K Turbo) 01:46:13
07. Steve Smith/John Griffiths (JRG Clio V8) 01:48:19
08. Harry Nicoll/Emily Sibley (Tomcat 100) 02:02:56
09. Jesus Navarro/Raquel Dorado (McRae Enduro) 02:06:44
10. Richard Hayward/Greg Macleod/Charlotte Macleod (Bowler Bulldog) 02:07:41