July 2018

Changeable conditions ruins Albatec and Higgins’ Croft British RX victory hopes

Croft, North Yorkshire (UK) — 29 July 2018:Albatec Racing and Mark Higgins returned to British RX action at Croft on Sunday and leave with another podium finish after taking third overall in the Final. After enjoying weeks of 30+ degree temperatures, the team came down to earth with a bump with a return to wet and windy conditions in North Yorkshire.

The event started in style for triple British Rally Champion Higgins, a scintillating pace in practice putting him a full second clear of series leader Ollie O’Donovan. Just before the start of the opening qualifying race, the threatened rain fell heavily, turning the 1.1km rallycross circuit into a mudslide for round six of the Toyo Tires MSA British Rallycross Championship.

The computer-generated draw had Mark middle of the front row, with series returnee Kevin Procter alongside on pole. At the lights, Mark launched his Eddie Stobart partnering NCME #34 Peugeot 208 RX Supercar up the side of Procter into Clervaux. But in worsening track conditions, Mark ran wide on the exit of the hairpin, allowing Procter to come through and take the lead. Mark went on to take second and the third fastest overall race time.

Q2 had Mark on the outside of the front row with five-time champion Julian Godfrey alongside, and Procter on the pole spot. At the start, the Manxman followed a fast-starting Godfrey into turn one, with Procter slotting into third. On lap two Higgins began to close down the gap, gaining great ground on the back stretch, and trailing Godfrey through the hairpin for three of the four laps. Despite a concerted effort to wrest the place from Godfrey, Mark had to settle for second.

The grid for qualifying race three was depleted even before the start, with two cars failing to take up their position. At the lights, Godfrey was adjudged to have jumped the start and was forced to start from row three, leaving Higgins and Procter alone on the front row. At the second start, Mark got a good getaway and was second into turn one, however a broken windscreen wiper on lap two meant visibility was seriously impaired, dropping him to third.

With a number of cars withdrawing after the three qualifying races, the decision was taken to go straight to the Final, where Mark lined up third alongside Godfrey, with Procter on pole. With a break in the rain, the track had dried considerably as the cars headed out to the grid, leaving the entire field to select scrubbed slick tyres for the six-lap race.

At the lights, Mark made a great start but suffered a heavy hit into the first corner which cost him places. He quickly recovered and retook fourth at the hairpin and when the rain returned on lap three, he closed up to the lead trio moving ahead of O’Donovan on lap four when the Irishman sustained car damage. Over the final two laps the rain intensified and the pack closed further, but Mark was unable to make enough progress to challenge for position, crossing the line third to keep his championship hopes alive.

Mark Higgins, Albatec Racing driver #34:

“We’ve had very tricky conditions here today and tyre choice, particularly in the Final, was very difficult. The heats were solid enough performances, nothing stunning, but the freak problem in Q3 when the wiper got knocked off by a stone, cost us a strong heat and as a result, a better starting position for the final. We have had good reaction times to the lights but going into the first corner I was hit which pushed me wide onto the gravel. This dropped me from second to fifth. We managed to climb up to third, but the front two were well away by that time. It’s points for the championship, but we need better in the last few rounds. Big thanks as usual to the team who have done a great job with the car all weekend.” 

Andy Scott, Team Principal, Albatec Racing:

“It’s disappointing not to come away with a win when we know the package we have is more than capable of doing so, however rallycross is not just about having the right package, there’s also an element of luck. Today Mark showed right from the start that he has the pace, however the changeable weather conditions throughout the day didn’t play our way. We were very unlucky in Q3 with the wiper issue, which caused severe visibility problems and consequently cost Mark a good heat result. He did a great job in the Final to overcome the hit at the first corner, and it’s a positive result to get another podium finish to keep us in the hunt for the title.”

Dr Mark Busfield, Director, National Centre for Motorsport Engineering:

“We had a lot of students that came in from their summer holidays to help finish the car and come to Croft. It’s been another really interesting weekend with the weather which made it difficult on track. Mark did the best job he possibly could have in difficult conditions, and it’s a good result to leave here with another podium finish on the board. The students have got a lot more experience and I think it’s been a great day for everybody. The cohort of people doing this are really gelling and working well not just as a team, but with the permanent Albatec team members.”

Albatec boss Andy Scott returns to Caribbean for Martinique Rallye Tour 2018

Dumfries, Scotland (UK) — 17 July 2018: Albatec Racing Team Principal Andy Scott will make his Martinique Rallye Tour (MRT) debut this weekend (20-22 July), in his 2017-spec Ford Fiesta R5. Supported once again by Motis, Rock Oil and Teng Tools, Andy returns to the Caribbean for the third time this year and will be joined by Barbadian co-driver Tony Pile who sat alongside him on the recent Sol Rally Barbados.

The former open rallycross champion and twice British Rallycross Championship runner-up is dovetailing his rallying career with appearances in British and European RX. Most recently, his outing in the latest round of the FIA European Rallycross Championship in Sweden saw a superb performance net two race wins and the seventh fastest overall heat time on his way to securing a place in the semi-finals.

Andy’s return to rallying started last year when he rented a Mk I Ford Escort for Sol Rally Barbados with Rashid Philipps as co-driver, running third in class before a technical issue saw them crash out on the penultimate stage. This year the Dumfries racer contested the Carter’s Pit Stop Stages as a shakedown to Sol RB18, where Philipps returned to the co-driver’s seat, when they finished ninth overall and fourth in class.

Last time out on Sol RB18, Andy was joined by Tony for their first event together. The pair set some impressive stage times on their way to 11th overall and third in class. This year’s MRT marks the first appearance for both of them, as they look to improve on their performance last time out.

The fourth Martinique Rallye Tour gets underway on 20th July and consists of 146 kilometres over 16 special stages.

Andy Scott, Team Principal Albatec Racing:

“I’m excited to be heading back to the Caribbean to contest the Martinique Rallye Tour, another new event for me. The competition there will be even more fierce with a bigger entry of R5s and although I’m not sure yet of the calibre of the drivers taking part, I’m sure they’ll all put up a strong fight. I’m looking forward to a new challenge.

“The first goal is to finish the rally. It’s hard to pitch expectations at this time until I can see the level of competition, but I’m certain it will be an enjoyable experience. I’m also looking forward to working with Tony again after our good run in Barbados. It will be a new event for him too, but I’m confident in his ability to get us through the stages.”

Andy Scott demonstrates pace and race-winning potential in Sweden

Höljes Motorstadion, Varmland (Sweden) — 1 July 2018; Andy Scott once again demonstrated his class against a quality Euro RX field in Sweden this weekend in his Motis/Rock Oil/Teng Tools supported Peugeot 208 RX Supercar. The Albatec Team Principal won two of his qualifying races and set the seventh and ninth fastest heat times on his way to tenth overall in the intermediate standings. His results allowed him to comfortably qualify for the semi-finals, where he finished fourth.

The high-speed Höljes circuit is a firm favourite of the Albatec boss, but his opening qualifying race didn’t go according to plan. Lining up fourth, Andy didn’t get the best start and was subsequently stuck behind slower cars resulting in compromised lap and overall race times. Starting race two from pole position, Andy got a good start and slotted into second at turn one behind Jere Kalliokoski. Andy was held up by the leader for three laps before passing him at the joker and subsequently pulled out an advantage and took the win. His result netted the seventh fastest time and put him ninth overall in the intermediate standings.

Heading into Sunday’s final two qualifying races, the mood was confident, however contact at the first corner in Q3 caused a left rear puncture which cost him more than two seconds a lap and dropped him down to P14. The final qualifier however saw a return to form, with a second comfortable race win earning him the ninth fastest heat time and putting him tenth overall to easily qualify for the semi-finals.

Lining up fifth for the second of the two six lap races, an early joker lap allowed him to focus on the battle for a top three finish to secure a slot in the Final. A spirited drive saw him up to fourth at the flag, narrowly missing the qualifying positions.

Andy Scott, Team Principal and driver #26 Albatec Racing :

“I’m really pleased with the result, particularly considering the lack of seat time in the car. It’s always great to race at Höljes, the atmosphere as always was fantastic, with a record 51,000 spectators and it was great to demonstrate our potential once again alongside a quality field of Euro RX drivers. I think we’ve shown we have the pace to run consistently at the front, we just had a couple of issues, namely a mistake in Q1 which cost me time, and the contact in Q3 which compromised our times.

“Despite that, we had great pace in the other two races which allowed us to easily qualify. In the Final, starting from fifth on the grid, it was always going to be a tough challenge to get into the top three and the vital qualifying positions, but you just never know in rallycross, sometimes it’s possible so you have to keep pushing.”