Part ten, Great Britain, September 20 1987: Schanche pushed hard
Rallycross entered a boom period 25 years ago. Group B cars arrived en masse and, for the next six years, would dominate the sport. These monsters, exiled from rallying after a spate of accidents became faster, lighter and more powerful as, in Rallycross, they found their ultimate form. It’s true that every cloud has a silver lining, for Rallycross the cloud over rallying didn’t just present an opportunity but opened a golden era, perhaps the best years the sport has ever known. To mark that anniversary RallycrossWorld will look back at the 1987 season in parallel with the 2012 European Rallycross Championship.
Schanche was pressed hard by Rennison in the final. © Tim Whittington/RallycrossWorld.com
When the ERC circus rolled into Lydden expectations among British fans were high. Will Gollop’s first European season had produced some great results on tracks the Metro 6R4 driver had never seen before, and Lydden was like his own back yard. Britain had a new champion, Mark Rennison the youngest ever, and a man who had swept all before him, winning all seven rounds of the national championship with his RS200.
Martin Schanche opened the event by beating Seppo Niittymäki in a close race and setting fastest time with Rennison beating Matti Alamäki and setting third fastest time. Schanche’s second heat was easier, the RS200 driver powering away from John Welch’s Xtrac to be fastest again and put his name to pole position without the need to race in the third heat. Rennison won the third qualifier and set fastest time of the event in the process of securing second place on the A final grid. Niittymäki and Gollop starred in a close duel in the last heat, both going to the A final along with Alamäki.
Welch’s recent good run was stymied here when he was excluded from the third heat after a rough and tumble run with Olle Arnesson. Both found themselves in the C final which was won by Terje Schie. It was another Xtrac, Arild Martinsen’s new BMW M3, that took the B final, the Norwegian leading from the start and moving on to the A final.
Schanche led the A final from the start, the old master getting the drop on his young rival. Rennison gave his all in the chase, once or twice coming close to making a pass but never quite with enough difference between the two RS200s to pull it off. There was just 0.3s between the pair at the end, Schanche winning but knowing he’d been given a proper race. Niittymäki ran third all the way, the position virtually guaranteeing the Finn his first ERC title and leading him to drop the first hints that he may retire at the year end. Gollop was in the hunt all weekend but the Metro was giving away a lot of power to the turbo cars and that showed more at Lydden than at many tracks. After Alamäki spun out in the first lap, Martinsen was fifth and the last finisher.
* There were 11 events in 1987 but then, as now, Germany was the final round. To keep things tidy, we’ve given you rounds nine and ten of the 1987 season this week, and will conclude the series with the German event just ahead of this year’s German ERC round at Buxtehude next week.