Rallycross History

Rallycross history

Rallycross was born on

4 February 1967 at Lydden Circuit

The sport started as a TV show (with especially invited rally drivers), produced by Robert Reed of ABC television for ITVs World of Sport programme, at Lydden Circuit (between Dover and Canterbury) in Great Britain on Saturday, 4 February 1967. The first ever true rallycross was organised by Bud Smith († 1994) and the Tunbridge Wells Centre of the 750 MC, with the aid of Lydden Circuit owner Bill Chesson († 1999), and was won by later Formula One driver as well as 1968 Rally Monte Carlo winner Vic Elford in a showroom Porsche 911 of the British importer AFN, ahead of Brian Melia in his Ford Lotus Cortina and Tony Fall in a BMC Mini Cooper S.

After that inaugural event there were another two test rallycrosses at Lydden, on 11 March and 29 July, before the new World of Sport Rallycross Championship for the ABC TV viewers started with round one on 23 September, to be followed by round two on 7 October. The series was run over a total of six rounds (three at Lydden and three at Croft) and was eventually won by Englishman Tony Chappell (Ford Escort TwinCam), who became the first ever British Rallycross champion after winning the final round of the new series on 6 April 1968 at Lydden.

However, the true birth of rallycross is often wrongly connected with the cancellation of the 1967 RAC Rally, due to Foot and Mouth disease, in November 1967, about ten months after the maiden event. Some foreign entrants for the RAC had also planned to take part in the 1st international rallycross at Lydden Circuit, on Saturday, 25 November 1967, but went home immediately after the rally had been cancelled at the eleventh hour on the evening of 17 November, and was replaced by a single special stage (won by Swede Erik Carlsson in a Saab 96 V4) for the sake of the disappointed television companies. RAC rally stage number one by then, Camberley, was on Ministry of Defence land and not affected by movement restrictions caused by the disease in rural areas. Subsequently only British drivers competed in the maiden international rallycross event one week later, which was eventually won by Andrew Cowan and his Hillman Imp. Thames Estuary Automobile Club’s (TEAC) premier event, the original Clubman’s rallycross, was held the day after. It opened up the new rally drivers’ fun-sport to many amateur competitors, proved very successful and thereby paved the way for the first generation of real rallycross specialists, a lot of them coming from the ranges of autocross and autograss racing.

After one and a half years and several rallycross events at Lydden as well as Croft Circuit (near Darlington) the BBC adopted the young sport for its Grandstand programme while ITV dropped it after the British Rallycross Winter Series 1968/69. In 1969 Lydden Circuit and Croft Circuit were joined by another RX venue, Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire. Nowadays there are circuits at Pembre ,Blyton ,Mallory Park  and many more .

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