|Mud, Sweat and Tears!|
|Tuesday, 28 January 2014 15:29|
More used to the glitz and glam of the British Touring Car Championship, it was a wake-up call for Shaun Hollamby when he took the wheel of a Rallycross MINI Cooper for the first time...
Words: Sarah Harrington-James
It’ll cost more than £200k to run as a privateer in the British Touring Car Championship. But it only costs £3k to build and run a rallycross MINI. Ok, both series are poles apart, but these two worlds collided at Croft in October last year.
It was a chance conversation between former BTCC driver and owner of AmD Tuning, Shaun Hollamby and the current BMW MINI Rallycross Champion that sowed the seed for some mud wrestling, bumper-to-bumper action. ‘Team Geriatric’ as they’re known had been running an R50 MINI Cooper in the 2013 championship, with builder-by-trade and part-time racer Tony Lynch at the wheel. However, for the last race of the season – the Rallycross GP – Tony gave up his seat to rallycross rookie Shaun and the challenge was set. “I assumed I’d be racing in the same class as the other rallycross MINIs, but quickly realised I wouldn’t be when a 400bhp WRC Ford Focus lined up alongside me!” laughs Shaun, who was entered as a guest racer alongside the likes of Coronation Street actor, Kevin Fletcher.
Shaun cut his motorsport teeth in single seaters, followed by tin tops in the VW Cup before competing in the BTCC from 2010 onwards with AmD Tuning’s VW Golf, so tackling both mud and asphalt at speed in a rallycross format was a whole new ball-game. Preparation was key, which is why Tony walked him around Croft before the practice session, pointing out the best areas of attack. “You don’t take the normal racing line like you do on track, as you’re looking for as much grip as possible. You might actually hold a tighter line so that you are on a harder bit of mud rather than ploughing through inches of gloop, which just sucks all the power out of the car,” Shaun remembers. Indeed, with just a fraction of the horsepower underfoot in comparison to the four-wheel drive 400bhp rallycross monsters, Team Geriatric initially took advantage of all modifications allowed for the BMW MINI Rallycross class. Although the engine had to stay naturally-aspirated, it had a Superchips ECU remap and uprated Milltek exhaust fitted, to produce around 130bhp. After that, it was all about playing with tyre pressures and the car’s tracking to try and gain the upper hand over their competitors – and of course have a talented racing driver on board.
On the day of the Rallycross GP, the other drivers were really welcoming and keen that Shaun had a good time – but that was all off-track of course. Predictably, once they saw the green light on the grid, they were all dead set on beating a BTCC driver! Shaun recalls: “Getting the starts right was quite tricky; I hate sitting on the rev limiter thrashing the engine, so I tried a more gentle start on my first heat and that was terrible – I got overtaken by about four cars into the first corner, so that was the first lesson learnt.”