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

Dumfries and Galloway based 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.”


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