Positive World RX Showing for British Championship Leaders on Their Return to the World Stage

Dumfries and Galloway based Albatec Racing returned to the world stage at Silverstone’s Speedmachine Festival this weekend for the Cooper Tires World RX of Great Britain. The event, round four of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, saw British RX points leader Mark Higgins make his World RX debut in the Eddie Stobart partnering NCME Peugeot 208 RX Supercar. The triple British Rally Champion demonstrated an impressive pace across the qualifying races, and although he didn’t reach the semi-finals, left Northamptonshire as the top British finisher.

The opening qualifier saw the Manxman on pole position in a race that included former rally and rallycross champion Petter Solberg and nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb. An inspired first ever World RX race, and with tremendous pace against the best rallycross racers in the world, put Mark tenth overall.

In the second race, he lined up fifth, and after a great start was running second until a heavy landing on the jump section broke his car’s suspension and forced him into instant retirement. In the overnight standings the result dropped him to P16 overall, and with it all to do in Sunday’s final two qualifying races.

Two great performances in Q3 and Q4 earnt him double race wins on Sunday, however the combined results were not quite enough to move him back into a semi-final qualifying position, and he was left to rue the disappointment of the broken suspension suffered in Q2.

Running alongside World RX this weekend was the opening round of the inaugural Americas Rallycross Championship (ARX). Albatec Team Principal Andy Scott returned to driving duties in his similar Eddie Stobart/NCME/Motis/Rock Oil & Teng Tools-backed 208.

His opening race on Saturday was dramatic to say the least; pushed into a spin into turn one, Andy then landed heavily on the jump, sustaining extensive damage which subsequently pitched him off the track at the next turn.

The team mechanics pulled out all the stops to repair the stricken #26 Peugeot, ahead of Q2, where the former open rallycross champion and double British vice-champion came home fourth. The day’s final appearance, Q3, netted another strong result, with the Dumfries businessman third in the race, and ninth overall in the overnight standings.

Sunday morning’s final qualifying race had him line-up in the middle of the grid and a great start put him second on the opening lap and challenging for the lead. However, a sideways Liam Doran on lap two left Scott nowhere to go, the unavoidable collision dropping him down the order. Lining up on the back of the grid for the first semi-final was always going to be a tall order to progress through the field, and despite a strong opening four laps, an electrical issue two laps from home forced him to retire from the race.

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

“Overall, it’s been a great weekend. It’s obviously good to race at your home event, and nice to see so many people here supporting the team. Silverstone has offered a different challenge this weekend, not least the fact that it’s very, very slippery when it’s wet, and with a lot of grip when it’s dry, the difference between the two is huge.
“I’m naturally disappointed with my result as I had set some cracking times in the races and practice, but we had a few problems with the car on Saturday, and of course the mistake I made in Q1. It’s not been an easy time, but we had a great car today until we unfortunately tangled with Liam which ruined both our races. But that’s motorsport!
“For Mark it’s been fantastic, particularly when you think he’s had just three BRX races and very little testing, to be P10 straight out of the box in Q1 against the best rallycross drivers in the world is testament to his talent, our car and the Albatec team. Unfortunately, his progress was halted with the suspension failure in Q2, which put him on the back foot for the remaining two races and at this level you can’t afford to miss a result. I hope he’ll be back in World RX as he’s certainly got the speed to do it, and we feel we have unfinished business, so we’ll be pulling out all the stops to get him back out again before the end of the year.”

Mark Higgins, Driver #134, Albatec Racing:

“It’s been an amazing weekend. I think we put on a good show, but we had one bad heat which seriously comprised our results. Without that I’m confident we could have been in the top ten and through to the semi-finals, which was our target. I’m now very hungry for another round if we can get the budget together.
“For our first appearance in World RX, it’s been a great experience; for me, for Albatec Racing and for the whole Eddie Stobart and NCME partnership. It’s a great sport to be involved in, I really do enjoy working with such a committed team and in this arena it’s a credit to Andy when you think that we were up against all the factory teams with at least ten times our budget.”

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

To say it’s been interesting is an understatement. From the students’ perspective we can look at the experience they’ve had and how much the game’s changed, how much more serious it is, and the level of competition has been excellent for them to see. When we look at our own performance, the cars have performed really well, Mark’s car in particular having won races this morning. So, it’s a crying shame really when you see those accomplishments and the hard work of the entire team not correlating into reaching the semi-finals.
“But it’s been a positive weekend and it’s great for everyone to see how competitive the car is, likewise with Andy’s performance. We’ve also had a cohort of students assisting the FIA on scrutineering, plus another group from our art school doing media and photography so it’s been a great opportunity for all of us.”

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