Rallying is a popular and exciting sport which involves drivers taking their cars along various courses, called special stages, with the aim of setting the quickest time possible. Venues range from disused airfields to high-speed tracks in forests. In some parts of the UK it is also possible to run rally events on closed public roads.
The championship that Richard competes in consists of six events all over the UK with each one having 5-10 stages totalling 50-70 miles. The rallies are usually based in towns so the cars are required to drive on normal roads to get to and from the stages. So, despite being heavily modified in some cases, all rally cars must be road legal and taxed and tested.
Richard’s Bathams-backed car is a Citroën C2. Although the bodyshell looks the same as a C2 you can buy from a Citroën dealer Richard’s car has several modifications to make it into a competition car. Probably the main difference between a rally car and a road car is the safety equipment. Rally cars must have a protective roll cage fitted which surrounds the passenger area with thick steel tubes. This is to stop the bodyshell deforming should the car be crashed. The bodyshell is also strengthened by being seamwelded. Special seats with multi-point belts are used for safety purposes and the car is fitted with plumbed in fire extinguishers.
The C2 has a 1600cc engine which has been tuned for rallying and produces around 190bhp – most road-going C2’s produce less than half of this! The suspension is quite different from the road car as it has to handle all sorts of high-speed terrain. The brakes and gearbox are also a much higher specification than their road car counterparts.
Richard’s 2012 rally season kicked off with the Rallye Sunseeker Challenge event, round 1 of the BRC Challenge championship, which took place in forests in Poole and Dorset. He made a fine start, finishing in second place.
The championship moved to Welshpool for round 2 with the Bulldog Challenge rally. This event used some of the classic rally stages in Wales to provide a stern test of driver and machine. Sykes put in a great performance to take victory on the event, a result which moved him to the top of the championship leaderboard.
The title battle will resume in late April with the Pirelli Challenge rally which is based in Carlisle and uses forest tracks in Kielder and Kershope forest to provide the competitive action. From there the crews will head to Kelso in the Scottish Borders for the Jim Clark Challenge event on the first weekend in June. In contrast to the first three rounds the Jim Clark rally takes place entirely on closed public roads. The road closure means that usual traffic laws do not apply so the cars can legally hit speeds of over 120mph.
Round 5 of the championship, the Ulster Challenge rally, also takes place on closed public roads before the season ends in Yorkshire with the Trackrod Challenge rally which uses the forests around Pickering and Scarborough to provide a tough end to the season.
Richard’s aim for the season is to win the BRC Challenge title and with a healthy lead in the championship after two rounds he has made a great start in achieving his goal. Please visit www.gisykes.co.uk/rally.html to see how Richard and his Citroën get on in the remaining rounds.