THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER FOR WHEELER AT LYDDEN HILL

THREE IS THE MAGIC NUMBER FOR WHEELER AT LYDDEN HILL

Rally driver Chris Wheeler’s experience of driving at speed on suddenly changing surfaces stood him in good stead when he made his Rallycross debut at Lydden Hill on Saturday May 8th.

The Torquay-based driver overcame wet weather and a slippery track early on and capped a solid performance by taking third place in the Modified Category Final. In the opening race, Chris adapted well to racing head-to-head against other drivers and took third behind Max Weatherly’s Suzuki Swift Sport. Two more third places in the subsequent heats cemented his position on the category Final grid. On a drying track and with speeds rising rapidly, Chris lapped consistently under the one-minute mark, sticking close behind Weatherly and Maciek Florczak’s Citroen Saxo VTS. In the closing stages, his rivals’ greater experience allowed them to pull away and finish 1-2. However, Chris was pleased with third. “We concentrated on being sensible in the heats and then used what we learned to have a really good go in the Final. Scoring a podium placing is a happy bonus” he said.

Post-event, Chris gave his thoughts on the key to success in Rallycross. “You have to make a quick start and your car has to be reliable to handle being driven virtually flat out for the rest of each race. Good race tactics are essential, especially when deciding to drive the ‘Joker lap’ which involves driving around a different part of the course.” Before racing began, the organisers arranged a demonstration of the starting lights procedure for newcomers. “The teach-in was essential because it confirmed that races start when the red lights go out, rather than a green light coming on, which is the procedure in rallying.” Chris concluded “All in all, it has been a brilliant day: we learned a lot and made lots of new friends. Everyone involved in rallycross is willing to help newcomers and I can’t wait to do more meetings.”

The next round of the BTRDA Clubman’s Rallycross Championship for Chris is 7/8 August at Pembrey Race Circuit.

Writer: Ian Harden

WHEELER TAKES ON NEW RALLYCROSS CHALLENGE

Rally Driver Chris Wheeler opens a new chapter in his motorsport career this Saturday (May 8th) when he contests the opening round of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill Circuit in Kent. The Torquay-based youngster will be up against some of the UK’s fastest drivers in the Modified Category, driving a 1600cc Ford Fiesta that he has converted from rally to Rallycross specification. The idea to take on this new challenge came while the Covid lockdown was at its height. Wheeler and his team realised that rallying would be difficult to reintroduce once restrictions were lifted because of how close the driver and co-driver sit to one another. Rallycross, however, only has one person, the driver, in the car. “We thought it would be an excellent alternative and would be very good experience in a friendly but competitive environment” says Wheeler. The Ford Fiesta which he used to win his class in the 2016 British Rally Championship has undergone a transformation to make it eligible for Rallycross. The co-driver’s seat has been removed and new high-level brake lights have been fitted just below the roof line. This is so that drivers can see when a rival is braking and lessen the chance of collisions during close racing.

As he prepares to make the trip from Devon to Kent, Wheeler knows that there will be several significant differences he will need to get used to. “It will be strange to not have my co-driver Shaun Layland sitting next to me guiding me around the course, and I will be battling side by side with other cars. I feel very excited and a little apprehensive, but I am determined to give it my best shot and to enjoy it!”

Writer: Ian Harden

SUCCESSFUL OUTING FOR WHEELER AT THE GET IT SIDEWAYS STAGES

A raft of engine upgrades to his turbocharged Citroen DS3 R3T proved key to success for rally driver Chris Wheeler, as he put in a strong drive to tenth place overall at the Get It Sideways Rally on Saturday (April 17th). Initial natural caution after the long Covid-enforced layoff soon turned to confidence in both the car and his partnership with co-driver Shaun Layland, allowing them to pick off rivals on their way up the leaderboard and finish fourth in Class D, for over 2-litre machines.
Wheeler and Layland were among a full entry of 70 crews at Down Ampney in Wiltshire, for 50 miles of competitive motoring. Organisers, Cheltenham Motor Club, had laid on ten Special Stages and with dry, sunny conditions at the former RAF base, the pace was high from the word go.
Having not rallied for 15 months, Wheeler took the opening five-mile stage cautiously, settling into a position just outside the top 20. However, as he got more familiar with the Citroen’s new power and handling set-up he pushed up the pace to set consistent times on the fringes of the top ten. The Citroen’s distinctive staccato exhaust note echoed across the airfield as he set about overhauling his rivals, climbing from 19th spot to 10th in just four stages. At the finish, a beaming Wheeler said “It’s great to be back with Shaun and the team. The car felt better with every stage, and we were really pushing the limits in the closing miles. Even so, the new set up will take some getting used to, but we are confident the potential is there for a successful season.”
Wheeler’s next outing is at Lydden Hill in Kent on May 8th, when he will make his debut in the BTRDA Clubman’s Rallycross Championship at the wheel of a 1600cc Ford Fiesta.
Writer: Ian Harden.

WHEELER PLANS TO KEEP ON THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW AT THE GET IT SIDEWAYS STAGES

Torquay-based rally driver Chris Wheeler says he is ready and raring to go as he prepares for his first rally in over a year. Wheeler and co-driver Shaun Layland have had their entry confirmed for the Get It Sideways Stages which takes place at Down Ampney, a former RAF air transport base in Wiltshire, on 17th April. The Citroen DS3 R3 Max pairing will be up against more than 70 other crews who will battle over eight special stages, totalling 50 competitive miles. “Everyone is eager to start rallying again as the Covid restrictions ease. The online entry list filled in nine minutes flat, so I think we are lucky to get accepted” he says.
Wheeler’s last visit to Down Ampney in 2019 proved very successful, finishing seventh overall and third in class. As a consequence, he has high hopes for another strong run, although they are naturally tinged with pragmatism. ”The Get It Sideways Stages is a terrific event to begin our season; the stages are fast and flowing and the concrete surface really tests handling and tyre grip. On the other hand drivers may need time to break themselves in because there has been no rallying for a year. It’s a bit of a quandary as to how we approach the day.”
The Devon youngster is planning a busy season that will see him compete in two different forms of motorsport. As well as his rallying commitments he will contest the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship in a Ford Fiesta that he has converted from rally specification. He will make his Rallycross debut at Lydden Race Circuit in Kent on 8th May.

CHRIS WHEELER TO CONTEST MN CIRCUIT RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Torquay-based rally driver Chris Wheeler has high hopes of finally getting his season under way after entering this year’s MSN Circuit Rallying Championship which begins at Oulton Park, Cheshire on November 7th. Wheeler will team up with regular co-driver Shaun Layland to pit their Citroen DS3 R3T against some of the UK’s fastest asphalt crews on the eight-round series which takes place at Britain’s best-known racing circuits: venues include Brands Hatch (Kent), Oulton Park (Cheshire) and Donington Park (Derbyshire).

So far in 2020, Wheeler’s attempts to get seat time have been constantly thwarted by events being cancelled due to COVID-19. However, MSN Championship organisers have stated they will have all relevant safety measures in place at each round and consequently, Wheeler was quick to grab the chance to compete, registering for the series as soon as entries went live online. “The Motorsport News Championship is very popular, and ‘single venue’ rallies are always good value for money, so we got our name down straightaway,” he says.

Looking to the challenges ahead, Wheeler said: “Many of our rivals specialise in single venue rallies, so we expect the competition to be intense from the word ‘go’. Nevertheless, Shaun and I are looking forward to giving it our best shot. Last winter’s updates to the Citroen made an already strong car even better and we are confident we can be in the mix for honours on each round and, we hope, at the end of the season next March.”

Writer: Ian Harden

Wheeler to make rallycross debut

WHEELER TO MAKE RALLYCROSS DEBUT

Rally driver Chris Wheeler will take on a new challenge when he makes his Rallycross debut in August. The Torquay-based youngster will swap his usual Citroen DS3 R3T for the Ford Fiesta MS1 he used to great effect until 2017 and will contest rounds of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship, starting at Pembrey circuit in Wales on 8th / 9th August.
Wheeler will compete in the 1600cc Modified class, as his Fiesta is built to a specification that excludes him from entering the Production classes, where most first-timers start. “I am excited about the new challenge but under no illusions about being competitive first time out,” he says. “Rallycross is all about battling wheel to wheel with your rivals and some of the UK’s best drivers contest the BTRDA series. With rallying cancelled this year due to COVID-19, we looked at alternatives and Rallycross, with its quick-fire format of short races will certainly keep me on my toes.”
Motorsport UK recently gave the go-ahead for some forms of motorsport to restart under strict distancing guidelines. However, rallying is excluded due to risks associated with drivers and co-drivers sitting close together in competing cars. Wheeler originally planned to contest this year’s Protyre National Asphalt Rally Championship but has not driven competitively since lockdown began in March. “The advantage with Rallycross is that it is for drivers only, and by competing we are gaining valuable seat time. But I will definitely miss having my good friend and co-driver Shaun Layland alongside. We will probably have to wait until 2021 to renew our in-car partnership!
Writer: Ian Harden

2020 events

Engine upgrades work well as Wheeler irons out minor glitches at the Bovington stages rally

Torquay rally driver Chris Wheeler put in a powerful performance at last weekend’s Bovington Stages Rally in Dorset, running sixth overall and outpacing a number of local expert crews until an electrical problem caused his early retirement. Despite the disappointment, he came away from Bovington confident that the raft of upgrades he made to his Citroen DS3 R3T over the winter will make his turbocharged machine extremely competitive in this year’s Motorsport UK National Asphalt Rally Championship.

The Bovington Stages, run on military land near the famous Tank Museum consisted of 80 stage miles spread over two days. Despite a treacherously wet track Wheeler pushed the Citroen to its limit from the opening stage. The upgraded machine performed superbly in the challenging conditions, with the engine’s wider powerband giving much greater speed than before, letting him slot into sixth overall and first in class, chasing multi-times Bovington Rally winner Andy Vey’s Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4.

By stage five Wheeler was strongly positioned to take fifth overall when the Citroen suddenly stopped in-stage. Undeterred at the setback, he returned to the service area where his mechanics found a broken crankshaft sensor. With the problem fixed, he returned on Sunday and set several class-leading times in the Trophy event, for competitors who retire on day one.

At the finish, Wheeler enthused that the car had come through a testing weekend with flying colours. “The engine ECU upgrades and the larger turbo restrictor made the car more responsive, with far better acceleration and our new high-grade racing fuel made a massive difference to the engine’s smoothness. If we maintain that pace throughout the coming National Asphalt Championship season I’m sure we can be in with a shout for class honours.”

Wheeler and co-driver Shaun Layland begin their national series campaign at the North West Stages Rally in Garstang, Lancashire, on 21st / 22nd March.

 

Writer: Ian Harden

Dennis delay causes Dorset debut detour for Wheeler

DENNIS DELAY CAUSES DORSET DEBUT DETOUR FOR WHEELER

Rally driver Chris Wheeler reckons a last-minute change of plans, forced on him by Storm Dennis, could give him a stronger start to his season than expected. The Torquay-based youngster will contest his first rally of 2020 at the Bovington Stages in Dorset on February 29th / March 1st, after a problem sourcing specialist race fuel for his Citroen DS3 R3T forced him to withdraw from last week’s Snetterton Stages Rally. Wheeler and co-driver Shaun Layland had already entered the Norfolk event when Storm Dennis intervened, trapping the truck carrying his high-grade racing fuel in an Irish ferry port. “We need this particular fuel because, over the winter, we sent the Citroen’s ECU away to France for re-mapping and the engine’s power characteristics have changed significantly,” he explained. To avoid potential engine damage if he tried to use his old fuel, Wheeler had no choice but to pull the entry.
Pleased now he has secured an entry at Bovington, Wheeler is expecting the two-day, 80-mile rally to be a tough test of both car and crew. He finished eighth overall at the venue last November, which gives him confidence for another good run. “Bovington is very different terrain to Snetterton. The concrete surface really tests tyre grip and the whole drive train gets a workout, especially on the fast sections where there are climbs and dips,” he says. “We are also up against some very quick local experts and we need to be ‘dialled in’ as a team from the word go to get a decent result. Changing from Snetterton will, I think, work out better for us in the long run.”
Steve Wheeler, Chris’s father, will co-drive at Bovington as Layland is not available.
Writer: Ian Harden

Wheeler finishes season on a high at the Challenger Stages

Wheeler finishes season on a high at the Challenger Stages

Wheeler finishes season on a high at the Challenger Stages

Torquay-based rally driver Chris Wheeler ended a successful season on a high by finishing eighth overall at last weekend’s Challenger Stages, held at Bovington in Dorset. Wheeler and co-driver Shaun Layland produced a mature drive in their Citroen DS3 R3T, starting steadily in slippery conditions during the morning before upping their pace as the stage surface dried out. The event attracted a high class field of 66 crews, with many keen to score points in various regional championships. However, Wheeler and Layland were equal to the challenge; using their Citroen’s nimble handling to good effect on the slippery surface they battled for seventh place with Ben Short / Hannah Chislett’s Mazda MX-5.

The two crews remained locked together throughout the morning, and as the tracks dried Wheeler pushed hard, closing the gap to just five seconds. But Short’s light and powerful Mazda had just enough extra speed to hold Wheeler at bay. In the closing miles, Wheeler came under pressure from Andrew Phillips / Sophie Buckland’s two-litre class Peugeot 205 GTi. Now, car preparation came into play; the Citroen ran faultlessly and Wheeler beat his rival by six seconds on the final stage to consolidate eighth overall and second in class. Speaking after the rally, Wheeler was full of praise for the team: “I am really proud of the effort that everyone has made throughout this season. The Citroen has been ultra-reliable and we have a 100 percent finishing record. Also, (co-driver) Shaun has done an awesome job in the car all year. We will prepare the car thoroughly over the winter, ready for our intended move up to a major national championship in 2020.”

Writer: Ian Harden