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

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


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

Chris & Shaun learn the Irish roads

Last week Chris Wheeler & Shaun Layland took on the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally in their DS3 R3T.

The rally was held over 11 special stages covering fifty-five stage miles. This would be Chris & Shaun's first time competing in Ireland together & Chris's second time in Ireland, the first time being the Ulster rally back in 2013. The aim of the event would be to complete the rally & to gain valuable experience & knowledge of the stages. The team would have a fourteen-hour journey to reach the event from their home town in Torquay, sleep would be needed as much as possible to be fresh for the Saturday morning loop of stages.

The morning stages had mixed levels of grip, some sections being dry & others being slippery on the mud in the lanes or standing water on the double width roads. The DS3 was going well & considering it is now eight years old it was holding up well against the more modern cars.

As the rally went on Chris jumped up fifteen places & started putting in more competitive times which was what the team would be hoping for as Chris & Shaun started to learn the Irish roads. In the afternoon the confidence grew, it ended up being an enjoyable day for the team & with a finish, it was a massive learning curve.

Chris has said, the Irish lanes are amazing to drive, very fast & with some fantastic jumps which we can get big air on, we may not have got the result we wanted but considering we are in old technology compared to most & our first time on these roads, we have not done bad at all. We will be returning to Ireland as this seem's like the place to be & where we can compete against top drivers which will help up our pace.

Next stop on the Chris Wheeler Rallying calendar is the Three Shires Stages back in England. This event is England's third closed road rally under the new road closure regulations. Eighteen stages held on just one day, covering forty-eight stage miles with seventy-five Liasion miles. It'll be team CWR's home event & one not to miss, it also features a spectator stage which the crews run through twice, it includes a water splash & a jump.

To see all our updates & news head to Chris Wheeler Rallying on Facebook.

25th overall & 3rd in Cass for CWR at Manx National Rally

Chris Wheeler & Shaun Layland competed on the Manx National Rally last week in there Citroen DS3 R3T. The Manx Rally is an iconic event known for it's technical roads & history. Over recent year's the Chris Wheeler Rallying team have not had the best of luck on the Isle Of Man, but this time they went to the island with anything but not finishing in mind.

The last time Chris finished this rally was back In 2012 In a Ford Fiesta MS1. The event held two day's of competition which included four stages in dusk, four in night & eight on the second leg of the rally all in daylight. The stages totalled 100 miles of competitive driving. Chris & Shaun spent two day's of recceing the stages in order to prepare their pacenotes before the event got underway competitively.

Friday morning the Manx Rally held a shakedown stage where crews could get a feel for the stages & the cars before the rally started that evening, this stage Chris went over twice in the DS3, everything felt great & the mood was happy in the team. Leg 1 started with a loop of four stages, Chris & Shaun completed the first loop but was unhappy about the cars handling as they seemed to be fighting with the car to keep it on the road. The CWR team made some adjustments before the second loop of four stages & sent Chris & Shaun on their way hoping the car would improve. The times had improved over the second loop but there was still frustration inside the car, the team had a lot of adjustments to make before leg two would get underway.

Leg two would be the longest day of the event, so all fingers were crossed that it would be a better day. The first two stages of the day Chris was a lot happier with the car, setting some good stage times. The following stages Chris climbed up the leaderboard & was sitting in a much better place. The smiles were finally back inside the car & with the odd moment or two it looked like the CWR team would finish this event & put all the previous years to bed.

The second to last stage was cancelled due to an accident of a previous car on the road leaving one more stage to run which was just over thirteen miles. Chris & Shaun set off, knocking the miles down towards the finish, half way through the stage coming into a hairpin right Chris has a small " moment " managing to do a Scandinavian flick into the hairpin & managing to pull It off in front of the crowd of spectators, a sigh of relief was taken but the crew pushed on & crossed the flying finish. Chris said this was a very tough event but one he enjoyed & to finish the rally with a third in class just tops the weekend off perfectly, bringing an award home. Chris will be returning to the stages again in Northern Ireland on the 20th July for the Carryduff Forklift Down Rally. Until then follow them on social media by searching Chris Wheeler Rallying