CROFT MAY 15/16 PREVIEW – ETSL ST-XR CHALLENGE


Since the beginning of what turned out to be a troubled and interruption-filled 2020, the ST-XR Challenge has seen an incredible rise in popularity and interest, as a whole host of new drivers joined the paddock as well as some returning faces. Thankfully, that gave the championship plenty of momentum to carry that interest into the winter as we now head to the opening races of 2021 at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire with a staggering 30 car entry ready to race. Plus, with a new title sponsor on board in the shape of ETSL (Evercold Technical Services Ltd), the only way is up throughout this year.

Last year’s shortened season was thoroughly enjoyable in its own right, as Class D front runners William Heslop and former multiple champion Mark Robinson battled back and forth across the four meeting calendar. Through two visits to Oulton Park, Silverstone and Cadwell Park, Heslop managed six victories from nine races, putting him as the runaway overall and class champion after Robinson sadly had to miss the final rounds due to travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Heslop appears to have moved on to a new challenge, leaving the door open for someone else to pick up his crown.

The favourite may very well be Robinson, who can already boast multiple titles in the past and took to Class D very quickly. Usually wherever he was on track last year, Heslop was too and he was able to get the better of William twice with two wins in the first half of the season. With his main 2020 rival now seemingly no longer present, the way will surely be clear for him to mount another serious challenge to come out on top by the end of the calendar. But there are certainly those who will be out to stop him.

Tensport Performance made their debut in the ST-XR Challenge last year with Chris Grimes and Sam Beckett leading their line. Having completed a successful freshman season, the team now enters their sophomore campaign with a much-expanded line-up of cars, all featuring superb looking liveries. Among them, Grimes and Beckett are back once more with Chris aiming to score another win or two to put himself into title contention, while Sam will be aiming to get up at the front as much as possible with his teammate. Watch out for their cars on track as they will be incredible to look at, at least!

There’s former champions and converts from other classes that make up many of the bumper ST150 entry, with Michael Heath certainly looking to make a winning start in his first year out of a Fiesta XR2. He’ll be hoping that his pace can match the kind of form he achieved when he was winning titles just a few years ago and will want to start strong at Croft. Many drivers have decided in the last couple of seasons to move up from Class B for the Escort XR3i, including the Bowron family’s trio of Lee, Lewis and Ryan, plus Michael Blackburn and Chris Jones, another driver who needs no introduction in the ST-XR paddock. All will be looking to make sure that they can come away from Yorkshire with a strong points haul to start their title ambitions off in the right way.

More familiar names are back in the entry such as Paul Brettell, Christopher Rowlands, Ron Loffstadt, Tony Mumford and Darren Watson, all of whom have been around for several seasons and know their competition well. There’s also a great influx of newcomers to the grid and we’re delighted to welcome Mark Blunt, Luke Woodward, Gareth Pilling, Jordan Shorrock and Steve McMurrough to our ranks, all in Fiesta ST150s too. Great to have you with us!

In the other classes, Jason Heneffer has stayed loyal to his trusty old Escort XR3i in Class B and John Spencer slips back into his Class C spec Fiesta Si, while Class A still features a handful of the evergreen Fiesta XR2s. Simon Robinson will be hoping to come out on top and he will have competition from Daniel Cooper, Alex Causer and Paul Green through this season. With all things considered, it’s going to be a fantastic year of racing for the ST-XR Challenge and the bumper grid for the season opener means the on-track action is going to be exceptional!

Scott Woodwiss