Mini Challenge

Mini Challenge

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

MINI Rallycross is go!!

Sorry to all the readers about the delay in getting this out, combining running 2 race cars, job hunting and the final year of my degree has kept me quite busy... 

This year started off for us with a test day at Blyton Park. The test day proved to be a good opportunity to bring my mum, Helen, up to speed in the Classic Minicross car. First, she got a bit of a scare during a passenger ride around with me in the Supernational BMW Mini, followed by over 2 race days worth of laps in the red car. She tells me that the passenger laps with me helped her get quicker, although I’m not sure because she seemed to spend most of the time swearing! 

Unfortunately, on the next time out in the supernational, this time with my girlfriend in the passenger seat, it threw a driveshaft 1 lap in. We changed it, went out again, but unbeknownst to us, the first driveshaft failure had pushed the engine across, bending the engine mount, and the second one went as well. An easy problem to solve in the end, but due to a lack of spares, testing was cut well and truly short.

Following on from the Blyton test, we returned to the circuit for the first round of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship. I went into the event with a very positive frame of mind as I’d won overall at the circuit before, and during the heats at least, it seemed to be well rewarded! Heat 1 resulted in a 2nd place behind the Lotus of Paige Bellerby and in the 2nd and 3rd heats I took the overall win, ahead of a pair of Lotuses, a twin turbo Porsche Boxster and a BMW M3 to name just a few! This resulted in a pole for the A final. The final itself however did not go to plan. A poor start dropped me into a pack behind the Paige and with a pair of European championship specification Super1600 cars. An accidental altercation between me and the C2s resulted in a puncture and a DNF, although technically still achieving 6th place. The end result on the day was however much better for Helen. After resolutely pinning herself to the front runners throughout the heats, a handful of mechanical issues for other drivers resulted in a 3rd place in class for her. Proof if it was needed that her pace had massively increased since last year! 

Tyre replaced and bodywork damage repaired, we took the Mini to the first round of the British Rallycross Championship at Croft. Croft has never been a strong point of us, and mid-pack results was what we were expecting and achieved throughout the heats. During most heats I ended up stuck behind the E30 M3 of Gary Simpson, which combined with the new surface at Croft being almost like cement dust, the radiators quickly became clogged and overheating problems reared their ugly head, however everyone was having the same issues so we weren’t too worried or disheartened! The finals again was where it took a downturn. While lapping very close to Gary again, his rear wheel studs sheared as he left the hairpin. I was too close to get around him, and quite heavy contact was made, damaging my car to the point where it was craned off the circuit and back to the paddock. Up to this point, we hadn’t seemed to have had much luck.

Turbo fitting.
Our bad luck seemed to continue into the run up to Round 2 of the BRX at Lydden Hill. A freshly refurbished turbo was fitted, but had an oil leak, and the damage had forced us to replace driveshafts, suspension arms and even replace the radiator with an uprated Mishimoto item. A lot of hard work later, with a special thanks to Andy Taylor at AET Turbos for opening up on easter Saturday(!), we made it to the grid at Lydden Hill, a circuit I hadn’t had a full race weekend at for 2 years….

The day started with us seeming to experience the same issues as at Croft, stuck behind Gary in his M3! In spite of the hold up, we managed a respectable 5th in heat 1, and clever use of the circuits joker laps in the following heats resulted in a 4th and 3rd in the final heat! This gave us a front row start for our Semi-Final, in which, after a battle with the Peugeot of Guy Corner Resulted in a 3rd place. Our final went in much the same way, after passing the Millington powered Fiesta of Mike Howlin on lap 2 I had a clear track in front of me, allowing me to really up the pace and get the fast times in. A fast and clear run, along with a mechanical failure for the pace setting Clio V6 of Tristian Ovenden, let us to 3rd place. An epic result, and one that stands us in good stead for the rest of the British Championship!  

2017 so far has been an interesting year, and it looks set to get better from here on, with a new forged engine in build……

Friday, 12 August 2016

The fun never ends in Rallycross!

Representing at Coventry Motofest
Rallycross supposedly has a bit of a quiet season during the summer months - not that you'd have noticed in June and July! 

As I said in my previous post, at the start of June we headed to Coventry city centre for the Coventry Motofest. This was, as in 2015, an amazing event. The city's infamous ring road is closed down and turned into a sprint style circuit for the weekend along with static shows throughout the city centre. We took both our classic and BMW Minis for the BTRDA Rallycross Championship static stand and runs on the ring road, which turned out to be a very useful testing session for both cars as electrical niggles were discovered in both.

We went from Coventry, straight to Blyton Park for the Minis and Modifieds Show and Sprint. Midweek checks of the classic Mini showed a worrying split in the lower front bulkhead, which although only small, meant we had to take the engine and front subframe out of the car, ruling the classic out of the weekend. 

Sprinting at Blyton
We were, however, able to take the Supernational class MINI to Blyton to compete in the rallycross car class in the sprint, where we took a pair of victories over the two days. The sprint was completely different to the rallycross I'm used to, it allowed me to focus on picking my braking points and extracting the absolute maximum out of the car, something not usually possible in rallycross due to the ever changing bumps and ruts on the loose sections.

Heat 1 at Pembrey
At the beginning of July, we were finally able to get back to rallycross at my favourite circuit, Pembrey, with the BTRDA Rallycross Championship. Unlike when we were there for the British Championship, there was bright sunshine throughout the whole weekend so I was able to finally really stretch the legs of the Turbo Mini in a Rallycross format. 

The weekend started incredibly well, a poor start in heat 1, lead to me battling my way through the pack to take the win. Two 2nd place results, behind the MK2 Escort Zackspeed of Tommy Graham, in the second and third heats gave me a 2nd place start in the final.

Air intake modifications
Unfortunately, while battling in the final, the car developed an overheating problem - something we hadn't previously encountered. Ultimately we could only achieve a 6th place result on the Saturday. 

The Sunday followed in similar fashion, with top 2 results in all but one of the heats leaving me with 2nd place on the grid for the final. This time, overnight work to get more airflow through the front of the car had relieved us of our overheating issues and despite a poor start, a hard fought race brought me 2nd overall, again behind Tommy Graham. These results took me up into the lead of the all important Star of the Future standings, for all drivers 21 or under.

Classic Mini action in Belgium
The most recent Mini Adventures have been the annual Classic Minicross trip to Holland and Belgium, this year in its 25th consecutive running. The Minicross Drivers Association runs 'demonstration' races at both Eurocircuit Valkenswaard and Duivelsberg Circuit Maasmechelen, while taking the opportunity to have a holiday in the week between the two.  

Although technically a demonstration, the racing always has its fair share of thrills and spills, with Tommy Edwardes rolling his Mini completely on the first weekend, followed by yours truly half rolling on the second weekend in a near identical incident! Both weekends were won by the ever consistent George Edwardes in his repainted 459. 

We now have a fairly long summer break until Lydden Hill on August Bank Holiday Monday, where I'll be out in the turbocharged Supernational MINI as part of the British Championship. It's always one of the biggest rounds of the year, and I cant wait!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Turbo troubles sorted and series round-up

It's been a while, but we've finally got the turbo R53 on track! Since my last update we've actually had 5 race meetings, 3 of which I've competed at but only for the last one did we manage to get the SG Haulage Supernational Mini out. All sorts of things have held us up, I'll cover those a little later. But first I'll give you a round-up of all the Mini action from the meetings so far.

Back at the beginning of March we had the first round of the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross Championship held at Blyton Park in Lincolnshire. Blyton is really the home of the Minicross Drivers Association and all Rallycross events held there are organised by the club, so as you'd expect there was a good turn-out of Classic Minicross cars. 

My old Minicross car was out on track in the hands of my mum, Helen. She improved a lot throughout the day in what was only her second Rallycross meeting, despite an intermittent misfire. The win in the end went to George Edwardes in the 459 car, followed by Richard Wakeling in 480 and George's brother Tommy in 432. A pair of R50 Minis also featured in the supermodified class, with Yorkshireman David Bell taking the victory over Circuit owner Richard Usher.

The British Rallycross Championship also has a class for R50 and R53 Minis, with prizes for fastest overall and fastest R50. So far the championship has had 4 Rounds, with all wins shared between the Hudson brothers, Keifer and Kris. Currently, Kris is topping his younger sibling by 13 points, with David Bell, winner in the BTRDA Mini class at Blyton running in 3rd.  

Unfortunately, I missed almost all these races. Only occasional appearances in borrowed or hired cars kept me on form. We had delays at many stages of the project, primarily with the intercooler, followed by the downpipe and finally troubles in getting somebody who was able to map the car within the tight timescale which we had.  Finally though, with help from AET Motorsport and Revivals Rolling Road, we got the car out to rounds 3 and 4 of the British Rallycross Championship at Pembrey, all be it running on slightly reduced boost. In the end though, everyone struggled to get their power down, because the weekend was almost a complete washout....

Sunday it rained heavily all day, with delays and longer races caused by rain the day was cut short to 2 heats instead of the usual 3, followed by semi finals and finals. The loose sections on the track took particular care, being just a few centimetres off line dragged you into the deep wet sludge thrown out to the outside of the track.  Out in the sludge nobody had traction, that combined with severely reduced visibility due to rain and mud made for a real race of attrition. Despite this, the Mini Cooper 'T' ran perfectly all day long and managed to score a very pleasing 6th in its first race day out since its rebuild.

We had hoped for improved weather on Monday morning, but we weren't so lucky. The loose sections were still as wet and boggy, and the circuit owners had pulled all the deeper loose back towards the racing line meaning that we spent most of our time scrabbling around for grip.

Unfortunately we didn't have the reliability of the previous day either, snapping a driveshaft in heat 2 and having a throttle body failure in heat 3. Thankfully though we still qualified for our semi final, and after a close battle with the BMW 328 of Vince Bristow we qualified for the final. Again we had a good run in the final, coming in an improved 5th. The car is improving all the time, so I can't wait till we get to take it out again.

Next event we have is the Coventry Motorfest on the 4th and 5th of June, this is a great event running on the Coventry ring road which is always a blast. Following that we have the Minis and Modifieds show and sprint at Blyton Park. This is set to be a great event, and we'd love to see you there, especially if you have a Mini!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Introducing Todd Crooks, new love:mini Rallycross driver

Hello everyone and welcome to my first blog post for love:mini!

I'd like to start by thanking Craig and everyone else at love:mini for inviting me to write for their magnificent website. It's a real privilege to get this opportunity and I'm incredibly excited to be part of the team.

I've got two Mini race cars to my name, the R53-based Rallycross Super Modified car which I use to race in both the BTRDA Clubmans Rallycross championship and the British Rallycross Championship, and a Classic Minicross car, based on a '91 Mini Flame which gets used occasionally in the Historic class of the BTRDA championship.

The R53
The R53 is a bit of a monster. For 2015 it ran the R53 engine, tuned to about 235bhp with a JCW head, reduced supercharger pully and Quaife ATB diff to name a few of the engine mods. In terms of chassis, it's a scratch-built spaceframe wrapped in fibreglass and kevlar bodywork, coming in at 950kg ready to race, with AVO front coilovers and Penske rear coilovers and Avon rallycross slicks on all four corners. 

For 2016 we're stepping up the game in the engine department, we're swapping out the Eaton-made supercharger for a Garrett GTX turbocharger, aiming for around another 100 horses. Last year me and the car won the Super Modified class of the BTRDA Rallycross Championship, so it's no slouch as it is, but with the turbo added it promises to really shift. 

Unfortunately the car isn't quite finished yet, but it should be for the British Championship at Lydden Hill at the end of March and I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of the one-off machine.

The Classic
I've owned and driven the classic for six years now, first as a 998cc Junior Rallycross car right up to its current state, which is tightly governed by the class regulations.

It's got a 1380cc with a single inch 3/4 SU carb and a Kent Minicross spec cam. The 105hp it does put out though is more than enough to make it a very exciting drive, given it's on 10-inch Revolution wheels and Yokohama street tyres. 

The little red Mini and I have been through a lot together; racing in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Belgium, Holland and all over England and loving every minute of it.

I'll be back shortly to give an update following on from the turbo R53's first outing at Lydden Hill with a bit of a race report and also a look back to the first round for the Classic Mini at Blyton Park with my Mum, Helen, at the wheel. In the meantime, there's more information about me and my racing available on my website,, or on my Todd Crooks Motorsport Facebook page, In addition to that, if anyone has any questions you can tweet away to my twitter handle @maranello48 and I'll do my best to answer you!