British championship frontrunner graduates to WRX
British rallycross driver Oliver Bennett will graduate to World Rallycross Championship events this year, driving a brand new Mini Cooper S Supercar.
The XITE Racing team will reveal the new car for the first time at the Autosport International Show on Thursday morning, but had released an artist’s impression of the car.
Bennett switched to rallycross from rallying in 2017, driving a Ford Fiesta Supercar in the British Rallycross Championship and finished third overall, achieving podium results at all but two events. He made his World RX debut at Lydden Hill last May and finished 23rdoverall.
The 25-year old former motocross rider has confirmed that he will drive the new Mini, built and developed by Lydney-based firm Simpson Motorsport, in selected World RX rounds this year, although the British driver is still working on securing the budget to contest a full World RX programme.
“We are putting a campaign together to do all of the European-based World RX rounds, plus the American event in Texas,” said Bennett.
“The six events we are committed to already are my favourite picks; Spain, Silverstone, Norway, Sweden, France and the USA. We are pushing a sponsorship campaign to try and acquire the remaining funds to compete full time in World RX this year.”
The new car, based on Mini’s Cooper production model, is different to the Countryman version that has previously been campaigned in World RX by JRM, having been developed by Prodrive, and recently acquired by Liam Doran’s LD Motorsports team.
“At some stages I thought it was just too big a mountain to climb [to be ready for 2018] but Simpson Motorsport has managed to overcome some serious time hurdles,” Bennett said. “We have partnered with LD Motorsports to help with the development of the chassis.
"With Liam Doran’s vast knowledge of World RX together with [Simpson Motorsport owner] Julian Smith’s years of circuit racing experience, the car is looking like it will be very impressive and competitive.
"The car is currently on the dry build stage. Once fully assembled it will be dismantled for painting, then final assembly.”
Testing of the new car is expected to begin in March, while the XITE Energy-backed team is planning to debut the car in the first round of the British Championship at Silverstone, the circuit that will host of the British round of World RX from May 2018.
Bennett will also drive his team’s Fiesta in the Autosport International Live Action Arena this weekend.