Stage concern

Opinion from the world of historic motor sport

How old is old enough? It is a question that has sparked debate among followers of historic special stage rallying following confirmation that 1990 cars can now be classified as ‘historic’.

Taking the lead of the FIA, the UK’s governing body the MSA has moved the cut-off date for historic rally cars forward from 1985 to the end of 1990. This group of cars, known in the UK as Category 4b, will allow four-wheel-drive turbocharged cars running to Group A regulations to compete as historics.

The Ford Escort Mk2 remains British historic rallying’s performance benchmark and some enthusiasts believe four-wheel-drive cars will damage support for their sport and drive competitors away. The Ford Sapphire Cosworth, Mitsubishi Galant and Subaru Legacy are all eligible.

Among those preparing a Category 4b car is former asphalt ace Andy Fenwick, who plans to enter a Subaru Legacy in next year’s BTRDA Historic Cup. Such cars will run with a 38mm engine restrictor in line with FIA regulations and some experts believe that will allow cars to run with at least 300bhp.

Feelings are running high. Some argue that regulations and classes must stay open to newer cars in order to keep the sport relevant. Others believe class structures should allow drivers to compete fairly against cars of a similar age and performance, but that the playing field will no longer be level if one class straddles an era of innovation.

Some of the UK’s major historic rally championship have already taken matters into their own hands. “We are not going to permit four-wheel-drive cars into the MSA British Historic Rally Championship for at least the remaining two years of our current contract,” said Colin Heppenstall of the Roger Albert Clark Rally Motor Club.