A NEW low cost rally championship, designed to encourage young drivers into the sport, has been launched by an East Lancashire competitor.

Multiple rally and autotest champion Steve Johnson, who lives in Accrington, has created the K11 Micra Challenge in conjunction with the Association of North Western Car Clubs (ANWCC).

“The idea came about after talking to other competitors and organisers about the escalating costs of stage rallying,” explained Johnson, who is also the North West Go Motorsport regional development officer.

“By creating a championship open to just one class of car, the one-litre Nissan Micra, it offers a way of enjoying the sport without it costing the earth.

“And we have deliberately framed the regulations to keep costs as low as possible, such as the requirement that everyone must use a ‘control’ tyre.

“There are lots of ready-prepared cars around from around £2,500 and we anticipate the cost of entering each event to be around £200.

“By running the Challenge within the ANWCC Stage Rally Championship, competitors have up to 24 events to choose from throughout the year.

“Again, to keep costs down, just eight scores will count towards the title and you can score two of the eight as a marshal.

“Ten years ago, it would have cost around £3,000 to do 10 stage rallies on control Falken tyres.

“We have done our calculations and estimate it would only cost another £500 to do the same 10 events in 2013.”

And Johnson, who competes in a Nissan Micra himself, was keen to emphasis that the car can be used for other motor sport events, not just stage rallying.

He said: “A K11 Micra is also eligible for other events, such as production car autotests and autosolos, which cost as little as £25 an event to enter.”

Johnson and his team launched the series at the Autosport Show, traditionally the annual season curtain-raiser, at Birmingham’s NEC last month.

He added: “There was a lot of interest and we anticipate a healthy entry for our first round, this month’s Blackpool-based Legend Fires North West Stages.”

For more information on the 2013 K11 Micra Challenge, visit www.anwcc.org.