Fri 10 Feb 2023

Back to the birthplace: The story so far…

Lydden Hill is where it all began for rallycross, right the way back on 4 February, 1967. For the first time in six years, the World Championship will return to the popular Kent circuit this summer (22-23 July). Here’s a look back at the story so far...

Lydden hosted the second round of the inaugural World RX campaign in May, 2014. Honours that spring day went to fans’ favourite Andreas Bakkerud, who took the chequered flag in the final just half-a-second clear of Robin Larsson for his maiden World Championship triumph. Guesting home hero Andrew Jordan completed the top three, while a coming-together at Devil’s Elbow accounted for big-hitters Petter Solberg and Tanner Foust.

“I can’t believe it,” an emotional Bakkerud commented afterwards. “I grew up in the paddock, and to now win a World Rallycross round is a dream come true. Jussi [Pinomäki] was pushing me on the radio and it was a close fight until the end, but we stayed calm and made no mistakes all weekend. I’m so happy!”

In characteristic Bakkerud fashion, he then added: “But now I’m concerned... I promised Norway’s biggest broadcaster that I would grow a moustache for my home round in Hell next month if I was leading the championship after Lydden, so now I must stick to my promise and grow a moustache!”

The next two seasons saw world champions monopolising the podium, with wins for Petter Solberg and Mattias Ekström and rostrum appearances for both Johan Kristoffersson – whose son, Colin, was born on the Sunday morning of the race weekend in 2015 – and fellow Swede Timmy Hansen.

While the latter’s third-place finish in 2016 remains his best result to-date at the track, it is the event three years earlier that the Hansen World RX Team star remembers most vividly...

“The European Rallycross Championship season-opener back in 2013 was my first time competing at Lydden Hill,” the 2019 world champion recalls. “It was a crazy weekend. I topped the heats so started on pole position in my semi-final, but I made a bad start and then broke the gearbox – losing fifth and sixth gear. I still qualified for the final and came through in third place with only four gears. That was pretty hectic!”

Younger brother and team-mate Kevin Hansen followed Timmy across the finish line in fourth position in the World RX final in 2016 – four years on from his first proper rallycross test at the circuit in a Suzuki Swift aged just 13.

“Lydden Hill is the home of rallycross and personally, I’ve had a lot of great memories there,” he revealed. “I essentially began my rallycross career at the track and won there in both Swifts and RX Lites, so for me, it’s great to be going back.”

One driver who has not enjoyed such good fortune in the ‘Garden of England’ is Niclas Grönholm, who thankfully emerged unscathed from a high-speed barrel-roll in 2017 and has yet to progress beyond the heats there – a statistic the Finn is determined to rectify this year, describing Lydden as ‘a legendary track’.

Jānis Baumanis narrowly missed out on advancing to his second career final in Britain in 2016, but that has clearly not dampened the Latvian’s enthusiasm for the circuit, as he waxes lyrical about Lydden’s ‘high-speed corners and sideways action on the gravel sections’ and calls it ‘one of the best tracks in rallycross history’.

On the most recent occasion that World RX raced there, indeed, history was made – although nobody knew it at the time. A dominant performance by an on-form Solberg saw the Norwegian defeat PSRX stablemate Kristoffersson for his only victory of 2017. Little did anyone suspect that it would also be the last of his illustrious rallycross career...

Tickets for the 2023 World RX event at Lydden Hill are on sale here.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM