Rallycross is coming home

by Hal Ridge |

The first guide to form in the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship will emerge at the official pre-season test event at Lydden next week. The first round of the championship takes place at Lydden on Easter weekend, so the opportunity for teams and drivers to run on the track ahead of the season opener is a valuable chance to gain some early mileage on what remains the fastest track in the nine-event series.

Lydden Hill, is where it all began – the first rallycross event was run at the Kent track in 1967 – and as the ‘Home of Rallycross’ it retains both a special place in the sport and poses its own particular challenge to the drivers.

“Getting a really good lap at Lydden is very satisfying, it’s not easy but when you get everything right then it feels very good – specially when you are in front!” says Kenneth Hansen, with 14 European titles to his credit the most successful rallycross driver ever. Having now made the move from driver to team owner, Hansen recognises Lydden’s unique place in the sport. “There is a lot of history associated with Lydden, but it’s different for the drivers because it’s quite fast, specially compared to the kind of tracks that Nordic drivers are used to. From North Bend through Paddock Bend is one of the best sections in Europe, down the hill your are in sixth gear, then down to fifth for the corner, onto the gravel and back into sixth. It’s hard to get right but I loved that part of the track when I was racing and now I will be working hard with my drivers to help them learn the track.”

Sitting in a natural amphitheatre Lydden also offers one of the best viewing experiences in the world for race fans. The whole track can been from almost all viewing points. Our recommendations for a couple of specially good places to watch would be on the exit of North Bend and the outside of Paddock. North Bend (the hairpin at the top of the hill) provides places where you can look down on the whole circuit and see some brave overtaking manoeuvres into, and out of the corner. The other position of choice is at the bottom of the hill on the outside of Paddock Bend, an incredible place to watch Supercars drift sideways on full throttle carrying almost impossible speed into the gravel section as they dash for the finish line.

The circuit’s character has changed in recent years after the finish line was moved from its traditional location half way down the Dover Slope to the exit of the chicane at end of the Paddock Bend gravel section. It has changed the race lengths to a complete number of laps instead of finishing with a half lap as it did in the past. Getting a good run through Paddock Bend is as important to getting a good lap as it ever was but now it also entices people to go for overtaking manoeuvres in a very difficult place that in the past would have been considered optimistic at best. And, with the finish line moved, a driver has to keep it absolutely nailed through the chicane which, as mentioned, makes this a great section at which to watch the action.

Finally, an opportunity that cannot be missed is to stand next to the startline. There are few locations in motor sport accessible to the general public that allow such a close proximity to an experience as incredible as watching a grid of rallycross Supercars popping and banging, making the ground shake, accelerating to 60mph faster than a Formula One car. It certainly is a must for any Lydden Hill spectator.

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