At first glance Mattias Ekstrom’s hat-trick in the opening rounds of the FIA World Rallycross Championship might seem like a walkover. But his task was by no means easy and he will face strong opposition on May 27-28 when Britain’s round is staged at Lydden Hill, Kent.Sweden’s Ekstrom and his factory-supported EKS-prepared Audi S1 supercar struggled, by his standards, in the latest round at Mettet, Belgium and the current world champion could only finish fourth. He heads to World RX of Great Britain looking for a return to the top step, on a track he loves:
“I always love that place for many reasons. The layout of the track and respect for the British fans. I must admit also the nature of the track has always been a place I like. I’ve always had a lot of good experiences going there so for me it’s a combination that makes me love that place. I look forward to this year, it will be the last time for a while so I will enjoy it as much as I can and try and have a good race.”
Team PSRX Volkswagen fought hard to earn their best result so far for the Polo GTI supercars: Johan Kristofferson came through to win and team owner Petter Solberg was third. Lydden holds special memories for Kristofferson, it was here he became a first time father, but also finished on the podium on his debut.
“I have a very special memory from Lydden because my first and so far only child was born on the day that I raced there for the first time, and I was third on the podium. Rallycross was born at Lydden so for sure it has a bit of a different feeling. I like the track, it’s a bit different from the others, it’s very high speed in some places. The first time I came to Lydden it was very difficult to learn the track quickly, it has some secrets – you can really push but you have to push at the right places.”
Timmy Hansen (Team Peugeot Hansen) led from the start in Belgium, but was delayed by a puncture and could only finish second. Not yet a winner this season, he looks to Lydden for his first victory. “Lydden Hill is a very classic circuit, rallycross has always been there – it’s quite unique to drive on a track like that. Character wise it is very fast, with long sweeping corners, high gears and quite challenging to drive. It’s all about the details to be fast there. There is only really four corners, so that makes the field very tight and you really have to work on the details to get the step over the other guys. It’s not easy to go fast there, but I’ve always felt that it’s my circuit, I’ve not yet won there but I hope we can go there and have a shot at it again.”
So far the factory-supported teams from Audi, Volkswagen and Peugeot have taken turns to set the pace. But Ford USA-backed Hoonigan Racing Division is pushing hard through Ken Block and Andreas Bakkerud and either of these two is capable of winning at Lydden.
Nine-times world rally champion Sebastien Loeb (Team Peugeot Hansen) needs to end his run of bad luck if he is to succeed at Lydden and former European champion Timur Timerzyanov (Team Stard Fiesta) is another hoping to return to winning ways.
Hopes for British success lie with former British Touring Car champion Andrew Jordan (MJP Team Austria Fiesta) and former British Rally champion Guy Wilks (Loco Team Polo). They head the list of home heroes in Supercars alongside former British Rallycross Champion Ollie O’Donovan, and event rookie Oliver Bennett.
24 Supercar drivers will line up at Lydden for the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy. To add to the entertainment there will be supporting events for the FIA European Rallycross Championship for TouringCar and the re-branded RX2 International Series. In round two of TouringCars, Lars-Oivind Enerberg took the win ahead of Anders Braten and Philip Gehrman, leaving Enerberg and Gehrman tied at the top on 48 points.
In RX2 British hopes rest with current British RX champion Dan Rooke, who finished a sensational second in the opening round in Belgium, to reigning champion Cyril Raymond, the pair sharing the joint lead at the top of the points. Completing the action at the Home of Rallycross, celebrating 50 years since the sport began at the Kentish circuit, is a special series of demonstrations featuring iconic cars from the last 50 years.