The fifth round of the 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship season will be staged next weekend, 27-28 May, at the historic Lydden Hill race circuit in Wootton, Kent. Sadly for many fans, the English racetrack, widely regarded as the spiritual home of the discipline, as the very first rallycross meeting took place there on 4 February, 1967, is set to host the British round of the series for the last time, as the championship will move to an all-new venue at Silverstone, best known for hosting the Formula One British Grand Prix.
Expected to attract a huge crowd, the event set to give its send-off to the iconic circuit on the sport’s fiftieth anniversary will benefit from the support of the World Championship’s feeder series, the RX2 International Series, whose sixteen competitors are all willing to add their name to Lydden’s winners list.
Arguably, the most fired-up on the grid will be reigning MSA British Rallycross Supercar champion, as well as current joint championship leader in RX2, 19-year-old Dan Rooke, who just about missed out on victory on the season’s opener, last weekend in Mettet, Belgium, after an impressive run in the final race.
Rooke’s knowledge of the Kent venue is pretty good, as he won last year’s national championship round there, and also competed in a one-off appearance in RX Lites (that is, the RX2 Series before being rebranded).
“It will obviously be a special weekend, but in truth, I’ve just got to tackle it like I would any other race meeting,” he explained. “If I start thinking too much about it being the last event at Lydden and the home crowd, I will only put more pressure on myself. I need to push all that to the back of my mind and simply focus on the job in hand, and of course I would love to win – or at least finish on the podium.
“I received massive support there last year when I made a one-off appearance in RX Lites, and to return as the reigning British Rallycross Champion will be a great feeling. I’m looking forward to performing in front of the British fans again, and I know there’s a big group coming up from Devon – at least one minibus load if not two!
“I love Lydden. It’s quite a fast-and-flowing track and knowing it so well, I might have a bit of a head-start to begin with but we saw at Mettet just how high the calibre is in RX2 this year, so I’m sure it won’t take long for the others to catch up and it will be an extremely tough battle. Bring it on!”
If he wants to win, Rooke has to face some particularly strong opposition, starting from reigning RX Lites champion, Mettet final winner as well as joint championship leader, Cyril Raymond, whose recovery from subpar qualifying performance to final win last weekend was nothing short of impressive.
Sweden’s Simon Olofsson looked set to win the season’s curtain raiser, after a great start in the final, until a puncture and subsequent collision ultimately killed all of his hopes – but not his determination to strike back.
American ace Tanner Whitten, Raymond’s team-mate at Olsbergs MSE, also made up for a troubled start with an overall podium finish, and ahead of round two, he aims at another great result.
Norwegian aces Glenn Haug and Sondre Evjen, rally converts Vasiliy Gryazin (Russia) and Guillaume De Ridder (Belgium), as well as Sweden’s Anders Michalak and William Nilsson all enjoyed some good placements last weekend and will be looking to build upon their promise and potential in round two. Norway’s Thomas Holmen was quick but unlucky, and Kenyan teenager Tejas Hirani narrowly missed out on the final, despite showing strong pace all weekend
Fast female Sandra Hultgren of Sweden was another whose chances were hurt by bad luck, while karting siblings Andreas and Jessica Bäckman both treated the season’s opening race as a learning curve and will return in stronger form next time out. Norway’s Simon Syversen, finally, will be looking to get his campaign off the mark after a fuel pump failure prematurely ended his Belgian weekend.
Action for the RX2 Series at Lydden will start on Saturday morning, 27 May, with the free practice session, followed by the first three rounds of qualifying heats. The remaining qualifying round, the semi-finals and the final will instead take place on Sunday.