The Checkered Flag’s Mark Cridland caught up with a legend of rally and rallycross, four-time British Rallycross Champion, British Grand Prix winner 1991, French Grand Prix winner 1992 and owner of the ‘Home Of Rallycross’, Pat Doran at his track, Lydden Hill in Kent to chat about his past and the future of rallycross in Britain.
Doran started his rally career back in 1983 and had his fair share of accidents including a few big ones. “I’ve had hundreds of crashes. One accident I ended up sitting on the other side of my navigator! After I hit a tree, it squashed the car, the seat popped out and I landed on the other door of the car. Yeah, so I’ve had a few. I’ve even rolled the car with my wife three or four times.”
Doran made a name for himself as a bit of a nutcase but things changed in 1990. “I discovered rallycross where I could be a nutcase and not kill myself as I used to end up the trees more times than not. I just used to run out of talent. I wasn’t a good rally driver cos I was too crazy but rallycross, that was me, If I go off, I end up in the sandpit and that was music to my ears.”
Rosie, Doran’s very well known and easily recognisable Ford RS200 Evo2 is currently having some engine work done and there are plans for her to be on track a few times this year. “Rosie is good and still going. She is having her cambelts doing, you cant get the belts any longer so we’ve had to change the pulleys to a Cosworth. I’ll be driving her at the season-opener but only demoing”.
There have been some challenges faced by Doran and his team at Lydden Hill Race Circuit recently with the global pandemic but they are fighting on and as Lydden Hill are now the promotors of this new rallycross championship, there has been a lot going on behind the scenes. The planning permission for the new access road and new offices and hospitality building have been approved. “We start the new road in the spring. It will go from the traffic lights. Then the new building is a three-year programme with groundworks starting soon.”
The new addition to the calendar for this year and going forwards is cycling at Lydden Hill.
“Our new planning is to stick with the fifty-two days of race meetings and track days. The planning permissions do not allow us to do more motorsport but it does allow for experience days, driver training and cycling events.”
Other plans for Lydden Hill include Truck Rallycross, the prototype truck was on display last year but unfortunately, plans for those races were put on hold due to the pandemic but will still happen soon. When asked about the future of rallycross Doran is excited about electric cars. Which for an old-school petrol head, is a surprise.
“We are looking at electric motors and talking to the right suppliers. We realise that it’s the future. We think it’s a little more entertaining than normal electric racing cos the cars are moving around more. We had an open day [at Lydden Hill] last October with only electric cars it was quite good. Although you couldn’t hear the engine noise the cars were still noisy as they were moving around sideways and drifting so you still get that wow factor! Out of all the motorsports rallycross is probably best for it cos they aren’t driving around like shopping carts or sounding like Touring cars going around like bumblebees.”
On the note of Touring Cars, its been quite a few years since we had that kind of racing at Lydden Hill and when questioned about it, Doran said there are no plans to bring it back there. “We are only a mile long circuit, we have our own dreams and will be doing more classic events, vintage cars. Touring cars have never been my thing.”
They recently held a race between a rallycross supercar specification Citreon DS3 driven by Nathan Heathcote and a BTCC specification Subaru Levorg driven by Ashley Sutton with interesting results.
“We had to give the Subaru half a lap head start, how can a rallycross car beat a touring car on the tarmac? Fair enough they have double the horsepower but that’s the whole spectacle of the sport. Touring cars simply don’t go fast enough for me.”
The opening round of the Motorsport UK British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy Presented by Cooper Tires is at Lydden Hill over the Bank Holiday weekend, August 30/31. Spectators are permitted but there will be no public access to the pits/paddock area and there are only a limited number of tickets are available. Get yours from the Lydden Hill website.