There were three different winners in the Radical European Masters at Spa-francorchamps last weekend. Manhal Allos and Alex Kapadia’s RAW SR8 took a last lap victory over Jeremy and Andrew Ferguson’s Spyder, while Colin Noble Jr took a debut victory in race two, having led from the start before handing to James Abbott. Tony Wells and James Littlejohn took their third win of the season in a wet race three, as their Nielsen SR8 led from the second lap after demoting Allos/kapadia, who went on to retain second.
The battle between Petter Solberg and Sebastien Loeb has been one of the most eagerly anticipated rivalries of the season.
Both drivers know each other well from their time fighting each other in the World Rally Championship, both are in the World Rallycross Championship and both have top-level equipment to use.
Loeb has ridden into Solberg’s back garden, effectively. Solberg has won the two World Rallycross Championship titles since its inception in 2014. Loeb has dipped his toe in with a couple of RX outings in previous years among other projects, but has now committed full time.
And, the signs for the Frenchman are looking good – and Lydden Hill could have come at just the right time for a lip-smacking contest. Loeb scored a podium last time out in Belgium, as he becomes more familiar with the Peugeot. He is unlocking the secrets he needs to find to be a top player. Solberg knows the challenge is coming, and is desperate to hold on to his spot as King of the Castle.
Factor in back-to-back round winner Mattias Ekstrom too, and it is clear that a real dogfight will take place in Kent this weekend.
There is, of course, a cloud looming over Lydden Hill in the form of its planning application for upgrades to the venue. These are desperately needed to make sure that the track can continue to operate in a financially viable way.
Owner Pat Doran and his team have dragged the circuit up to a position whereby it is now capable of hosting top-level international events, but one meeting a season does not make a track sustainable.
There has to be more happening at Lydden to make the place work, and the council, which has been asked to approve the upgrades to the infrastructure around the circuit, needs to take this on board.
The WRX meeting provides a huge boost for the local economy because it is the overseas round that many European fans come to, being so close to a huge fan base in Holland and Belgium.
Lose that event, and then the rest of the circuit’s schedule is not enough to sustain it. Lydden needs to grow for the benefit of everyone.
Local councillors aren’t just voted in to stop noise pollution. They are elected to protect investment in a local area, businesses, employment and profile. Sometimes they need to be reminded of this.