Motor Sport News - - Retro: Rallycross At 50 -

To the north of Kent’s North Downs lies Ly­d­den Hill. A race track and an Area of Out­stand­ing Na­tional Beauty may seem like strange bedfellows but to rallycross fans the con­nec­tion is in­cred­i­bly ap­pro­pri­ate. The Hairy Hill fenc­ing lined with fans on a sunny Au­gust Bank Hol­i­day Mon­day? Few sights in mo­tor­sport are as ap­peal­ing.

Ly­d­den’s one-mile lay­out is the short­est car-rac­ing cir­cuit in the United King­dom, but it packs in a mas­sive amount of char­ac­ter. And mixed-sur­face mo­tor­sport at the Ken­tish am­phithe­atre is cel­e­brat­ing its half-cen­te­nary this year.

Ly­d­den’s been around since 1955 – it was first a grasstrack venue – but it would be a dozen years be­fore it re­ally made its mark. In 1967, on February 4, Ly­d­den in­tro­duced the world to rallycross. The made-for-tv event, won by Porsche 911 driver Vic El­ford (of Porsche en­durance rac­ing fame) struck a chord.

Rallycross didn’t take off im­me­di­ately, though, be­cause an out­break of Foot and Mouth dis­ease left the cir­cuit out-of- bounds and tor­pe­doed a planned in­ter­na­tional rallycross event in Novem­ber of ’67. Still, the world wouldn’t have to wait for long. While the in­au­gu­ral event was put to­gether with the as­sis­tance of the ITV, it was the BBC that se­cured the rights to broad­cast ‘win­ter se­ries’ rac­ing from Ly­d­den.

As rallycross blos­somed, the Euro­pean Championship came to Ly­d­den for the first time in 1974 – the likes of Franz Wurz (fa­ther of For­mula 1 driver and Le Mans 24 Hours ace Alexan­der) and WRC leg­ends Stig Blomqvist and Bjorn

Walde­gaard com­peted. Ly­d­den hosted Bri­tain’s round on the cal­en­dar un­til 1996 (when the UK lost its place).

Many other star names have graced Ches­son’s Drift over the years – John But­ton (2009 F1 world cham­pion Jenson’s dad), Martin Schanche, Matti Ala­maki, Will Gol­lop, Ken­neth Hansen, Tan­ner Foust, Pet­ter Sol­berg, Se­bastien Loeb and more. On a more na­tional level, Ly­d­den and its Bank Hol­i­day meet­ings have been a sta­ple of the Bri­tish championship for decades.

This May is Ly­d­den’s ‘farewell tour’ on the world stage – af­ter 2017’s World Rallycross round the UK event will move else­where. But nowhere will cap­ture the sen­sa­tion of top­drawer rallycross like Ly­d­den, so savour it while you can.




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