Published: 18:00, 15 April 2014 |
Updated: 16:34, 16 April 2014
Stars from across the world of rallycross gathered at Lydden Hill today to preview the start of a historic season for the sport - and the circuit.
For the first time ever in its history, rallycross will receive world championship status this season and Lydden - the true home of the gravel and tarmac sport - will host the much anticipated round two of the championship on May 24-25.
Before the FIA World Rallycross Championship rolls into Kent and brings thousands of fans with it, guests from print, TV and radio media were invited to the track, near Canterbury, for a special behind-the-scenes preview.
Championship star Liam Doran, from Sittingbourne, was joined by current British Touring Car champion Andrew Jordan and a host of world class drivers all gaining important testing mileage before the opening round in Portugal in just three weeks time.
As the drivers pounded their way around the track, the championship's managing director Martin Anayi explained what local fans can expect when his series comes to the county.
With around 35 of the championship's headlining Supercars hoped for in May, Anayi was full of optimism ahead of the showcase Lydden round.
"This has got to be the biggest thing in Kent," he said.
"We are bringing a world championship to Kent, to Dover and Canterbury. That is unique and the local community needs to get behind it.
"It doesn't matter about thousands of people watching the championship in France on TV, what matters is that we have ten to 15,000 people here.
"We had ten (thousand) last year and we should get to 15 for this year.
One thing Anayi is hoping for is nice weather, as was experienced in 2013.
"On a nice summer day, the bank (where spectators park) can hold a massive crowd.
"We are hoping for good weather and we've moved it a month back to give it an extra chance. It will be a community event, a family day out.
"I think it will be a great event. If local people get behind it, it will be here for many years."
Circuit owner Pat Doran echoed Anayi's thoughts and is delighted to host a round of the prestigious world series.
"Of course we are looking forward to it," he enthused.
"The world will be here. People don't believe that but people from America and all over will be here. It's a privilege for Kent.
"It's a dream for all of us here at Lydden."
Since 2009, the European Rallycross Championship has returned and held a round at the circuit - but Doran believes this is a step up.
And to help prepare for the Autosport World RX of Great Britain round in May, the UK's shortest circuit is undergoing an impressive facelift.
"It's gone up another notch," he said. "And we're improving facilities here. We're working with the local council and have great local support.
"We're bringing the tower (the commentary box and control tower) into the 21st century and are improving things - not to grow, but to improve what we've got."
Back on track, current BTCC champion and 2014 points leader Andrew Jordan enjoyed returning to his rallycross roots.
The last time Jordan drove a Supercar was at Lydden in 2007, where he beat Pat Doran in a thrilling final, and the 24-year-old was pleased to return.
He will race in the May event as a one-off for the top OMSE Ford Fiesta team.
"It's good to be back where I first started," he said.
"I'm getting quicker and the track is exactly the same as it was about seven years ago!
"I'm pleased to be doing the event in a top car, to come back in a good car and arguably the best on the grid.
"I think I'll be there or thereabouts (in May) and I'm looking forward to it."
Tickets for the FIA World Rallycross Championship presented by Monster Energy, Round 2, Autosport Rallycross of Great Britain at Lydden Hill on 24-25 May are available.
Via either the official lyddenhillevents.co.uk website or the Ticket Hotline on 0844 858 8518 (calls cost 6p per minute plus network extras).
Discounts of up to 20 per cent are on offer for those booking in advance.
Accompanied children aged 12 and under are admitted free.
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