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Lydden Hill World Rallycross Championship plan gets support from Motorsport UK CEO

The boss of British motorsport's governing body says Lydden Hill is the "capital of rallycross" and deserves a place on the world championship calendar.

Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, thinks the one-mile circuit should form part of the top-line series again having lost out to Silverstone in 2017.

Lydden Hill hosted the world championship between 2014 and 2017. Picture: FIA World Rallycross Championship
Lydden Hill hosted the world championship between 2014 and 2017. Picture: FIA World Rallycross Championship

Earlier this year, track bosses finally gained planning permission for a £5.5m development of the site, including a new access road and paddock facilities. 

Now Chambers - who visited the circuit this week - says it would be "fantastic" to see the world championship return to the venue, which sits between Canterbury and Dover.

Silverstone hosted the prestigious series in 2018 and 2019 as part of the 'Speedmachine' festival, but this year's calendar does not include an event in Britain.

Chambers told KentOnline: "Silverstone did a great job of packaging World Rallycross and presenting it, but to some extent it was almost lost in the huge real estate of the circuit, whereas the natural bowl here is an amphitheatre and I think Lydden should be the capital of rallycross.

"I think it would be fantastic to have the world championship back in Britain.

Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, is a rallycross fan. Picture: Matt Bristow / www.mattbristow.net
Hugh Chambers, CEO of Motorsport UK, is a rallycross fan. Picture: Matt Bristow / www.mattbristow.net

"I think we should all work towards getting it back into the UK and at Lydden."

Mr Chambers - who took leadership of the UK’s governing body for motorsport in 2018 - described rallycross as "punchy and full of adrenaline" but said the sport "just needs more promotion".

"It was invented at Lydden and the circuit is the home of the sport," he added.

"It's a fantastic location - easily accessible from London, Paris and Brussels - and there's no reason why this shouldn't be the heartland of rallycross.

"I think Lydden would be a great place for the world championship."

How the new building in the Lydden paddock could look
How the new building in the Lydden paddock could look

Mr Chambers was at the track to help launch the rebranded British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy, which starts at Lydden over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

Circuit owner Pat Doran - who has four British titles to his name - says he is looking forward to starting the delayed championship at the end of the month.

He has taken over the management of the series for at least the next three years after winning the tender process held by Motorsport UK last year.

The world series last visited Lydden in 2017. Picture: FIA World Rallycross Championship
The world series last visited Lydden in 2017. Picture: FIA World Rallycross Championship

"With the challenges of what's gone on, I am over the moon to have got to this point," he said.

"The meeting should be going ahead, unless any disaster happens.

"Under the regulations of Motorsport UK and the government, we can run the event with spectators so it should all go ahead fine.

Lydden Hill boss Pat Doran pictured on the night the circuit finally gained planning permission in January
Lydden Hill boss Pat Doran pictured on the night the circuit finally gained planning permission in January

"But obviously we're being super safe - we're only having half the amount of people we would normally have for this type of event.

"Tickets have to be pre-booked and people won't be allowed in the paddock.

"So it is going to be restricted, but at the end of the day it will still be a great event to come to."

British Rallycross organisers have created 'Joker the 5 Nations BRX Jester' ahead of the 2020 season. Picture: MAS Motorsport
British Rallycross organisers have created 'Joker the 5 Nations BRX Jester' ahead of the 2020 season. Picture: MAS Motorsport

Doran says circuit staff will create a walkway around the paddock so spectators can still wander around the circuit.

He is expecting a strong entry for the two-day event later this month - even with coronavirus restrictions potentially ruling out Irish, Dutch and Belgian drivers from attending.

Twelve cars are expected to start in the headline Supercar category, which features 600bhp four-wheel-drive machines.

Organisers say 12 Supercars are set to compete in the opening round of the British championship later this month
Organisers say 12 Supercars are set to compete in the opening round of the British championship later this month

"Covid is restricting us a bit," Doran added.

"But I still think we're going to have in the region of 80-odd cars.

"I think it would've been 110 if it hadn't been for Covid, but all the main cars are coming."

Circuit bosses have been trying to secure planning permission to upgrade the site for the last seven years
Circuit bosses have been trying to secure planning permission to upgrade the site for the last seven years

Doran says circuit bosses are currently "ploughing through planning conditions" after Dover District Council gave his bold redevelopment scheme the nod in January.

Work is set to start on the new access road off Geddinge Lane next year, before construction of a new pavilion building in the paddock begins.

"We would like to start work on the new entrance and road in the spring," Mr Doran said.

"It's a two-and-a-half year programme - we will do the road in the first year and in the second year the building will start going up."

A number of Kent racers will compete this season - including Faversham's Stuart Emery
A number of Kent racers will compete this season - including Faversham's Stuart Emery

Doran said he has been in discussions with World Rallycross organisers, but isn't going to rush into anything.

"We are definitely talking to them," he said.

"We will not be ready to do it until we have the facilities as we lost it before because we didn't have any facilities here as such - not enough to hold a world championship round.

"The new building will allow us to have the facilities to hold world championship-type events.

"But we have got lots of other things going on, too, with classic car and bike events this year like the Lord of Lydden.

"We have lovely events here and we just want to make it a home."

Petter Solberg won the last world championship event at Lydden in 2017. Picture: FIA World Rallycross Championship
Petter Solberg won the last world championship event at Lydden in 2017. Picture: FIA World Rallycross Championship

One of the 12 Supercars on the grid later this month will be piloted by Olympic legend Sir Chris Hoy, who made his rallycross debut last year when he handled a Ford Fiesta in the Barcelona world championship round.

He will drive the Citroen C4 'celebrity car' at Lydden and now has two tests under his belt at the circuit after trying the car for the second time on Thursday afternoon.

During his first drive in a private test session a fortnight ago, the six-time Olympic champion was coached by World Rallycross star Liam Doran.

Sir Chris Hoy has tested twice at Lydden
Sir Chris Hoy has tested twice at Lydden

"I'm enjoying the whole challenge," Hoy said.

"I absolutely loved it when I raced last year so when I got the email asking about this opportunity I thought 'fantastic'.

"Liam is a spectacular driver to watch and he gave me a few tips and pointers when I was down here a couple of weeks' ago.

"I watched him chucking it into the right-hander at the bottom of the hill and it was just amazing."

Sir Chris Hoy will drive this Citroen C4 'celebrity car'
Sir Chris Hoy will drive this Citroen C4 'celebrity car'

Hoy says he is looking forward to making his first start at Lydden, which is set to host cycling events in the future as part of its redevelopment plan.

"People say you can quite quickly get up to pace at Lydden, but getting that last 5% or 10% can take you a lifetime," Hoy added.

"I think that's perfect really as it means there's something for the novices and for the real pros."

Asked whether he has set any targets for the Bank Holiday event, Hoy said: "For me, it's about being in the mix and not seeing the other guys disappear into the distance.

"I would love to be confident enough with the car and my own driving that I could push and have a battle.

"If I can do that and I'm not on my own dangling off the back, then that would be the best-case scenario."

For more information on the opening British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy event on August 30-31, visit www.lyddenhill.co.uk

For more on sport in Kent, click here

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