About 20,000 spectators watched Swede Mattias Ekstrom snatch victory from Petter Solberg in round four of the FIA World Rallycross Championship at Lydden Hill.
Audi S1 pilot Ekstrom - who was the man in form entering Kent after scoring back-to-back wins in Germany and Belgium - could only finish fourth after four qualifying rounds in the headlining Supercar class.
But after winning his semi-final and starting the final from second alongside pole sitter Solberg, Ekstrom took his joker lap on the first tour and overtook his rival when the Citroen DS3 driver played his joker on lap four.
Ekstrom told KentOnline post-race: “I did not expect it at all.
“When we came here, I knew we were in good shape but we did not have the flow in qualifying and we had some problems.
“We had a very expensive puncture in Q4 when I went from second to fourth – and I knew it would be very difficult from then on.
“We are very good with the tyres, but tyres are one thing and you need to have a car which is still performing."
Swede Timmy Hansen followed Solberg across the line in third place, with Kevin Hansen in fourth ahead of Russian Timur Timerzyanov and Andreas Bakkerud, who was slowed by driveshaft failure.
Solberg, who had dominated the weekend until the final and won in Kent last year, said: “It has been a great weekend – we tried so hard in the final, but we had a different tyre strategy which obviously didn’t work for us.
“The victory was in touching distance – we could see that the pace was there, we had the power and the suspension worked brilliantly.
"The sport is taking off and what a show it was..." - Pat Doran
“Congratulations to Mattias – his joker lap tactics worked well, I could almost reach him but it was not enough.”
Circuit owner Pat Doran estimated about 20,000 people watched the action, beating last year’s total of 15,000.
He said: “It was the best event of the year with the atmosphere and the racing and the massive crowd we had.
“The sport is taking off and what a show it was – Mattias Ekstrom is just class.
“The circuit looked the business and the event has delivered more than we wanted – I want to thank all the team as everyone has worked so hard.”
British hope Liam Doran, son of Pat, struggled with a new 2.0-litre engine aboard his BMW Mini, which blew up in Q4.
He said: “The car is struggling because of the engine balance as the new engine is heavier.
“We are going to have to work a lot to get the chassis to do what it used to do with the old engine.
“We need to get some performance and we have got 10 days before the next round.
“I have never had anything go well at Lydden.”
Nine-time World Rally champion Sebastien Loeb showed strong pace in his Peugeot 208, but could only finish fifth in his semi-final on his first visit to Lydden.
World-famous stunt driver Ken Block failed to reach the semi-final stage in his Ford Focus, finishing 14 overall after four qualifying rounds.
In the supporting classes, Hungary’s Krisztian Szabo took a lights-to-flag victory in his Skoda Fabia ahead of Artis Baumanis and Josef Susta.
In the third round of the RX Lites Cup, Frenchman Cyril Raymond claimed top-spot, beating the impressive Thomas Bryntesson to first place.
Devon teenager Dan Rooke, 18, made his RX Lites debut at Lydden and just missed out on a place in the final after finishing fourth in his semi-final.
He said: “I am really pleased - I managed to pull it back on the second day.
“To finish fourth and that close to the final is quite an achievement and I hope what I have learnt will help in the British championship.”