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Lydden Hill jump and Nascar-style banking to remain following successful Nitro Rallycross debut

A huge jump and Nascar-style first bend will remain part of Lydden Hill's rallycross track following a successful debut last weekend.

Circuit bosses made a raft of alterations ahead of the Nitro Rallycross round, with owner Pat Doran using a digger to reshape Chesson's Drift himself.

Chesson's Drift has been turned into a banked bend. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Chesson's Drift has been turned into a banked bend. Picture: Nitro Rallycross

The newly banked first corner has been renamed Talladega and the joker lap, which previously went around the outside of the opening right-hander, is now sited at Paddock Bend.

Dover Slope is no longer used, with competitors instead running on a new section through the infield which includes the tabletop jump before Devil's Elbow.

Doran says he "couldn't have asked for anything more" following six weeks of preparation for the meeting, which marked the start of the championship's new Group E electric era.

"The track is going to stay like it is now – we haven't done all those changes for the short term," he told KentOnline at the end of Sunday's meeting.

"I think the crowd loved it. Everyone on the spectator bank has gone 'wow' and said how brilliant it was to watch so we're looking forward to 5 Nations [the British Rallycross Championship] in November and moving on from there.

Five-time WRC event winner Kris Meeke – who drove an RX150 buggy at Lydden during a demo run in 2008 – qualified on the front-row for the final but was taken out at the first bend. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Five-time WRC event winner Kris Meeke – who drove an RX150 buggy at Lydden during a demo run in 2008 – qualified on the front-row for the final but was taken out at the first bend. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
The joker lap is now sited at Paddock Bend and produced close finishes at the weekend. Picture: Vic Wright
The joker lap is now sited at Paddock Bend and produced close finishes at the weekend. Picture: Vic Wright

"It was a fantastic event. The track lasted the weekend with 1,000bhp electric cars going over it and little old Lydden just outside Dover has just had millions of views across the world."

When asked whether Nitro will return, Doran – who watched his son Liam race in the series last season – said "we're maybe not extreme enough for them".

"They like to have more jumps, which isn't Lydden as we have a lot of tradition here like Goodwood," he added.

"We're willing to do what we're doing now, and we've modernised the circuit and given it a lot more character, but whether it's enough for them, we'll see."

Reflecting on the meeting, Doran said he was delighted with how it went following a "little bit of indecision" from the championship organisers ahead of the event.

Circuit owner Pat Doran said the Lydden team worked flat-out for six weeks ahead of the event
Circuit owner Pat Doran said the Lydden team worked flat-out for six weeks ahead of the event
The original joker lap, seen here in 2012, split the pack at the first bend. Picture: Vic Wright
The original joker lap, seen here in 2012, split the pack at the first bend. Picture: Vic Wright

"They took all winter and right through to spring to get their act together because there was a delay in building the cars and getting them finished," he said.

"But to end up with the meeting we did is extraordinary for them and us.

"They brought hundreds of Americans here and shipped everything over – it was a massive effort by them, without a doubt, and it was lovely to be able to hold it here."

Event winner Robin Larsson, a two-time European Rallycross champion, takes off over the jump. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Event winner Robin Larsson, a two-time European Rallycross champion, takes off over the jump. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
How the jump looked one week before the event. Picture: Vic Wright
How the jump looked one week before the event. Picture: Vic Wright

US stuntman Travis Pastrana, the reigning champion and co-founder of Nitro Rallycross, said it was "really cool" to have a chance to race the new FC1-X machines at Lydden.

"The fans and everyone here seemed really excited to have an event of this calibre coming back here," he said.

"We bottlenecked a little bit coming out of Talladega, we knew that was going to happen but we just couldn't really change too much of the track.

"Hopefully if we come back we'll make a few more adjustments and we'll be able to do a gap-jump in there somewhere.

Pastrana enjoyed the Lydden circuit, including the "little" jump
Pastrana enjoyed the Lydden circuit, including the "little" jump
Chesson's Drift - seen here in 2016 - has been redeveloped. Picture: Joe Wright
Chesson's Drift - seen here in 2016 - has been redeveloped. Picture: Joe Wright

"Every year we have to keep adding more stuff to excite the crowd to make it a must-see event.

"We definitely wanted to prove we could fly some cars and show everyone how far everything flies in Nitro because it's not very common in Europe to jump.

"We're working with the FIA and trying to get all the sanctioning and everyone up to speed on just what Nitro Rallycross really is."

Robin Larsson, centre, celebrates with team-mate Andreas Bakkerud and Niclas Gronholm. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Robin Larsson, centre, celebrates with team-mate Andreas Bakkerud and Niclas Gronholm. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
The new infield section. Picture: Vic Wright
The new infield section. Picture: Vic Wright

Pastrana, who retired from the final following contact at Talladega, thanked the crowd for getting behind the meeting, which was the first Nitro Rallycross event outside America.

He added: "It's a little tough here with the noise levels – we couldn't have the freestyle motocross show and had to keep the PA down – but I don't know if we need the really loud music to add to the atmosphere like we do in the US.

"I think Lydden has enough history and enough of a fanbase that just really love to see cars, and that's why we are here – to drive race cars."

Following in the tyre tracks of fellow Americans Tanner Foust and Ken Block, Pastrana made his first Lydden start. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Following in the tyre tracks of fellow Americans Tanner Foust and Ken Block, Pastrana made his first Lydden start. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Armco has been removed as part of the Chesson's development
Armco has been removed as part of the Chesson's development

Nitro Rallycross general manager Chip Pankow says his team "have a lot of ideas and are in discussion" about further changes to Lydden, but would not go into details.

"We like long-term agreements so we need to sit down with Pat and have a conversation but we would love to come back – we feel really good about the event," he said.

"When we decided we wanted to go global with Nitro, Lydden was at the top of our list given the history of the track – it's the home of rallycross.

'I think it needed it to be honest - Chesson's Drift had been the same for ages...'

"We thought it would be a great place to start, particularly if we could make a few changes.

"I am really interested to hear what everyone thinks; I think the changes have worked well for the track and for racing."

Pankow thinks the alterations to the one-mile circuit have "almost changed the complexion of the way people populate the hill".

Oliver Bennett catches some air over the jump. The Xite Energy Racing driver will be joined at the next round in Sweden by team-mate Jenson Button, who was unable to race at Lydden due to a clashing commitment with Sky Sports F1 at the Canadian GP. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Oliver Bennett catches some air over the jump. The Xite Energy Racing driver will be joined at the next round in Sweden by team-mate Jenson Button, who was unable to race at Lydden due to a clashing commitment with Sky Sports F1 at the Canadian GP. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Huge machinery was used to keep the new loose section in top condition. Picture: Vic Wright
Huge machinery was used to keep the new loose section in top condition. Picture: Vic Wright

"It was very interesting to see people go down and stand by the jump – it's a really good place to watch," he said.

"I am really pleased with the way the cars performed."

Reigning European Rallycross champion Andreas Bakkerud scored a second-place finish on Sunday, backing up team-mate Robin Larsson who dominated the event.

The Norwegian, winner of the 2014 World Rallycross Championship round at Lydden, rated his performance as 8/10 and described the circuit upgrades as "very cool".

"I think they are a great investment for Lydden; Pat and the boys have done a great job, especially with the White Cliffs of Dover as the base," he said.

Andreas Bakkerud won the 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship round at Lydden. Picture: Vic Wright
Andreas Bakkerud won the 2014 FIA World Rallycross Championship round at Lydden. Picture: Vic Wright
The Norwegian celebrated his victory with press-ups on the roof of his Ford Fiesta. Picture: Vic Wright
The Norwegian celebrated his victory with press-ups on the roof of his Ford Fiesta. Picture: Vic Wright
Ford Fiesta racer Patrick O'Donovan, 18, finished third in the Supercar category last weekend; Adisham's Tristan Ovenden (Citroen DS3) was fourth. O'Donovan hurt his back over the jump in pre-event testing. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Ford Fiesta racer Patrick O'Donovan, 18, finished third in the Supercar category last weekend; Adisham's Tristan Ovenden (Citroen DS3) was fourth. O'Donovan hurt his back over the jump in pre-event testing. Picture: Nitro Rallycross

"I think it needed it to be honest. Chesson's Drift had been the same for ages and rallycross is improving and renewing right now, and the track is a part of that, so all in all I was satisfied with the changes.

"I do think they have to improve a little bit just after the jump as it was very easy to get a penalty there, but that's part of the game and you can't nail everything at once.

"It didn't get dusty like it did in testing, when it was extremely dusty, as they put a lot of money and effort into putting Dustex and water on it – they did some great work.

The new jump will now be used for all rallycross events. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
The new jump will now be used for all rallycross events. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Doran installed old Gulf fuel pumps in the paddock during the off-season. Picture: Vic Wright
Doran installed old Gulf fuel pumps in the paddock during the off-season. Picture: Vic Wright
Larsson, centre, produced a commanding drive in the final. Picture: Nitro Rallycross
Larsson, centre, produced a commanding drive in the final. Picture: Nitro Rallycross

Off track, Doran says Lydden's new access road, which was approved in January 2020 as part of plans for a major redevelopment, could be finished by the end of the summer.

It will allow drivers to get in and out of the venue via Geddinge Lane, close to the traffic lights on the A2, with the existing access point in Dumbrill Hill reduced to a one-way, exit-only gate for large meetings.

In documents submitted to Dover District Council during the planning process, bosses said the new access road has been designed to accommodate the 'highest level of traffic', enabling up to 268 cars to queue within the site while parked.

Work on the new access road above the paddock is progressing
Work on the new access road above the paddock is progressing
The new access road off Geddinge Lane will run alongside the A2 dual carriageway. Picture: Google Earth
The new access road off Geddinge Lane will run alongside the A2 dual carriageway. Picture: Google Earth
The access point in Geddinge Lane. Picture: Google
The access point in Geddinge Lane. Picture: Google

Next spring, groundwork is due to begin on a new building in the paddock which will replace the existing circuit office and medical centre.

The building will feature garages at ground floor level, alongside marshal and scrutineering facilities, a new medical centre, circuit offices and a merchandise sales area.

On the first floor, there will be further offices with a function and viewing area to the garages below, while a VIP and press room will be built in a tower in a second storey.

The current circuit office and medical centre will be knocked down to make way for the new development in the paddock
The current circuit office and medical centre will be knocked down to make way for the new development in the paddock
The new paddock building will feature VIP facilities, garages and a medical centre
The new paddock building will feature VIP facilities, garages and a medical centre
How the paddock currently looks from North Bend Hairpin...
How the paddock currently looks from North Bend Hairpin...
... And how it's set to look once the new development is complete
... And how it's set to look once the new development is complete

The next rallycross at Lydden Hill will be on November 5-6 when the British Rallycross Championship 5 Nations Trophy returns for its season finale. Click here for details

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