Saturday, July 20, 2024

PREVIEW: 2023 FIA World Rallycross Championship – Lydden Hill, UK

For the first time in its all-electric era, the FIA World Rallycross Championship is coming home. Lydden Hill, UK, the track where rallycross was born on 4 February, 1967, plays host to the fourth round of the 2023 season on 22/23 July.

Britain has been conspicuously absent from the calendar since 2019, with Lydden Hill having an even longer absence since being replaced by Silverstone for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. The track has undergone some changes, most notably with the first corner, formerly known as Chessun’s Drift, which is now significantly wider and banked, encouraging more overtaking and battling throughout the turn. The Joker section has also been reworked. But the bones of the track remain the same, including iconic sections like Devil’s Elbow and the cars charging up Hairy Hill.

Timmy Hansen in action at a packed Lydden Hill in 2017. Credit: @World / Red Bull Content Pool

Several of the faces on the grid will be familiar to the crowd. However, none of the drivers on this year’s grid have won a round of world championship at Lydden Hill. Championship leader Johan Kristoffersson is still very much the man to beat, having won every round of the 2023 championship so far. He will be hoping to add Lydden to his impressive list of tracks he has conquered.

However, competition for the win will be coming from all sides, including within his own team. Teammate Ole Christian Veiby has been looking very aggressive so far, and came within a tenth of a second of causing upset last time out at Höljes, Sweden. Reviewing his performance after Höljes, he set his stall out, saying “I’m reducing the gap at each round – maybe next time I’ll get him…

Adding to the challenge is Norway’s Sondre Evjen, who joins the KMS team for the first time. Evjen secured a spectacular victory in Latvia in the 2022 FIA European Rallycross Championship, pulling off a superb strategy against eventual champion Anton Marklund. He is eager to step up to the highest level: “I have long wanted to drive one of the electric cars in World RX. I’m really looking forward to it, although I’m of course also a bit nervous. I can’t set my hopes too high for my first time, but I want to get a feel for the car and try to find the flow.” With such experienced teammates as Kristoffersson and Veiby, it surely won’t be long before he is on the pace.

Kevin Hansen and Timo Scheider flying in Sweden. Credit: Rallycross Promoter GmbH / Red Bull Content Pool

Similarly flying through the field is the Hansen World RX Team. Led my rallycross legend Kenneth Hansen, the most experienced team on the grid will be hoping to capitalise on the momentum they carry with them from Höljes, where Timmy Hansen secured his first podium of the year. His brother Kevin Hansen currently sits third in the championship and is relishing the challenge of being back at Lydden. “I essentially began my rallycross career at the track and won in both Suzuki Swifts and RX Lites, so for me, it’s great to be back,” he said, adding “It’s the home of rallycross and personally, I’ve had a lot of great memories there.” The Checkered Flag will be speaking to both of the Hansen brothers on Saturday to discuss the season so far, so keep your eyes peeled!

Elsewhere on the grid, Kristoffersson can expect a strong challenge from the CE Dealer Team. Finland’s Niclas Grönholm is second in the championship but is already a whopping 27 points behind the leader. If he wants to launch a serious championship campaign, he needs to close that gap, effective immediately. Grönholm’s teammate, Klara Andersson, has already won at Lydden this year, in an RX150 buggy at the start of the British Rallycross Championship, so arguably is in a strong position to know the track.

Special ONE Racing have been making great strides this year and will be hoping that the stars align for a podium finish at Lydden. Leading the charge is 9-time World Rally champion Sébastian Loeb, who competed here back in 2017 and just missed out on a podium finish. His spectacular Lancia Delta Evo-e RX has been the star of all the paddocks visited so far. At the home of rallycross, with a display of vintage rallycross machinery forming part of the weekend, the Lancia will be a major talking point.

Timo Scheider completes the grid in his ever-improving SEAT Ibiza. The German has already caused an upset this year by getting to the podium in Hell, Norway, and as the season develops, his pace has remained enticingly rapid.

The Cooper Tires World RX of United Kingdom takes place at Lydden Hill 22/23 July 2023. Stay with The Checkered Flag for updates and exclusives throughout the weekend!