April bank holiday weekend saw the first round of the European Rallycross Championship (ERC for short) take place at Lydden Hill Racetrack and I’ll be honest, I knew very little about Rallycross until my arrival at the track Sunday morning. For those uninitiated newcomers, what makes this type of racing truly stand out is that it’s a race that takes place on dirt and tarmac.
Shifting fast between the different types of terrain takes a lot of skill as you’d imagine, and the drivers are constantly having to adjust to the ever changing conditions that the track layout presents as well as the impact of the varying weather conditions…
Whilst I’m on the subject of the weather, it was roughly a two hour drive to the track from home, and in true British style it rained the whole way. In fact, I’m certain it got heavier as I approached the track. Staying as positive as ever, I did not let this get me down. Hey, I’m used to doing event coverage in the rain by now When I finally arrived, I was surprised as already so many spectators were setup around the track.
Parked up, opened my door, and I was greeted by… heavy rain. Then it hit me, the noise of some seriously impressive cars being prepared in the paddocks. I could see why so many people were already here, I was in the right place!
After signing on as media, and confirming my brief with Monster Energy I set about exploring the paddock area and taking it all in. My first impressions were how cool it was for the public to be able to get so close to the drivers and their cars.
Sunday was a practice day, with only the one race planned for that afternoon. Free practice began very soon after my arrival and the track and surrounding area became alive! The various different groups taking part in the Championship took to the track to achieve their best times. These would then go on to dictate their standing in the opening races.
Rain didn’t stop for one moment throughout the day, and amazingly the track was all the better for it. Power slides were the norm as drivers came onto the mud sections, which may not have been the fastest lines for them, but damn they looked cool!
Tanner Foust gained the quickest time in free practice. Britain’s own Liam Doran was very close behind. Both drivers fully focused and on top form heading into the first and only heat planned for the day.
Sadly the first round scheduled for that Sunday afternoon was postponed due to issues with the start line. The false start detector system was playing up on the grid.
Liam Doran, a local hero, who could very well call the Lydden Hill racetrack his home, went over to help out. They were nearing the 6pm cut off point for racing, so the decision was sadly taken to delay the first round till Monday morning.
Monday came round fast, and surprise, surprise, the weather was just as bad as the day before. Love it! The good news however, was the previous day’s starting line issues were fixed. All the heats were taking place as planned, and Tanner Foust quickly built on the times he’d achieved yesterday. After the first heat, Tanner Foust was 2 seconds faster than the rest of his competitors in the Supercar pack.
Liam Doran had problems in the heats. However he did achieve the fastest individual lap time of the day. After having some car to car contact and coming off the track in the heats, these caused him to eventually end up down in the pack rankings.
The rain was incessant. Having access to the paddock area meant that I could witness the hard work of the technicians and mechanics to get the cars exactly right for the conditions. It was definitely a baptism of fire for these 2012 teams to learn how to deal with these wet conditions.
Now, it’s my understanding that like most motorsport, Rallycross is not supposed to be a contact sport. But there is one racing line and EVERYONE wants to use it! Battle scars are common among the competitors. Liam Doran, the British Monster Energy driver, who I spent my time following gained some pretty evil scars on his Citroen. After each heat, the team of mechanics and engineers, in the most awful conditions, set about doing their best to get the car up to the correct standard. The manic state of Liam’s Paddock was fascinating to watch. Throughout the developments of the day, everyone in the team knew exactly what to do and when to do it. What impressive teamwork!
The final came round quickly with Tanner Foust on pole after an incredible day of faultless driving in very hard conditions.
Tanner Foust led the last race pretty much alone, but the fierce fighting behind him was apparent throughout the final!
Liam Doran had an equally impressive end to his day. After not doing so well in the heats, he won his Group B final. This meant that he had earned his position in the final to be at the back of the pack. It was to be a hard fight for him, but he did not disappoint us one bit!
He was able to take a podium position and finished 3rd! A true fighter that proved his passion and skill in the sport with this fantastic achievement. Nothing is ever over till the checkered flag is waved.
Tanner Foust took 1st place in round one of the 2012 European Rallycross. The Norwegian Mats Lysen finished in second place, and the British home driver Liam Doran claimed 3rd as his own after a fierce battle.
This was definitely a fantastic weekend. It is always a pleasure witnessing such incredible teamwork create such awesome outcomes in tough situations. At the end of the day, I headed home covered in mud, wet and cold, but with a huge smile on my face, totally worth it