Lydden Hill Race Circuit
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|Location||Wootton, Kent, United Kingdom|
|Major events||FIA World Rallycross Championship, FIA European Rallycross Championship, MSA British Rallycross Championship|
|Length||1.000 or 0.870 [Rallycross only] mi (1.609 or 1.400 [Rallycross only] km)|
|Lap record||38.3 (Rob Cox, Lola LC88, 1989)|
Lydden Hill Race Circuit (formerly known as Lydden Circuit) is the UK's shortest road racing circuit. The track, previously owned by the McLaren Group, has undergone massive changes to make it the hub of Kentish motorsport. The mile-long circuit is located at Wootton, about half-way between Canterbury and Dover in Kent. The track is mainly used for Rallycross, Drift, Saloon and Sports car racing as well as Motorcycle racing. The track is one of two motor racing circuits in the county of Kent, along with Brands Hatch.
Lydden was founded in 1955 by Bill Chesson with the help of the Astra Motor Club. From 1957, they promoted stock-car racing and grass-track racing for motorcycles – the land on which this took place was owned by Barry Skinner, who sold it to Chesson. By 1962, Chesson wanted to progress and laid a tarmac track in order to promote motor and motorcycle road racing. The original plan was for a 1-mile circuit but this scheme had to be put on hold when the tarmac ran out at what is known as the Devil’s Elbow; the result was the short circuit, which is sometimes used by Legends and Hot Rods.
In 1965, tarmac asphalt was laid for hosting car racing up to Formula Three. Lydden became extremely popular, to the point that in 1967 a meeting featuring Formula Three was televised and included up and coming drivers such as Andy Sutcliffe, Roger Williamson and one Tom Walkinshaw.
On February 4, 1967, the sport of Rallycross was born at Lydden, thought up by TV producer Robert Reed (for ITV) and race organiser Bud Smith (750 Motor Club – Tunbridge Wells Centre) in cooperation with Chesson. Combining tarmac and non-tarmac elements, the inaugural race was won by Vic Elford in a Porsche 911. Since 1973, Lydden Circuit has seen rounds of Embassy/ERA European Rallycross Championships and FIA European Championships for Rallycross Drivers, the first 23 (till 1996) all organised by the Thames Estuary Automobile Club (TEAC). To this day, Lydden, as the so-called "Home of Rallycross", still holds British Rallycross Championship racing, especially with its popular Easter Monday meeting.
On 9 September 1968, a then-unknown English driver recorded his first race win driving a Russell-Alexis Mk14 Formula Ford car. That driver was James Hunt. Hunt would return on 5 May 1969 this time driving a Motor Racing Enterprises entered Merlyn Mk11A, and recorded only his second ever win.
By 1986, the RAC MSA was pressurising Bill Chesson to erect Armco barriers, but he steadfastly refused to do so, on the grounds that they would be dangerous to the motorcycle-racing fraternity, and when RAC MAS threatened to refuse him a new circuit permit, he put the circuit up for sale. This, combined with his fear that his two sons, well known at Lydden as successful racers, would fall out running the track once Bill died, led to him putting it up for sale for well over a million pounds. Tom Bissett came up with the asking price and subsequently bought Lydden Circuit from Bill Chesson, marking the end of an era.
In March 1991, Mr and Mrs Bissett entered into a joint venture with McLaren. McLaren subsequently acquired the Bissett’s shares in Lydden and became sole owners. They bought the track and leased it to the British Motorcycle Racing Club (BMCRC) from 1993 on, thus allowing both cars and bikes to have full use of the track. BMCRC were based at Lydden until the end of 2007, and it formed their home track, playing host to the annual 'Lord of Lydden' and 'Sidecar burnup' races, together with a number of club motorcycle race meetings. Another piece in the history of Lydden came in 2003, when McLaren had an application turned down for Lydden to become a private testing venue.
From 2008 on, the new lease holder of the circuit will be, for at least five years, the Waste Recycling Consultant, MSA British Rallycross Champion (2002, 2005, 2009, 2010) and FIA European Rallycross Championship runner-up (1992) Pat Doran. Doran, an Englishman of Irish origin from Thorverton in Devon, is planning several improvements for the venue as well as an extension of the racing programme (for cars and bikes alike) and his oldest daughter, Amy Doran, has been appointed as director for day-to-day running of the circuit.
On May 24–25, 2014, Lydden Hill will play host to the newly formed FIA World Rallycross Championship. The event will be run under similar principles to the FIA European Rallycross Championship in the previous few years, but with the likes of Petter Solberg and Liam Doran being notable athletes competing in the championship, as well as Andrew Jordan and Tanner Foust as the famous "wildcard" entries, record crowds are predicted for the weekend at the end of May.
European rallycross returns
The opening round of the 2009 FIA European Rallycross Championship (ERC) brought top flight Rallycross back to Lydden Hill. The last European Rallycross event at Lydden Hill Race Circuit was hosted way back in 1996. As all kind of things can change over a period of 12 years time, at least one thing didn't change ... After being declared winner of the 1996 European event at Lydden in the main Division, multiple champion Kenneth Hansen (Citroën C4) cruised to victory again in Division 1 on Easter Monday (13 April)
When ERC returned at the end of May 2010, Norwegian Sverre Isachsen (Ford Focus ST), celebrated his first victory in the European Championship as he beat multiple champion Kenneth Hansen (Citroën C4) and local guy Liam Doran (Citroën C4) in the Division 1 'A' final.
About 13,500 people spent Easter 2011 at Wootton, attending the opening round of the 2011 ERC. Specially for the Norwegian fans among them it has been a great weekend as the victories in all of the three racing categories went to Norway. Sverre Isachsen (Ford Focus Mk2) was on the highest step of the SuperCars podium on Monday afternoon. Before already Andreas Bakkerud (Renault Clio Mk2) and Lars Øivind Enerberg (Ford Fiesta ST RWD) did the same in the Super1600 and Touring Cars classes.
No first qualifying heats on day 1 of the opening round of the 2012 ERC as problems with the start systems made the Clerk of the Course deciding to run the first heat on Monday. Therefore, the 2012 championship starts in a similar way as previous year's championship ended when at Sosnová in the Czech Republic during the final round the first heats also had to be postponed until the other day. With the absence of defending champion Sverre Isachsen the door is now open for last year's runner-up Tanner Foust (Ford Fiesta Mk7) to start the season with a victory.
The opening round of the 2013 FIA European Rallycross Championship was held over the Easter holiday, at Lydden Hill, with victory going to the American Tanner Foust in his Ford Fiesta for the second year running, only after reigning ERC champion Timur Timerzyanov for dropped back with a punctured tyre.
World Rallycross Championship
New for 2014, the FIA World Rallycross Championship arrives in Kent for Round Two. Ford Olsbergs MSE driver Andreas Bakkerud won, after a near perfect run. Robin Larsson claimed the runner’s-up spot in his Audi A1 Supercar, with Britain’s Andrew Jordan ending the event third in front of a delighted home crowd.
Rallycross track records
- Martin Schanche (N), (Ford RS200 E2) drove 3 ½ laps (1 lap = 1,400 m) in 2:28.8 Minutes during the 1990 FIA ERC round
- Sverre Isachsen (N), (Ford Focus T16 4X4), drove 4 laps (1 lap = 1,400 m) in 3.13.344 minutes during the 2009 FIA ERC Round
- FIA World Rallycross Championship
- FIA European Rallycross Championship
- MSA British Rallycross Championship
- Lord of Lydden, the revival in 2013.
- BHP Performance Show
- Lydden Hill Truck Festival
- British Drift Championship
- South East Motor Sport Enthusiasts Club (SEMSEC)
- Tunbridge Wells Motor Club (TWMC)
- Rochester Motor Club (RMC)
- British Automobile Racing Club (BARC)
- Vintage Motorcycle Racing Club (VMCC)
- Classic Racing Motorcycle Club (CRMC)
- Car, Bike & Drifting Trackdays
Major race results
FIA World Rallycross
|2014||Supercar||Andreas Bakkerud||Ford Fiesta ST|
|2015||Supercar||Petter Solberg||Citroën DS3 RX|
|2016||Supercar||Mattias Ekström||Audi S1|
- Peter Swinger, “Motor Racing Circuits in England : Then & Now" (Ian Allan Publishing, ISBN 0 7110 3104 5, 2008)
- Gerald Donaldson, “James Hunt The Biography" CollinsWillow, ISBN 0 00 218468 0, 1994)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lydden Hill Circuit.|
- Lydden Race Circuit home page
- Rallycross history with information on Lydden (in German)
- A spectators guide for the Lydden Hill Race Circuit