Ford's man in Rallycross takes the ERC opener. Maiden wins for Marklund and Leppihalme
Running to a compressed timetable with all the racing being done in a single day, the Monster Energy International Rallycross Festival was won by Tanner Foust, the American and the OMSE team to whom he gave great credit, mastering the difficult conditions on a day of continuous rain. The weather conditions hardly helped the event organiser but in a remarkable effort they not only completed the programme, but hit the deadlines for the live TV broadcasts and brought the event to its conclusion before the 6pm curfew.
Arriving at Lydden on the back of a test session at Ford’s Lommel base in Belgium, Foust and OMSE reckoned they had the ultimate dry setup in the Fiesta – which wasn’t of much use really. OMSE’s engineers did a good job for Foust, changing the front differential of the Fiesta a couple of times as they sought the best setup for their man. Clear wins the first and third heats, each with fastest time, put Foust on pole and he was honest enough to admit that the poor start in the second heat had been his own error, “I didn’t have the car in gear, it was a big mistake and not very good when the team had worked so hard to get the car setup,” he said.
In the A final, Foust led from pole and made a real charge into Chesson’s Drift. The tactic carried the risk of running into the barrier on the outside of the corner, but Foust was fast as well as wide, broke free of the pack and never looked back. By the time he took the Joker Lap at the end of the race, he was comfortable able to resume still at the head of the field.
Mats Lysen’s progress through the event went almost unnoticed. The quiet Norwegian second and fifth in the first and third heats to start fourth on the grid. He moved up from there to run second in the A final as Stig-Olov Walfridson and Andy Scott, who had started on the front row, ran wide into Chesson’s. Scott, the screen of his Focus covered in dirt, lost so much time that there was no way back into contention. Until then his event had been faultless and he’d been in the top four throughout. Third place at the end of the afternoon was taken by Liam Doran who had a tough couple of days with his new DS3. Tests before Lydden had been good, but also produced a good dry weather setup. The event effectively turned into a test and after a mixed run Doran started third on the B final grid, the win there carrying him into the A where he produced a battling drive to climb on to the podium.
With 17 starters, TouringCar not only had its biggest entry yet in the UK, but also started the year in a notably healthy state. Derek Tohill put his Fiesta on pole for the A final but got into a muddy tango with David Nordgaard in the first corner, the pair running very wide and leaving the way clear for Anton Marklund to slip through from the second row of the grid to take the lead. Once ahead, and clearly having learned his lesson from an off earlier in the day, the young Swede drove a neat and tidy race, duelling with Tohill after he’d taken his Joker Lap. Roman Castoral moved up to second when Tohill took his Joker, Tom Daniel Tanevik fourth on his first Lydden appearance with a Mazda RX8 and leading home B final winner Koen Pauwels.
Marklund was joined as a first time winner by Jussi-Petteri Leppihalme, the 18-year-old Finn delivering a confident and very smooth drive to lead the A final from lights to flag. Beaten to the first corner by his pole setting team mate, Andreas Bakkerud decided to take the Joker Lap early and was soon back to second place and chasing Leppihalme. The gap closed a little, but then appeared to stabilise and when Leppihalme took the Joker he rejoined the track still ahead of the defending champion. Krzysztof Skorupski completed the top three, the Polish VW driver chasing the Set Promo pair but unable to make a challenge.