The high-octane thrills and spills of rallycross wowed more than five million television viewers tuning into Sunday’s Top Gear. What’s more, the sport received a massive thumbs up with presenters Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond endorsing it as ‘brilliant’ and ‘fabulous’ respectively.
Although both Clarkson and Hammond were present for the filming at Lydden Hill, it was fellow presenter James May who was thrown in at the deep end. It was a fantastic curtain-raiser for the World RX of Great Britain taking place at the famous venue in Kent over the 2014 Spring Bank Holiday. May competed against a host of top stars from the FIA World and MSA British Rallycross Championships in a special behind-closed-doors contest filmed at Lydden just before Christmas.
After receiving some tuition from Tanner Foust – a regular front-runner in the newly-formed FIA World Rallycross Championship powered by Monster Energy as well as a charismatic host on the USA television version of Top Gear – the cameras followed May as he got to grips with racing a state-of-the-art World RX Supercar. Although his white-and-blue Marklund Motorsport prepared VW Polo resembled a showroom hatchback, propelled by a mighty 600bhp engine plus four-wheel-drive the two-litre turbocharged tornado was in fact capable of accelerating to 60mph in less than two seconds – that’s faster than even an F1 car.
After the brief lesson from Foust, the 52-year-old TV personality lined up racing against a star-studded field that included all the pace-setters from the FIA World Championship topped by Petter Solberg, the Norwegian ace who captured the inaugural World RX title in 2014
May’s stated objectives were to ‘stay out of danger’ and not suffer the humiliation of being lapped by any of the professionals. It was a feat he just accomplished in both of his four-lap heats despite some predictably unhelpful support from Messrs. Clarkson and Hammond. However, in the longer six-lap semi-final that followed, much to his chagrin – and the amusement of his two fellow presenters – May finished a distant last and was lapped by Foust.
Although May’s ignominious elimination concluded the feature aired on Top Gear, as in a real World RX meeting the top three from each of the semi-finals proceeded into a grand final, which Solberg won after a terrific tussle with Foust.
“I didn’t see much of James on the track, but you have to give him credit for coming and having a go,” remarked the victorious Solberg. “I have to be honest, it’s not easy to get into one of these 600bhp World RX Supercars. Tanner was my main competitor and we had a big battle during the final. I gained a lot of great experiences from the race to bring with me into the upcoming season and especially round four when we return to Lydden in May.”
Solberg, Foust and all the other big guns from the FIA World Championship will be back at Lydden Hill for the FIA World RX of Great Britain over the Spring Bank Holiday Weekend (24-25 May).
Last year’s inaugural World RX of Great Britain proved to be phenomenally popular with a record attendance pouring through the gates at Lydden. Now, boosted by the huge success of the 2014 event plus such positive coverage on Top Gear, another bumper crowd is expected in May.