By now, the dust and tyre smoke should have cleared from the Kent Downs following yesterday’s thrilling World Rallycross Championship event at Lydden Hill.
As I explained prior to my visit, I was looking forward to experiencing WRX for the first time and, like the rest of the huge crowd, I wasn’t left disappointed by what I saw.
Indeed, the last time I found myself so wide-eyed and open-jawed at live motor racing was watching from the inside of Turn One at the 2012 Indianapolis 500.
On that occasion it was sheer speed of cars turning in to the corner at 200mph-plus that wowed me. At Lydden Hill it was the driving technique, which melds a whole load of aggression with just a smidgen of finesse; always teetering just the right side of out-of-control.
That’s the theory, at least. It doesn’t always go right. That was evident right from the morning’s warm-up session, when Alx Danielsson rolled his Audi out of the competition.
What followed was a rapid-fire succession of races which without exception featured moments of drama: bumping and boring to gain track position in the first couple of turns, intrigue over when each driver chose to take the ‘joker lap’ and close finishes as drivers took every half-chance to try to overtake.
Heck, even the British weather got in on the act, a light smattering of rain throwing a curveball into drivers’ preparations for the showdown race.
And having dismissed the ‘joker lap’ system – where each competitor must take a longer detour once each race – as a gimmick beforehand, I definitely warmed to its merits when I could see the various positions of all the competitors on the track at the same time.
The final climaxed with a frantic duel between two of world rallycross’s leading protagonists, Petter Solberg and Mattias Ekström. These two drivers have proved their capabilities across distinct motor sport disciplines - Solberg by winning world championships in rallying and rallycross, Ekström by combining his WRX campaign with his main line of work, DTM touring cars.
On this occasion Solberg came out on top, but the pair were separated by just four-tenths of a second at the chequered flag, having taken their joker laps at opposite ends of the race. It was breathless stuff.
Are we in the midst of a sea-change in motor racing? The traditionally strong championships such as Formula 1 and the World Rally Championship both seem below-par at present, not helped by each having a manufacturer enjoying a significant performance advantage over its rivals.
Meanwhile rallycross, and other racing series that put the fans’ interests first such as the British Touring Car Championship, appear to be booming.
Formula 1 has become technically less interesting too, offering less opportunity for the differing approaches to the rules that Le Mans-style sportscar racing (to name one example) offers.
F1 will no doubt sustain the glamour and prestige that draws A-list celebrities and premium-paying guests to the paddock club, but with a few exceptions those people are there to be seen, not to rigorously watch the on-track action.
Enthusiastic fans give F1 its soul. If they feel disenfranchised, there’s a danger they will have their heads turned by other, more alluring and immersive forms of motor sport.