McLaren Honda driver Jenson Button joined 13-time Grand Prix winner David Coulthard at Lydden Hill on Wednesday to test two World Rallycross Championship supercars. This was filmed to be a BBC F1 feature to be aired later in the racing season.
Button was allocated and drove a number of laps in a JRM Racing Mini, while Coulthard drove a Citoren DS3, currently used by UK driver Liam Doran.
“Today has been a mega experience and completely different to what I am used to,” said Button, “The cars are a lot more powerful, but the same principles still apply. You need a huge amount of skill to drive these cars; on your own it’s scary enough, never mind going up against another four or five drivers.”
The experience was an unexpected change for Button, as the cars have faster 0-100km/h acceleration than a Formula 1 car, which impressed him.
“It’s got so much power you think it’s going to be easy; get to the apex pull the handbrake and off you go,” said the 2009 F1 World Champion. “But it’s not like that at all. It’s absolute madness but it’s what you think of as a child – the buzz, the action, the sliding. It was a mega experience.”
Button’s heart is close to Rallycross, as his late father John, competed in the sport in the 1970’s, his best a second place in the British Rallycross Championship in 1976, driving a Volkswagen Beetle, then later a Mk1 Golf.
Before driving the modern supercars, Button tried his hand at his fathers era, driving a 1974 Beetle, run by James Harrold in the Retro Rallycross Championship in the UK.
“I grew up with rallycross, I used to watch my dad racing and I used to love hearing the car,” he said. “I would not have become an F1 world champion if it hadn’t been for my dad and the grassroots of rallycross – that was where I caught the motorsport bug.”
Coulthard is no stranger to Rallycross either- he attended the Norwegian round of WRX the previous year, and also drove a Marklund Motorsport Volkswagen Polo supercar in the Race of Champions in Barbados last December, and beat WRX Champion Petter Solberg in a head-to-head race.
“Rallycross is highly skilled, because the drivers have to deal with an ever-evolving mix of asphalt and gravel that changes from lap to lap. I have tremendous respect for the drivers,” said Coulthard. “It’s fantastic to try this sport which really makes me appreciate how skilled these guys are. It’s great to see that the championship is growing so much too. I’ve watched it a bit of it in the past year but you can’t play at this sport – it has some serious world-class competition.”