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CATEGORIES (articles) > Motor Sport > Circuits > Brands Hatch Race Circuit Overview

Brands Hatch Race Circuit Overview


Brands Hatch Circuit
Location Longfield, Kent, England
Major events Formula One; SBK; BTCC; British Superbikes; BTCC; WTCC; British F3; A1GP; DTM; F3 Euroseries
Circuit length 3.703 kilometres (2.301 miles)
Turns 9
Lap record 1:09.593 (Nigel Mansell, Williams-Honda, 1986)

Brands Hatch is a motor racing circuit in Kent, England. The name of the circuit is thought to derive from "de Brondehach" - a Gaelic term, "Bron" meaning "wooded slope" and "hach" meaning "entrance to the forest".


The Track

Brands Hatch is regarded by many as Britain's finest race circuit, in terms of both challenge and quality of the spectacle. Located in a natural ampitheatre, the track swoops through undulations and shifting cambers, whilst all spectators are given excellent views of the entire 'Indy' configuration, and those in the grandstands have an almost unbroken view of the entire 2.3 mile 'Grand Prix' configuration. These factors, along with its close proxmity to the city of London, ensured a popular slot on the Grand Prix calendar between 1964 and 1986. Those in attendance were treated to some spectacular racing over the years; events such as Jo Siffert's epic duel with Chris Amon in 1968 and future World Champion Nigel Mansell's emotional first win in 1985.

The circuit's principal strength is the variety of challenges on offer to the driver. The course begins on the Brabham Straight, an off-camber, slightly curved stretch, before plunging into the ultra-challenging right-hander at Paddock. Despite the difficulty of the curve, due to the straight that precedes it, it is one of the track's few overtaking spots. The next corner, Druids, is an almost perfect hairpin, negotiated after a tricky uphill braking zone at Hailwood Hill. The track then curves around the South Bank spectator area into the downhill, off-camber Graham Hill Bend, and another, slightly bent stretch at the Cooper Straight, which runs parallel to, albeit approximately ten metres below, the pits. After the straight, the cicuit climbs uphill though the decreasing-radius Surtees turn, before blasting into the woods (and out of the 'Indy' Circuit, onto the back straight, where the track's top speeds can be reached. The most significant elevation change on the circuit, Pilgrim's Drop occurs on this straight, as does the following Hawthorn Hill, which leads to Hawthorn Bend. The track then loops around the woodland with a series of challenging mid-speed corners, most notably the dip at Westfield and the blind Sheene's. After the Sheene's/Stirling's esses, the track emerges from the woods at Clearways and rejoins the 'Indy' Circuit, for the final, exceptionally tricky Clark Curve, whose off-camber, uphill approach tends to carry the car towards the outside. After the Clark Curve comes the pit straight, and another lap...


Origins

Originally used as a military training ground, the field belonging to Brands Hatch farm was first used as a circuit by a group of cyclists led by Ron Argent. Using the natural contours of the land, many cyclists from around London practiced, raced and ran time trials on the dirt roads carved out by farm machinery. The first actual race on the circuit was held in 1928, over 4 miles between cyclists and cross-country runners. Within a few years, motorcyclists were using the circuit, laying out a three-quarter mile anti-clockwise track in the valley. Brands Hatch remained in operation during the 1930s, but after being used as a military vehicle park and being subject to many bombing raids during World War II, it needed some work for it to become a professional racing circuit.


Upgrades

Brands Hatch Stadium Ltd. was formed in 1947, and saw the circuit surfaced in April 1950 to create a 1 mile oval course suitable for cars. 500cc Formula 3 cars began racing later that year, and in 1953 the Universal Motor Racing Club was established, with a racing school set up at Brands Hatch. The track continued to expand in 1954, with the addition of Druids Bend, lengthening the circuit to 1.24 miles, and racing changing to a clockwise direction. Pits and spectator banks were added in 1954, followed by the purchase of a grandstand from the Northolt trotting track in 1955. Several rival post-war circuits were closed down following the 1955 Le Mans tragedy, but Brands Hatch was able to comply with safety requirements, hosting its first Formula 2 race in 1956.


Hosting Grands Prix

The 2.65 mile Grand Prix circuit was constructed in 1959, and the track hosted its first major motor racing event in August 1960, the non-championship Silver City Trophy Formula One race, won by Jack Brabham. Soon after, the track was sold to Grovewood Securities, and John Webb put in charge of Motor Racing Developments, to manage the circuit. The new ownership saw successful negotiations with the RAC to hold the British Grand Prix jointly with Silverstone, alternating years. On July 11, 1964, Brands Hatch held its first Formula One World Championship race, the 1964 British Grand Prix (also designated as the RAC European Grand Prix), won by Jim Clark. The circuit continued to host the British Grand Prix every second year, with Paddock Hill Bend earning a fearsome reputation following the deaths of George Crossman, Tony Flory and Stuart Duncan, and the serious injuries of two other drivers in a matter of months in 1965 and 1966.

Following the death of Jo Siffert in October 1971, major safety modifications were carried out on the circuit, and the track took over the running of the Formula Ford Festival, as well as hosting an IndyCar race. The track also hosted the 1983 and 1985 European Grands Prix, the former with just 10 weeks notice following the cancellation of the New York Grand Prix. The final Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch was the 1986 British Grand Prix, with victory going to Nigel Mansell.


Recent years

In 1986, John Foulston bought Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Snetterton circuits from Grovewood Securities, and established Brands Hatch Leisure. The company also acquired Cadwell Park the following year, before Foulston tragically died testing a McLaren IndyCar at Silverstone. The company was taken over by Mary Foulston but run by John Webb until 1990, when daughter Nicola Foulston took over the running. In that time, Brands Hatch became the venue for Formula 3000 and World Superbike Championship racing. 1988 saw further changes to the circuit, with a chicane added at Dingle Dell Corner, while Westfield Bend and Graham Hill Bend were tightened. New pits and a corporate entertainment facility were added in the late-1990s.

In 1999, Nicola Foulston announced that Brands Hatch had acquired the rights to the 2002 British Grand Prix, but sold the company to Octagon Motorsports, who failed to obtain the required planning permission to bring the circuit up to specification. There was further speculation that the track could hold the Grand Prix following the introduction of spectator fencing, the removal of the chicane, addition of a new Sheene Curve and re-alignment of the straight, combined with further troubles with aging facilities at Silverstone. The group of circuits was sold again in 2004, to the Motorsport Vision group headed by ex-F1 driver Jonathan Palmer.

In 2003 a CART race was held at the circuit and won by Sébastien Bourdais. With the bankruptcy and subsequent purchase of CART in 2004, Brands Hatch and the other European race at EuroSpeedway Lausitz were eliminated from the schedule.


Current Events

  • The Brands Hatch circuit currently hosts many racing events, as well as public track days and testing. Most notably, the track hosted the British round of the 2005 World Superbike Championship and the first-ever A1 Grand Prix race, the 2005-06 A1GP of Great Britain.
  • It was also announced in December 2005 that Brands Hatch would play host to the DTM (German Touring Car) series. This would be the first DTM race, considered to be the most technologically advanced touring series, in Britain since the poor turnout in 2003 at Donington Park. The race took place on 2 July 2006 and was won by 2004 DTM champion Mathias Ekstrom in his Audi.

Official Length

Indy Circuit: 1.198 miles (1.929 km)GP Circuit: 2.301 miles (3.703 km)

(re-measured in April 2006)




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