2.6-mile Brands Hatch circuit. Shorter Indy circuit in
blue is 1.2036-miles (too short for CART)
When the UK champ car
fans are asked what road course they would most like to see the
turbocharged single seaters run at, the vast majority of them say
the same thing, ‘Brands Hatch’. Indy Cars ran at Brands
Hatch once in the 1970's under the USAC banner, but never returned.
Brands Hatch is located very near London, the biggest city in the UK
(and one of the biggest in the world). Brands (as it’s
affectionately known) resides just outside the south east quadrant
of the M25 motorway. For those of you that don’t know, the M25 is a
huge circular freeway that surrounds London and approximately 16
million people. In logical terms if you want a huge crowd at a race
it makes sense to race where there is a large population!
The only problem is that
in the UK its illegal to race on Her Majesty’s Highway (even if the
roads are closed off), so there’s no chance of seeing Da Matta and
his pals racing along the Thames embankment and around Trafalgar
Square (however exciting that may sound!).
proposed for the Brands Hatch circuit were never implemented
when Silverstone kept the GP rights
The circuit at Brands
began in 1926 as a cycle racing venue placed perfectly in the
natural bowl of the Kent countryside. In 1950 the circuit was
developed into a 1 mile tarmac oval (sound familiar?), but soon
after an extension was added to make it into more of a fat ‘L’
shape. The L shaped circuit is still part of the main ‘grand prix’
circuit today and is known as the ‘Indy circuit’. Brands was still a
pretty short circuit, so in order to attract a Grand Prix race a
huge loop was added which doubled the length of the track. Soon
after Brands Hatch became a regular fixture in Grand Prix and
Formula one racing. However, in the early eighties it became
obvious that the circuit was too dangerous and had been out grown by
the modern high horsepower turbo F1 cars.
From then, until the 90’s, Brands only had a few big races. It
hosted some excellent Group C races which saw some huge crowds in
attendance, always more than the equivalent races at Silverstone
(the UK’s current Grand Prix host). This weekends British Grand Prix
saw a weekend attendance of approx 90,000 fans (although the amount
of tickets are limited). The current World Superbike events that
take place in August at Brands see weekend crowds of 122,000! This
goes some way to prove that the circuit itself is big draw for the
Motosport fans love
Brands Hatch! If you’ve ever been there you will know why. The main
arena is set in a natural bowl, you can nearly see half the Grand
Prix circuit (and all the Indy circuit). The cars leave the starting
grid and immediately turn right down a steep hill, when they hit the
bottom sparks fly as they climb back up hill to a right hand hair
Aerial view of
Brands Hatch. Note smaller Indy Circuit, and larger F1
circuit, which is where CART would race.
The gradient and drivers
view of paddock hill bend make it a great place for an overtaking
maneuver, and if you get the line right you are placed perfectly for
a dive down the inside of Druids. As soon as the cars are out of
Druids they are diving down hill to Graham Hill bend, yet another
passing opportunity! One of the secrets of Brands being such a good
circuit for overtaking is that a lot of the corners do not have
constant radii, i.e. the circuit obviously wasn’t designed with a
compass and a ruler! The variable radius corners (and indeed
straights!) mean you can take more than one different line and still
be as quick.
After the Cooper
Straight (which isn’t straight!) the cars turn very sharp left and
up hill ready for the main straight. The main straight is pretty
narrow and not as easy to overtake as you might think (Johnny
Herbert had his huge accident there in F3000). Next corner is a fast
right hander called Hawthorn bend, leading into Derek Minter
straight and the double apex right handed Westfield. Neither of
these two corners are easy for overtaking (mainly because the
circuit is narrow).
Following Westfield is a
superb sweep down and then steeply back up hill to Dingle Dell.
Dingle Dell is an odd and spectacular corner indeed! Its on the
blind brow of a hill and is basically a right hander with a chicane
in the middle of it. The fastest cars can use the brow of the hill
to actually leap over the chicane! Imagine seeing Paul Tracy flying
over that one!
Standing on the
pit straight. That's Druids Bend in the background
Once the car has landed
back on earth, it’s a short chute to a slightly banked right hander
called Sterlings (just the name of the corners is enough to evoke
passion in even the most hardened racing fan). Once you leave
Sterlings you are onto the straight, under the bridge and back into
the arena with a big cheer from the fans sitting at Clark curve.
Once through Clark curve you are back onto the start finish straight
(which also isn’t straight) and getting ready for the fantastic dive
back down paddock hill again.
Lets have a look at some of the main Pros and Cons of the CART Champ
Cars coming to Brands.
Everyone loves brands! Motorsport fans in the UK love Brands Hatch!
It doesn’t matter what is racing there, people just go to see the
circuit, and anything else is a bonus! If you get stopped by a
copper for speeding, they are likely to say ‘where do you think you
are? Brands Hatch?’
The corners (and curved straights) at Brands just invite you to
overtake! Its almost hard not to! The different lines make it easy
to make moves on the car in front even if they are taking all the
air of your front wing.
Brands is right next to one of the biggest metropolis in the world!
How about ‘The London Grand Prix of Brands Hatch’? The circuit is in
a good position to draw in crowds from London, and tourists too.
The viewing areas at Brands Hatch are fantastic, the natural bowl
means you can see half the circuit (and most of the overtaking
Turn 1 at
Brands in June 2001
The circuit is placed close to residential areas. The south end of the
circuit is within meters of a housing estate. So there are potential
problems with complaints about noise pollution. However, the
turbocharged Champ cars are not any louder than other race cars, if
anything less, and far quieter than a screaming F1 car.
One of the reasons F1 cars never came back is that the paddock is
very cramped. There isn’t too much room for the trucks, but CART
would only fly the minimum entourage to the ‘foreign races’.
The circuit is very narrow in places. Probably only as narrow as
Road America or Laguna Seca, but this could cause problems with
With regards to safety, Brands doesn’t have the huge run off areas
that you see at modern F1 circuits. This could be a major issue with
the super fast Champ Cars. Upgrades would be required, but
Champ Cars will be down to 750 HP next year, so that would help.
If there is a conclusion, I think it could be answered with a simple
question. Could anyone afford to miss Champ Cars at Brands Hatch?
I know I would be there!!.
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