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History of Brands Hatch

Located in Fawkham, Kent and hosted 12 British Grands Prix and two European Grands Prix, the undulating british circuit has seen many remarkable races. We go in depth into the history of the renown track.
Monday, July 2, 2012

Born in Adelaide during its 11 year long era of hosting Formula One, Jacob Polychronis has admired the sport his whole life. Along with his brother Gabriel, they share their educated opinion via articles and their podcast, F1 News & Views Podcast.

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July 1st, 2012 (F1plus / Gabriel Polychronys).- Between 1964 and 1986 the British Grand Prix alternated between Brands Hatch and Silverstone each year. Brands Hatch is located in Fawkham, Kent and hosted 12 British Grands Prix and two European Grands Prix.

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The undulating circuit of Brands Hatch possesses two layouts: the “Indy” layout, which is 1.98 miles and the ‘Grand Prix’ layout, which is a longer 2.301 miles.

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Brands Hatch in modern times.

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The current ‘Grand Prix’ layout of Brands Hatch starts on a slightly curved stretch of road, which is labelled ‘Brabham Straight.’

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The first turn of this track is a right hand bend, which is entitled ‘Paddock Hill Bend’ and is one of the few overtaking spots on the track. The track then ripples up ‘Hailwood Hill. The peak of this hill is the braking point is for turn two. Turn two is a right hand hairpin, named “Druids Bend.” Drivers must travel downhill towards the left-handed ‘Graham Hill Bend’ and then they will hit ‘Cooper Straight,’ which runs parallel to ‘Brabham Straight.’

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At the end of ‘Cooper Straight’ lays ‘Surtees,’ a long left-handed sweeping turn, which runs uphill. After this turn, drivers will plaster their foot on the accelerator as they delve into the woods via the longest straight on the track. This straight varies in elevation as the driver races down ‘Pilgrims Drop’ and ‘Hawthorn Hill.’

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Drivers should brake just at the bottom of ‘Hawthorn Hill’ in order to prepare for the long right-handed sweeping turn that is ‘Hawthorn Bend,’ which starts the loop back around the forest. Drivers must travel across a short straight that is ‘Derek Miner Straight’ before catching the right-handed ‘Westfield Bend’, which can be treated, as the home of another overtaking opportunity. Following this bend, is the right kinked ‘Dingle Dell’ which swells downhill.

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The start of the European GP at Brands Hatch in 1985.

In order to negotiate the right-handed turn seven that is ‘Dingle Dell Corner,’ drivers must brake about one hundred metres from the corner and caress the throttle through the exit. ‘Stirlings Bend’ is a ninety-degree left turn that follows ‘Dingle Dell Corner.’ Another straight is used as a route for the drivers to depart the woods and then transform into the ninth turn that is ‘Clark Curve.’ The driver is just required to lift their foot off the accelerator pedal as they move through the right-handed sweeping turn, before hitting the pit straight once again.

Brands Hatch was originally a dirt track formed by farm machinery, which was used to host cross-country, cycling and motorcycling events. During World War II, Brands Hatch was used as a parking bay for many military vehicles, as a result, Brands Hatch suffered many bombing strikes. This obviously slowed the development of the track, until 1950 when the circuit was surfaced with tarmac. This formed a one-mile oval, which was used mostly for Formula Three racing throughout the early 50s. The mid 50s saw the addition of ‘Druids Bend,’ a pit lane and spectator areas. The circuit was then raced in the clockwise direction.

Many British circuits were deemed unsafe after the 1955 Le Mans disaster, which saw eighty-four people die, but Brands Hatch was one of the few that obeyed the safety regulations, which is why in 1956, it hosted its first Formula Two race.

Three years later, the Grand Prix circuit was formed and in 1960, Brands Hatch held its first ever Formula One race. This race was the non-championship ‘Silver City Trophy,’ which was won by Jack Brabham of Australia.

After the track being sold to ‘Grovewood Securities,’ negotiations were held with the RAC to hold the British Grand Prix alternatively with Silverstone. These negotiations were successful and on the eleventh of July, Brands Hatch hosted its first Formula One championship race. This particular race was a success, however, Grand Prix racing at Brands Hatch was responsible for the death of four drivers from the mid 60s to early 70s. This of course, resulted in modifications to the track to improve safety. Brands Hatch also held an Indy Car race in 1978 and two European Grands Prix in 1983 and 1985.

The British Grand Prix continued to alternate between Silverstone and Brands Hatch until after the 1986 British Grand Prix. A horror first lap incident at the 1986 British Grand Prix saw Jacques Laffite break both of his legs after colliding square on with the wall on the right of ‘Paddock Bend.’ This resulted in the discontinuation of Formula One racing at Brands Hatch. Since 1987, the British Grand Prix has been confined the Silverstone circuit.

In 1986, the Brands Hatch Leisure company gained ownership of the circuit, and in 1999 Nicola Foulston (Owner of Brands Hatch Leisure at the time) publicized that Brands Hatch gained the rights to host the British Grand Prix once again from 2002 onwards. Plans to host the British Grand Prix again however, were quashed when Foulston sold BHL to Octagon Motorsport, who were unable to gain permission to undertake any necessary preparation to hold the British Grand Prix.

Brands Hatch currently plays host to many major motor-sporting events. Some of these events include British Superbike Championship races, Formula Two Championship races, DTM Championship races and British Touring Car Championship races. Brands Hatch will also be responsible for holding road cycling events as a part of the 2012 Summer Paralympics.

The Brands Hatch circuit is rich with history and it was definitely rich with Formula One excitement. Many people would love to see Formula One racing return to Brands Hatch, however, the increasingly popular Silverstone Grand Prix and talk of a London Grand Prix will most likely dismiss any possibility of the British Grand Prix returning to Brands Hatch.

Brands Hatch from the air (Google)

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