Brands Hatch is a motor racing circuit in West Kingsdown in Kent, England. First used as a grasstrack motorcycle circuit on farmland, it hosted 12 runnings of the British Grand Prix between 1964 and 1986 and currently hosts many British and International racing events. The venue is owned and operated by Jonathan Palmer’s MotorSport Vision organisation.
Gerhard Berger once said that Brands Hatch is “the best circuit in the world”. Paddock Hill Bend is a renowned corner.
Brands Hatch was originally the name of a natural grassy hollow that was shaped like an amphitheatre. Although the site was originally used as a military training ground, the fields belonging to Brands Farm were first used as a circuit by a group of Gravesend cyclists led by Ron Argent, with the permission of the local farmer and landowner, Harry White. Using the natural contours of the land, many cyclists from around London practised, raced and ran time trials on the dirt roads carved out by farm machinery. The first actual race on the circuit was held in 1926, over 4 miles (6.4 km) 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. They also saw the advantage of competing in a natural arena just a few hundred yards from the A20, and with the passage of time, a kidney-shaped circuit came into use. The first motorcycle races were “very informal” with much of the organisation being done on the spot. Initially the racing was on a straight strip approximately where Cooper Straight came to be when the track was tarmacked. 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 much work before it could become a professional racing circuit.
Following World War II, cinders were laid on the track of what was by then known as Brands Hatch Stadium and motorcycle racing continued. That was until 1950 when the 500 Club managed to persuade Joe Francis, that the future for his stadium lay in car and motorcycle road racing. The group behind 500 c.c. single-seater racing cars was the 500 Club and it, together with the owners, invested the sum of £17,000 on a tarmac surface.
In January 1960 Kent County Council gave planning permission for the extension of Brands Hatch – an extension which would double the length of the track offering a choice of long or short circuits. The new 2.65-mile track used, all of this existing one with the extension of Kidney Bend; South Bank became a long, uphill 160° sweep out into the country and making the approach to Clearways very much faster. From South Bank there followed a long straight dipping into and out of the next valley to the right-hand Hawthorn Bend followed by Portobello Straight to Westfield Bend leading to the dip to Dingle Dell, Dingle Dell Corner and the difficult left-hand Stirling’s Bend. A short straight then brought the circuit back to Clearways at much higher speed than hitherto.
The British Grand Prix came to Kent in 1964 and was to be shared with Silverstone in alternate years until 1986. In October 1999, Octagon commenced negotiations for the purchase of Brands Hatch Leisure Group: in December agreement was reached, control of Brands Hatch, Cadwell Park, Oulton Park and Snetterton passing to the new owners. Octagon obtained the right from the FIA to run the British Grand Prix from 2002 and announced the intention of rebuilding the Grand Prix Circuit, whilst at the same time negotiating with the British Racing Drivers Club to run the Grand Prix at Silverstone. Agreement was reached which ensured that the Grand Prix will be run at Silverstone for 15 years. This in turn means, that the gloriously challenging Grand Prix Circuit at Brands Hatch will not be altered greatly.
© GAVRA Racing 2018.