Croft Circuit - British touring cars and rallycross mecca
Croft Circuit is a racing circuit located near Dalton-on-Tees in North Yorkshire, England. The racing activities at former airfield begun in 1948, but the current circuit was opened in 1997. Since then, it is the venue of the annual British Touring Car Championship meeting, as well as one of four tracks in the British Rallycross Championship.
Racing activities at the former RAF airfield
Similar to another famous British circuit Thruxton, Croft Circuit was created on the site of the former military airfield, which was built in 1940 and used during the World War II. The airfield, called RAF Neasham, was closed in 1946. The racing enthusiasts saw the potential of the runways and other roads, so in 1948, Darlington & District Motor Club started its racing activities. The circuit was soon recognized by the Royal Automobile Club and in 1950, races were organized all year long.
The new race track and new name since 1964
In 1962, Bruce Ropner and his friends bought a northern half of the old airport and constructed the new permanent circuit. The first race was held in August 1964. The circuit had a triangular shape and it was 1.7-mile long. The new circuit wasn’t using the old roads, so it gets a new name – Croft Circuit.
In the following years, many different competitions visited Croft. In December 1967, the first rallycross meeting was organized. Croft became the popular place for rallycross events, mostly in winter months while circuit racing continued on the paved track. The track surface was in poor condition in the early 1980s, a budget was too short for resurfacing and in 1981, the circuit was closed.
A purpose-built rallycross circuit since 1982
The track wasn’t closed for long because the local farmer George Shields and new land-owner Bill Chaytor made an agreement to create the first purpose-built rallycross track in England. In April 1982, the circuit was re-opened and the golden age of rallycross followed.
Croft became the host not only for national rallycross events but also for some international competitions, such were FIA Inter-nations Cup (in 1987 and 1990) and FIA European Rallycross Championship (in 1994).
A current Croft Circuit was opened in 1997
Because of the popularity of Croft as a rallycross circuit, the decision was taken to try again with circuit racing. The construction of the new circuit, which is currently in use, was ended in 1997. It was a 2.127-miles (3.423-km) long circuit, which featured more than a half of the previous track and completely new section in the middle, with new start-finish straight, new pits, garages and control tower. The spectator banks were built across the track, but without big grandstand objects.
BTCC came to Croft in 1997
Croft entered the calendar of the 1997 British Touring Car Championship,which was the premium national motorsport competition in that time. British Rallycross Championship also stayed at new Croft. Those two competition are even today the main racing events at Croft, together with other supporting series (Porsche Carrera Cup, Ginetta championships, Renault Clio Cup, MSA Formula.
Sergio Perez set the fastest lap time at Croft
In the meantime, many other cars and motorcycle racing series visited Croft, such were British Superbikes (until 2011), British GT Championship and British Formula 3 (until 2008). The absolute lap time record was set in the 2008 race of the Formula 3. The Mexican Sergio Perez needed 1min 13.656sec for a full lap and it was the record still unbroken because F3 cars didn’t return to Croft since 2008. In the BTCC, the record holder is Colin Turkington with the fastest qualifying lap 1.23.246, set in 2014.
Croft Circuit has 40 ‘noisy days’ per year
In 2000, local residents made a complaint about the noise produced by the racing cars. The problem was solved nine years later when the court decided that race organizers had to reduce “noisy days” to 40 days per year. It didn’t affect the race schedule significantly and Croft continues to serve as one of the British top racing venues.
Colin Turkington won ten times at Croft
Who are the heroes of the Croft Circuit? The fastest lap record holder Colin Turkington is also a record holder with most wins. He won eleven times at Croft between 2005 and 2016. Other two active drivers follow him on the list – Matt Neal (six wins) and Jason Plato (five wins). James Thompson and Rickard Rydell were the winners four times each, mostly between 1997 and 2003, when two races were held during the BTCC weekend. Since 2004, BTCC schedule featured three races per weekend.
Many famous names in the Croft Hall of Fame
The first Croft winner in the modern BTCC was Alain Menu, who won both races in 1997, driving the Renault Laguna. He didn’t win any more at Croft. Other multiple winners are Gordon Shedden, Fabrizio Giovanardi, Yvan Muller, Anthony Reid, Rob Collard and Andrew Jordan. The British Saloon Car Championship visited Croft in the early days of the circuit, between 1968 and 1971, with two wins of Frank Gardner and Roy Pierpoint.
In the Formula 3 competition, except Sergio Perez, who set the all-time record with the fastest lap in the T-Sport’s Dallara F308-Honda, some other notable F3 winners at Croft were Brendon Hartley, Mike Conway, Anthony Davidson, Takuma Sato, James Courtney, Will Davison, Alvaro Parente, Antonio Pizzonia…
Driving experiences programs for all
You don’t have to be a licensed driver to run the race car at Croft Circuit, because there are few programs for amateur drivers and racers of all ages and with various wishes, from Mini Coopers to single-seater race cars. Croft is also a perfect venus for track days, test days and corporate events.
Video : Onboard lap with Colin Turkington
Address: Croft Circuit, West Lane, Dalton On Tees, North Yorkshire, DL2 2PL, UK
Phone: +44 1325 721815
Official website: www.croftcircuit.co.uk