Brands Hatch - So Many Legendary Stories

  • Brands Hatch, 2005

Brands Hatch is one of the most iconic race tracks in the world, not only as one of the circuits which hosted the Formula One British Grand Prix in the past but also because of many legendary races which took place at the track near West Kingsdown in Kent, England.

14 Grand Prix races between 1964 and 1986

Brands Hatch hosted 14 Formula One Grand Prix races between 1964 and 1986. From 1964 to 1982, as they shared the event with Silverstone, the F1 races at Brands Hatch were held every two years. From 1982 to 1986, five Grand Prix races were held consecutively at Brands Hatch. After that, Silverstone entered into a long-term agreement to host Formula One, which was extended a few times.

Origins of the track were in the 1920s

Origins of the Brands Hatch racing track can be traced back to the 1920s, when cyclists and cross-country runners used amphitheater-shaped natural grassy hollows for practices and races. The first race was held in 1926. After that, motorcyclists entered onto the scene and they continued to use the track during the 1930s. After World War II, the races were resumed once again.

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Aerial view of Brands Hatch

The first racing meeting was held in 1950

The 500 Club was founded in 1946. This was an organisation which promoted racing in 500cc single-seaters. This club was actually able to persuade Joe Francis, the managing director of Brands Hatch Stadium Ltd., that the future lays in car and motorcycle road racing. The club invested about 17,000 pounds in a tarmac surface and got the length of the track increased from 0.75 to 1-mile. Brands Hatch was the first exclusive post-war racing track in England and the first racing meeting was held on April 16th 1950.

The track was expanded during 1950s

The Half Litre Club, which later became the British Racing and Sports Car Club (BRSCC), held many races throughout the 1950s and firmly established the venue as one of Britain’s top racing circuits. The track continued to expand during 1953 and 1954, with the addition of the Druids Bend (lengthening the circuit to 1.24 miles), a pit lane and spectator banks. Another important change was the reversal of the racing direction to clockwise. During the 1950s,the main racing series at the Brands Hatch was the Formula III, but by the end of the decade, the racing programme expanded to many other series and varieties of cars.

The choice of long and short circuit

In January 1960, the Kent County Council gave a planning permission for the extension of Brands Hatch. With that extension, the length of the track was doubled to 2.65-mile and the track was offering a choice of both long and short circuit. The new track made its debut in August that year, with Formula One working entries from BRM, Cooper, Ferrari and Lotus, together with independent participants such as Yeoman Credit Racing, Scuderia Eugenio Castellotti and Scuderia Centro Sud. The Silver City trophy race was won by Jack Brabham in the Works Cooper-Climax by just 4.4 seconds from Graham Hill in the BRM P48, after the gearbox of Jim Clark‘s Lotus expired after leading 22 of the 50-lap race.

Brands Hatch, 1964 Formula One British Grand Prix, black and white

First Formula One Grand Prix race at Brand Hatch was held in 1964

Jim Clark won the inaugural British GP at Brands Hatch

In the following years, there were many F1 cars and drivers that were guests in various races at the Brands Hatch and finally in 1964, the first Formula One Grand Prix was held. The historic date was July 11th. Jim Clark was the winner in the Lotus 25, winning by 2.8secs from Graham Hill in the BRM P261, who was followed by John Surtees in a Ferrari 158. Parallel to the F1 Grand Prix races, the non-championship F1 Race of Champions was also promoted at this venue. The first race in 1965 was run in two 40-lap heats with victory going to Jim Clark (Lotus 33), while his team-mate Mike Spence won the second spot and took the overall victory.

Jack Brabham won F1 GP race in 1966

The British Grand Prix returned in 1966, the inaugural year of the 3-litre Formula One. The works of Brabham-Repco BT19 were the first and second, in the hands of Jack Brabham and Denny Hulme respectively. The winner of the 1968 British Grand Prix was Jo Siffert in a Lotus 49B. The 1970 British Grand Prix saw the victory of Jochen Rindt by less than 33 secs from Jack Brabham who ran out for fuel. The Austrian driver of the Lotus team was disqualified following a protest over an aerofoil, but was reinstated before the evening was over.

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There are two circuit layouts at Brands Hatch – Grand Prix and Indy

Jo Siffert was killed in 1971 accident

Unfortunately, there have also been some fatalities at Brands including the deaths of George Crossman, Tony Flory and Stuart Duncan in the mid-60s. But in October 1971, the season drew to its close with the death of a major driver. Jo Siffert died in an accident in the Rothmans World Championship Victory Race. This non-championship event for Formula One and Formula 5000 cars was arranged to mark Jackie Stewart and Ken Tyrrell’s joint World Championships. The race was 40 laps in length, ‘Seppi’ lost control of his BRM P160 on lap 15, hit the bank at Hawthorn Hill, the car was engulfed in flames and he was asphyxiated before he could be extricated. After this accident, a three-year programme of major safety modifications around the track was arranged.

Brazilian Fittipaldi won British GP in 1972

The winner of the 1972 British Grand Prix was Emerson Fittipaldi in a Lotus-Cosworth 72D, ahead of Jackie Stewart (Tyrrell-Cosworth 003) and Peter Revson (McLaren-Cosworth M19A). In the next 1974 British Grand Prix, the winner was Jody Scheckter in Tyrrell-Cosworth 007. Second was Emerson Fittipaldi (McLaren-Cosworth M23B) and third was Jacky Ickx (Lotus-Cosworth 72E).

Brands Hatch

Brands Hatch is welcoming racing drivers since 1950

Controversial 1976 British Grand Prix

In 1976, a controversial British Grand Prix was held, with Niki Lauda winning the race after James Hunt was disqualified. The race was stopped in the first lap after an accident in which Hunt was involved. He took the spare car and won, but FIA disqualified him because he didn’t finish the first lap. In 1978, the British Grand Prix winner was Carlos Reutemann (Ferrari 312T3). That year is also important because the shorter circuit was renamed into the Indy Circuit, after the guest appearance of Indy Racing. This name has stayed on ever since.

In 1983, Brands Hatch hosted the European Grand Prix

In 1980, Alan Jones (Williams-Cosworth FW07B) was the winner of the British Grand Prix. Both him and Williams won the championship titles that year. In 1982, the winner was once again Niki Lauda, with McLaren-Cosworth. In 1983, Britain had two Grand Prix races, the regular one at Silverstone and an unplanned one at Brands Hatch, following the cancellation of the New York Grand Prix. FISA decided to have one more F1 race in Britain, and that was Grand Prix d’Europe at Brands Hatch where the winner was Nelson Piquet (Brabham). In 1984, Niki Lauda achieved his third victory at the British Grand Prix, this time with McLaren-TAG car. The second was Derek Warwick (Renault RE50) and third was Ayrton Senna (Toleman-Hart).

Brands Hatch, 1985 British Grand Prix, Nigel Mansell

Nigel Mansell achieved his first F1 GP victory at Brands Hatch in 1985

1985 European Grand Prix – maiden win for Mansell

In 1985,the situation from 1983 was repeated – the race planned for New York was again cancelled and Brands Hatch got the Grand Prix d’Europe. The race was special for Nigel Mansell (Williams-Honda), who scored his first F1 victory.

The Kentish circuit was to host the Grand Prix only once more and that was on 13 July 1986. However, the race was stopped after the major first lap accident at Paddock Bend in which Jacques Laffite (Ligier-Renault JS27) broke both of his legs. Nigel Mansell’s Williams-Honda FW11 had rolled to stop shortly after the start but as a result of the race stoppage, he was able to use the spare Williams (which was set up for his teammate Nelson Piquet) and he took the restart, eventually winning from Piquet. Alain Prost was third in his McLaren-TAG MP4/2C.

No more Formula One races since 1987

Since 1987, the British Grand Prix has been held continuously at Silverstone. The reason for this is that the FISA instituted a policy of long-term contracts with circuits. Brands Hatch was perceived as a poorer facility with less possibility to expand, so Silverstone was chosen. Silverstone and the BRDC signed a seven-year contract with Formula 1 and FISA, to run from 1987 to 1993. The contract has been extended a few times since then and Silverstone is still the venue of the British Grand Prix.

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Formula One left Brands Hatch after 1986, but racing schedule is always full of other racing series

Racing events almost every weekend

Although the Grand Prix races were lost, the Brands Hatch racing schedule stayed busy and that is the case even today. In the late 1980s, there were the World Sports-Prototype Championship and Intercontinental F3000 Championships. during the 1990s the BPR Global GT Series and F3000 Championship were held there and in 2000s, racing events were held almost every weekend, ranging from small club series to major international races.

Some of them are the CART Series, A1 Grand Prix, World Touring Car Championship, DTM, Formula 3 Euro Series, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, Superbike World Championship. In the recent years, the main racing series have been the British Superbike Championship, BRDC F4 Championship, British GT Championship, British Touring Car Championship, British Truck Racing Championship, Blancpain Sprint Series, American Speed Fest etc.

1968 BOAC 500, Brands Hatch, Jacky Ickx, Brian Redman, Ford GT40, black and white

Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman won 1968 BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch with Ford GT40

Famous endurance race between 1966 and 1989

Between 1966 and 1989, Brands Hatch was the venue of the famous endurance race, which ran under various names but, in general, we can call it Brands Hatch 1000km. The original non-championship race, which was held in 1966, was called BOAC 500. The winners were David Piper and Bob Bondurant with AC Cobra. Since 1967, the 6-hour race at Brands Hatch was a part of World Sports Car Championship. The race was later extended to 1000 km, then again returned to 6 hours and finally, it was a 1000-km race between 1981 and 1988.

Jackky Ickx won four times

The record holder with four wins is Jacky Ickx. He won for the first time in 1968 alongside Brian Redman with JW Automotive’s Ford GT40. Ickx’s second win followed in 1972 when he was driving Ferrari 312PB alongside Mario Andretti. Two more victories Ickx scored with Porsches. In 1977, he won driving Porsche 935 together with Jochen Mass and in 1982, he won driving Porsche 956 with Derek Bell.

Due to rule changes, the race was shortened to 480 km in 1989. It was the final appearance of Brands Hatch on the World Sportscar Championship calendar. In 1996, the Four hours of Brands Hatch was a part of BPR Global GT Series. Hans-Joachim Stuck and Thierry Boutsen won with Porsche 911 GT1.

WTCC and DTM came to Brands Hatch in 2006

In May 2006, World Touring Car Championship visited Brands Hatch for the first time. The winners of two races were Yvan Muller and Alain Menu. DTM also came to the track for the first time in 2006. Mattias Ekstrom won the race.

WTCC had races at Brands Hatch until 2010, with three more wins for Alain Menu, who became the most successful touring car driver at Brands Hatch. Other WTCC winners were Andy Priaulx, Jorg Muller and Augusto Farfus. DTM kept the races at Brands Hatch until 2013. The winners were Bernd Schneider, Timo Scheider, Martin Tomczyk, Gary Paffett, Mike Rockenfeller and Paul di Resta as the only double winner.

British Touring Car Championship, which was established in 1958 as the British Saloon Car Championship, regularly visited Brands Hatch since the beginning.

Alex Zanardi, 2012 Paralympics, Brands Hatch

Alex Zanardi became the Paralympic gold medalist at Brands Hatch in 2012

Alex Zanardi won Paralympics medals at Brands Hatch

One of the greatest stories in the history of motorsport took place at Brands Hatch in September 2012. The circuit was the base for the Road Cycling events of the 2012 Summer Paralympics. Start and finish were placed on the track and the circuit was combined with local roads for racing. One of the contestants was a former F1 driver Alex Zanardi, who lost both legs in a racing accident in 2001.

After recovery, he returned to car racing but also started paracycling. He won two gold medals in the men’s H4 time trial and road race at Paralympics. Zanardi won the medals on the track where he previously competed many times as a race car driver. Zanardi first drove at Brands Hatch in 1991 in the Formula 3000 series, and his last race before Paralympics was in the World Touring Car Championship in 2008.

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Map: Brands Hatch layout

One of the world’s most favourite circuits

Brands Hatch’s unique combination of dips, cambers, fearsome corners and hills means it is still one of the world’s most favorite racing circuits. The longer GP circuit with 2.433-miles length has 9 corners while the shorter Indy circuit with 1.208-miles length has 5 corners.

Brands Hatch is one of the British circuits under the MSV Group, which also operates Oulton Park, Snetterton, Caldwell Park and Bedford Autodrome. MSV Group is the organiser of various motorcycle, race car and truck championships and events, not only for professionals but also for amateur drivers and weekend racers.

Video : Instructions how to drive Brands Hatch GP circuit

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