Brands Hatch

My BTCC Brands Hatch Circuit Experience
by Matthew Roberts

Tom Chilton at Brands Hatch © Matt Roberts

I first went to Brands Hatch in 1997 to watch some historic car racing. Since then I have discovered Formula One, the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) and the World Rally Championship (WRC). Fourteen years after my first visit to Brands Hatch I returned, this time to the Indy circuit for the opening round of the 2011 BTCC, and found that it hadn’t changed a bit!

It was my first live BTCC experience and the memory that sticks out most for me is the noise. You can turn the volume on your TV up as loud as you can, but it just isn’t the same – the sound of 20 touring cars roaring right past you is felt deep inside. From the first warm up lap of the first race I knew it was going to be better than I expected and that I would go to watch more events. I returned in October for the racing on the Grand Prix circuit.

I spent most of the day watching from the bottom of the hill between Paddock Hill and Druids. Paddock Hill is much steeper than it appears on TV and provided exciting action in every race of the day. From here I could see the cars complete about half a lap of the Indy circuit encompassing Paddock Hill bend, Druids Bend, the exit of Graham Hill Bend and Cooper Straight. Although big screens aren’t in use for the Indy circuit, they were present for the Grand Prix circuit, viewable from the grandstands, pit straight, clearways and Paddock Hill.

If you want to get up close to the cars then walk over the bridge and watch from inside the circuit on Druids corner. This is especially good for photographers as there is no high catch fencing to cause problems on the exit of Druids, although it was possible to shoot through the fencing at Paddock Hill. There are viewing banks around the outside of Clearways and Clark Curve which offer views from the other end of the circuit. There are grandstands along Brabham straight which give views of almost the entire Indy circuit and pitlane, but they are at a price, uncovered and the atmosphere isn’t quite the same in my opinion. On the grand prix circuit the exit of Stirlings Bend is a good view point as cars often have incidents here.

Get to the circuit early (I arrived at 7.30 after a 4.30am start!) and you will have no problem setting up for the day right at the front at your chosen spot. Whether you have just a couple of folding camping chairs or a small tent/wind break and a camping stove there will be plenty of space for you!

The pitlane walkabout on the Sunday is a great part of the day. You walk across the start/finish straight, through the exit of the pit-lane and right up to the entrance to the garages, where you will find the drivers and pit girls offering autographs and photographs. Unfortunately the BTCC paddock is inaccessible at Brands Hatch due to limited space, but all of the support series have open paddocks so you can walk around and see the teams working on cars, chat to drivers and get some really good photos (watch out for mechanics legs sticking out from under a car!).

There are permanent shops on site where a wide range of merchandise can be purchased, an F1 simulator (sadly not quite as sophisticated as the ones the teams really use), go-karting and much more to keep the whole family entertained throughout the day.

For photographers there are various points around the circuit where there are low fences to obstruct photos, examples from the circuit:

The outside of Druids from an emergency access point © Matt Roberts

Between Druids and Graham Hill Bend © Matt Roberts

Between Stirling and Clearways © Matt Roberts

Between Clearways and Clark Curve © Matt Roberts

Find more of Matt’s photographs:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/41379151@N03/sets/72157627811773096/

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