My Knockhill Experience
by Peter Hough
I didn’t know what to expect from the BTCC meeting at Knockhill this September. The racing looked great on the TV and I knew it was a challenging track with few overtaking opportunities so I was looking forward to some full-on wheel to wheel action in all the classes scheduled for the weekend.
Our adventure started badly. The satnav delivered us to a random village on the wrong side of the Firth of Forth – a detour that cost half an hour travelling time. As we arrived at the circuit after meandering through what seemed like miles of bleak country roads in the rain and glimpsing action on the circuit, the buzz kicked in and the lost time didn’t matter anymore.
Parking wasn’t the best: a grassy hillside and a heavy rear-wheel drive car can be a recipe for disaster, but the sound of the classic cars and, thrilling glimpses of the circuit soon had the adrenalin blanking out any misgivings. Knockhill visitors be advised – the parking is a fair step from the action. Not a problem if you carry everything you need with you though.
It was a miserable Saturday. Breath-steamingly cold, low cloud with intermittent rain coming in at 45 degrees. You can combat this by walking about. There is plenty to see, but eventually you have to face up to the fact that you will have to stand in one place to watch the action. One thing Knockhill has plenty of, on this BTCC weekend at least, were catering outlets. That first cup of tea was very handy, and reasonably priced. Sunday was a better day. We got sunburned. What we learned from that is that you can never really predict the Scottish weather.
Knockhill gets you close to the action, that’s for sure. Some might say that the geography of the site makes it a bit odd. You have what might be described as the merchandise village on one side of the track and then the real business – the paddock and main facilities on the other. It took a while to get used to the fact that the line of tents we were walking around was actually the garages. This makes getting around a bit hairy too, as cars are coming at you from both directions either going to the track or coming back from parc ferme.
This intimacy is nice. You’re only roped off from the actual garages themselves so you can get a good look at what’s going on. The drivers come and go largely unmolested, there’s a distinct lack of formality around the paddock which makes the whole experience just a bit more thrilling and inclusive.
Choosing a vantage point from which to watch the racing is a tricky decision, especially if it is raining. The Real Radio hairpin is a magnet for on track drama – either for overtaking action or simple on-throttle exuberance resulting in spins. For a wet weekend, there is the considerable bonus of a covered stand at this corner. If you like full-on action, the Seat curves (which you reach by crossing the bridge) is a prime spot, with the cars finding the straightest line through a tricky, snaky downhill section before braking into Scotsman’s Corner. Once you are on the inside of the track you can find yourself a spot on the raised middle section and have an overview of most of the circuit. The changes in elevation make it difficult to see the cars the whole way round however.
What you lose in overall panorama, you gain in close-up action. At the Armco on the inside of the circuit you are only 30-40ft away from the action. The paddock is nice and relaxed too. In summary, Knockhill is a fine circuit. Downsides? The parking and getting off-site at the end of the day. Upsides? You’re in the thick of it. Smell the tyresmoke. Recommended.