If you go to Brands Hatch today it’s hard to imagine it being used as a Formula 1 circuit. It’s narrow, steep and the barriers (and crowd) are far too close to the trade for the FIA or Bernie Ecclestone’s liking.
At its peak, Brands Hatch held up to four races for Formula 1 cars per year. In addition to the Grand Prix world championship round it was common to have several well-attended non-championship rounds each year.
Chas Parker’s new history of the track traces its beginnings as a tiny club circuit that grew into a venue for all the top international motor racing categories.
For many years Brands Hatch was one of two homes of the British Grand Prix, which shared the round with Silverstone in Northamptonshire. It is now over two decades since the Kent track last held a F1 event.
It’s a pity, because as much as I like Silverstone, Brands is a truly spectacular place to watch racing cars.
The natural amphitheatre, with the Grand Prix loop (now sadly little used) heading out into the woods, was the scene of many memorable moments in Formula 1 history: the crash at the start of the 1976 Grand Prix and Jim Clark leading a British 1-2-3 in 1964.
The well-researched book throws up some unusual facts: At the non-champioship Aurora race in 1980 Desire Wilson became the only woman to win a race for F1 cars. In fourth place that day was the great motorcycling champion Giacomo Agostini.
Its final two F1 races (the European Grand Prix in 1985, and the British in 1986) saw packed home crowds cheering wins for Nigel Mansell. The pictures in Parker’s book of this last race are incredible – the circuit is thick with people and even those at the back of the crowd are closer to the action that we can get today.
Parker’s history of the circuit is thorough and goes far beyond just the F1 races that were held there – from touring cars to junior formulae, sports cars, American single seaters, trucks, bikes and even the unsuccessful attempt to bring Indy Cars over in 1978.
It’s not just a list of who won what either – it follows the evolution of the circuit and its passage from one set of owners to another. Nicola Foulston’s attempt to bring F1 back to the track is covered, and the story is brought bang up-to-date with a look at the present ownership by ex-F1 driver Jonathan Parker’s Motor Sport Vision company.
Parker has written a colourful history that comes to life with a rich selection of first-hand quotes plus a host of photographs and programme covers. It wants for nothing in style or detail. It’s absorbing and entertaining and a great read for anyone interested in British motor racing history.