- Circuit type Race
- Circuit Length 3.703kms
- Circuit Turns 9
- Circuit Direction Clockwise
- Unused Since 1986
- Established 1928
|First race||British Grand Prix||July 11, 1964||Jim Clark (GBR)||full results|
|Last race||British Grand Prix||July 13, 1986||Nigel Mansell (GBR)||full results|
First used as a dirt track motorcycle circuit on farmland, it hosted 12 runnings of the British Grand Prix between 1964 and 1986 and currently holds many British and international racing events.
Originally used as a military training ground, the field belonging to Brands farm was first used as a circuit by a group of Gravesend cyclists led by Ron Argent, with the permission of the local farmer and landowner, Harry Write. Using the natural contours of the land, many cyclists from around London practised, raced and ran time trials on the dirt roads carved out by farm machinery. The first actual race on the circuit was held in 1928, over 4 miles (6.4 km) between cyclists and cross-country runners. Within a few years, motorcyclists were using the circuit, laying out a three-quarter mile anti-clockwise track in the valley. Brands Hatch remained in operation during the 1930s, but after being used as a military vehicle park and being subject to many bombing raids during World War II, it needed much work before it could become a professional racing circuit.
Brands Hatch Stadium Ltd. was formed in 1947 and saw the circuit surfaced in April 1950 to create a 1-mile (1.6 km) oval course suitable for cars. The Half Litre Car Club for 500 cc Formula Three organised the first race on the 16th April, and in 1953 the Universal Motor Racing Club was established, with a racing school set up at Brands Hatch. The Half Litre Club, later to become the British racing and Sports Car Club, ran 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 Druids Bend (lengthening the circuit to 1.24 miles), a pit lane and spectator banks and reversing the racing direction to clockwise. The aftermath of the 1955 Le Mans disaster resulted in many race circuits in the country and abroad being closed down for safety reasons, but Brands Hatch was able to comply with the new safety requirements, hosting its first Formula Two race in 1956.
The 2.65-mile (4.26 km) Grand Prix circuit was constructed in 1959, and the track hosted its first major motor racing event in August 1960, the non-championship Silver City Trophy Formula One race, won by Jack Brabham. Soon after, the track was sold to Grovewood Securities, and John Webb put in charge of Motor Circuit Developments to manage the circuit. The new ownership saw successful negotiations with the RAC to hold the British Grand Prix jointly with Silverstone, alternating years. On July 11, 1964 Brands Hatch held its first Formula One World Championship race, the 1964 British Grand Prix (also designated as the RAC European Grand Prix), won by Jim Clark.
The deaths of George Crossman, Tony Flory and Stuart Duncan in the mid-60s and Jo Siffert in October 1971 led to major safety modifications around the track. During the 1970s Brands Hatch took over the running of the annual Formula Ford Festival in addition to hosting an IndyCar race in 1978. The track also hosted the 1983 and 1985 European Grands Prix, the former with under three months notice following the cancellation of the proposed New York Grand Prix. The final Grand Prix held at Brands Hatch was the 1986 British Grand Prix won by Nigel Mansell.
In 1986, John Foulston bought Brands Hatch, Oulton Park and Snetterton circuits from Grovewood Securities and established the Brands Hatch Leisure (BHL) company. The following year, the company acquired Cadwell Park before Foulston died testing a McLaren IndyCar at Silverstone. Ownership of BHL passed to his wife Mary, but the company was run by John Webb until 1990, when daughter Nicola Foulston took over the running. In that time, Brands Hatch hosted higher-profile series such as Formula 3000 and Superbike World Championship racing. 1988 saw further changes to the circuit layout, with a chicane added at Dingle Dell Corner, while Westfield Bend and Graham Hill Bend were tightened. New pits and a corporate entertainment facility were added in the late-1990s.
In 1999, Foulston announced that Brands Hatch had acquired the rights to the British Grand Prix from 2002. Whilst discussions were ongoing with regards to planning permission to bring the circuit up to F1 requirements, Foulston sold BHL to Octagon Motorsports (a subsidiary of Interpublic) for £120 million. Octagon, however, failed to obtain the necessary planning permission and instead decided to lease Silverstone in order to host the Grand Prix. However, high-profile single-seater racing did return to Brands Hatch in 2003, when a round of the CART series was held at the circuit. Despite attracting around 40,000 spectators the race was not retained for subsequent seasons.
With financial pressures stemming from running the British Grand Prix, Octagon sold off the group of four circuits, including Brands Hatch, to the MotorSport Vision group headed by ex-F1 driver Jonathan Palmer in 2004. It still holds race meetings on almost every weekend during the motorsport season, ranging from small club series to major international races.