The Brands Hatch GP circuit is an under-used gem of a race track. Its fast flowing corners that go off in to the dense Kent woodland are always a favourite with drivers.
Stifled by noise complaints from local residents, the 2023 noise reduction plan shows the circuit is still only allowed to be used a select few times throughout the year for race events and track days.
This article looks at the history of the circuit and why this track in particular is always on the wrong end of the moaning locals.
history of Brands Hatch GP
Whilst the Brands Hatch Indy circuit was first used as a tarmac circuit in 1950, it wasn’t until 10 years later in 1960 that the Grand Prix loop was added to the track. The circuit’s owners had been making plans to extend the Indy circuit for a number of years. The image below taken from the early 1950s shows the initial outline for the extension.
The intention was always to make a circuit long enough to meet the minimum length required to host a Grand Prix. Using tracks and paths in the woodland that had originally been made by scramblers and off-road bikes as a guide, the new circuit was planned to be about 2.5 miles long.
At the end of the 1950s permission was granted for the additional circuit to be built, and by the beginning of 1960 the new Grand Prix loop was up and running.
Four years later and Brands Hatch held its first Grand Prix in 1964. From then until 1986 it held the British Grand Prix every other year, alternating with Silverstone. The GP circuit at Brands was always a hit with drivers; its elevation changes, crests and cambered corners made it an exhiliarating prospect. By the 1980s the F1 cars were 1000bhp turbocharged beasts and the quickest drivers were averaging around 140mph over the whole lap. The relatively narrow Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit with minimal run off was a daunting circuit and its safety was called in to question.
After 1986 the international motorsports governing body said that only one circuit could host a national Grand Prix. As Silverstone had better safety facilities and space for improvement it was given the contract, and that was the last time Brands held a Grand Prix.
Brands Hatch GP circuit map
Below is a Brands Hatch GP circuit map. The map shows the outline of the circuit and how almost all of the track at Brands Hatch is used for the GP circuit. The only exception to this is the short part between where the GP circuit leaves and re-joins the Indy circuit.
The map shows there are a total of 9 corners on the GP track. Read our full post on Brands Hatch corner names for a breakdown of each corner.
how long is Brands Hatch GP circuit?
Brands Hatch GP circuit is 2.4 miles long. This is the current iteration of the circuit that has been in place since 2003, when significant changes were last made by removing Dingle Dell corner and replacing it with Sheene Curve.
The previous version of the track when Dingle Dell corner existed was ever so slightly longer, at about 2.6 miles in length.
what is a good lap time at Brands GP?
A good lap time here depends on what car you are driving. As a reference point the quickest the BTCC guys manage to lap the circuit is just under 1 minute 30 seconds. This was set in 2022 at the start of the Hybrid-era cars which are proving to be quicker than previous full petrol cars.
See our post on Brands Hatch lap records and fastest lap times for a full run-down of some of the quickest times at this circuit.
what races on the GP circuit?
Unfortunately due to whining neighbours and local residents complaining about noise from the race track they moved next to, Brands Hatch GP circuit isn’t used very much throughout the year.
There are still a select few headline events which run on the GP circuit. These include the GT World Challenge Europe, British GT, Masters Historic Festival, British Superbike Championship and the BTCC finale at the end of the year.
See our list of Brands Hatch events for a full rundown of the races that will be held on both the GP and Indy circuits.
noise issues and complaints
Brands Hatch GP has been plagued with noise issues from local residents for decades. In 2008 circuit management signed a deal with the local council to commit to reducing ‘noise and disturbances’ from its events moving forwards.
Even now this is still an ongoing issue for the circuit. Their 2022 / 2023 noise management plan makes for some disappointing reading. It says that running on the GP circuit has to be limited to a very strict number of events each year. Track days on the GP circuit have to be restricted to just 20 days for cars which do not breach the noise limits stated below.
There are an additional 20 days allowed for quiet activity for vehicles that do not exceed 98dB(A) static.
Vehicles which fall above the 102db(A) noise limit are categorised as Class 2 or Class 3. Class 2 is up to 118dB(A) and Class 3 is unsilenced. Only 6 events per year are allowed for vehicles which fall in to either of these categories for the whole of Brands Hatch, not just the GP circuit.
If we look at the GP circuit from a satellite view we can see why it is so susceptible to noise complaints. The village of West Kingsdown is nestled right in amongst the southern part of the GP circuit. Some of the houses are literally a stone’s throw away from the edge of the circuit and back right on to it.
On loud race days I can understand they must get an earful. But those days are not very common any more, and when they are they’re always planned months in advance.
A select few of these can be seen from the GP circuit itself. There are a couple of roofs visible from the final straight before the circuit reaches Clearways.
A couple of other houses actually have a direct view of Sheene Curve from their back windows. If you were a motorsport fan then this would be one of the most incredible places to live. Imagine being able to look directly on to the circuit from your bedroom window!
Unfortunately a few of these houses are occupied by non-race fans. Despite Brands Hatch offering free season passes to all local residents, that doesn’t stop them from complaining. The most upsetting thing of all is knowing that it just takes a couple of complaints from jobsworth residents – who would have undoubtedly moved near to the track whilst it was already in use as a motorsport venue – to seriously affect the operations of a track like Brands.
The UK leads the way when it comes to motorsport. The majority of F1 teams are based in the UK. Its technical and engineering capabilities are the best anywhere in the world. The motorsport industry contributes around £10bn to the economy. Venues like Brands Hatch should be celebrated for their history and ongoing contribution to local and national economies.
But if we continue to let the self-righteous voice of just a couple of NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yards) affect the running of circuits like this then the UK’s motorsport and engineering expertise will diminish as companies begin to look elsewhere to develop, test and race their motorsport products, cars and components.