Dingle Dell Brands Hatch – the Corner too Dangerous to Race

Alex Gassman

by Alex Gassman

Tim Harvey Peugeout 406 Brands Hatch Dingle Dell BTCC

Dingle Dell is now the weirdly named right-hand kinked straight on the Brands Hatch GP track. But it was once a corner, then a chicane, and eventually deemed too dangerous and removed. This article gives the full details of the history of Dingle Dell Brands Hatch.

Contents

why is it called Dingle Dell?

Dingle Dell is one of the weirdest names for a corner, or a straight, or any part of a racetrack for that matter. I didn’t cover the origins of the name in the article on Brands Hatch corner names as it is no longer a corner, instead now it is just a fast right-hand kink around the back of the GP circuit.

So where does the name come from? Well there are a few possible explanations. First we should look at the definitions of the two words:

The definition of dingle is: a deep wooded valley or dell.

The definition of dell is: a small valley, usually among trees.

So these two words mean pretty much the same thing. A wooded area, perhaps in a slight valley, full of trees. If we check out a satellite image of this bit of the track we can see this is exactly what the circuit looks like in this section. Trees overhanging the barrier edge on both sides, shading the track slightly, and dense woodland. No spectator areas, no grandstands, just the wilderness either side of the track.

Dingle Dell at Brands hatch

The middle bit of Dingle Dell (the straight section in between the two right-hand kinks) is also in the bottom of a dip, or a small valley, which lines up with the gap in the treeline off to the right of the circuit. Again exactly as the definitions describe.

And why have they used two words in sequence that pretty much mean the same thing? Well the alliteration sounds nice, so that’s probably reason enough. And it gives off a charming country cottage feel, just the type you can imagine nestled in the trees the other side of the armco.

Another theory proposed by Vitesse2 on the Autosport Forums is that the original Crystal Palace circuit had a corner called The Dell, and that may well have been an inspiration for the folks who originally named the Brands Hatch bends.

history of Dingle Dell corner at Brands Hatch

When the Grand Prix circuit was in use during its earlier years up to 1988, Dingle Dell was not just the kinked straight shown above, it was its very owner corner. As the map from 1960 below shows, it was a fairly standard right hand corner, known simply as Dingle Dell Corner.

Dingle Dell corner at Brands hatch in 1960

This onboard video with Stirling Moss driving the circuit in the very same year as the map above shows the approach to the corner is up a slight hill, but the actual corner itself is nothing extraordinary.

Stirling Moss Brands Hatch 1960

Fast forward to 1988 and some remodelling takes place on the circuit. One of these places is Dingle Dell Corner. The map below from 2001 shows the new look of this corner. Instead of being a simple right hander, the corner is now a right-left-right chicane. It is still called Dingle Dell Corner, but people now know it as Dingle Dell Chicane.

Dingle Dell corner in 2001

The satellite image doesn’t do this corner justice. The first right-hand apex is on a sharp crest, often launching cars fully in to the air with no tyres in contact with the ground. The left hand part of the chicane was more of a straightening of the steering wheel, before turning right again for the final part. And all of this is at high speed.

This video below from the 1992 BTCC shows the guys way up on two wheels over the first part of the corner. 

And this one from 2000 during the Super Touring era shows the cars using the first inside kerb different amounts. Those who were greedy and munched a whole load of kerb would be the ones to get some serious hang-time.

It was one of the most dramatic corners in UK motorsport, leading to some incredible images of cars at maximum attack, especially the BTCC events at Brands Hatch. 

Fast forward to 2003, and the corner was remodelled again. The tight, challenging, exhilarating and dramatic chicane was removed and the corner made a little more open. A new, larger gravel trap was put on the outside instead. 

As this remodelling was taking place, the legendary motorcycle rider Barry Sheene sadly passed away. It was the perfect opportunity to rename this newly remodelled corner in his honour, and say goodbye to Dingle Dell corner once and for all.

why was Dingle Dell chicane removed?

Any corner as dramatic as the Dingle Dell chicane does not come without its risks. And whilst most cars could navigate the left-right-left chicane without too much drama, (whether being in mid-air counts as drama I’m not sure), the same could not be said for motorcycles. At the time the FIM World Superbike Championship was using the Brands Hatch GP track and this was often the biggest event of the year at the Kent circuit.

In the two BTCC videos above you might notice a couple of things from the cars hitting the chicane. First, when they take a lot of the initial inside kerb and get airborne, they momentarily lose their steering. This puts them over to the left hand side of the track and they end up running the big kerb on the left.

BTCC Primera jumps over a kerb
BTCC Primera jumps over a kerb

Secondly, the cars can cope with running both the right and left hand kerbs in quick succession. BTCC cars in particular are designed to absorb big kerbs, their incredibly sophisticated and expensive suspension systems tuned to allow them to experiment with track limits as much as necessary.

These two points are pretty unsettling for a motorbike rider. Getting airborne whilst still needing to go around a right-hander, but instead losing your steering and going straight would be less than ideal. Especially when the riders are already leant over with their knee down. So a lot of the time the riders would try and avoid getting any air, as seen during the World Superbike round in 2002. 

And doing all of that whilst still trying to turn right but ending up running on the kerb which approaches from your left is equally disconcerting.

The video below of an amazing save shows the potential perils of attacking this corner hard on a superbike. 

The World Superbike circuits did incorporate other circuits with jumps – look at the Mountain at Cadwell Park, for example. The guys get some serious air on their bikes here – see the image below! The difference, however, was that the Mountain was a relatively low speed take off and it was pretty much straight.

Additionally, whilst there was a gravel trap on the outside of the first part of the Dingle Dell chicane, there was pretty much nothing on the outside of the final right hand section.

All of this was a cause for concern for the FIM (the FIA of the motorbike racing world). Subsequently they told Brands Hatch that if they wanted to retain their round of the WSBK championship, Dingle Dell would need to be remodelled. And with this being one of Brands Hatch’s biggest earners every season, a management decision was made to soften off the corner. A decision made based on finances, and perhaps rider safety, rather than on driving pleasure.

So from 2003 onwards the Dingle Dell Brands Hatch chicane was no more. The corner, the awesome chicane, gone. In its place the much simpler Sheene Curve was built that is still in action today. Below, the old chicane in pink and the new Sheene Curve in blue.

Dingle Dell corner then vs now overlay

is there still a Dingle Dell at Brands Hatch?

Now, the only reminder we have of that awesome corner is the Dingle Dell ‘straight’. But infact it’s not a straight at all, it’s a double kinked bit of track between the exit of Westfield Bend and the entry to Sheene Curve. Still a very fast bit of the circuit, but only a shadow of what once was. You can see it in the image in the first section of this page.

Alex Gassman

I‘m Alex. I write F1 and motorsport travel guides based on my experience as racing driver and full-time motorsport nerd. I’ve traveled the world watching F1 and other racing series.

I started oversteer48 with the aim of helping other motorsport fans who are planning on watching some racing themselves.

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Ann Ogden

My brother raced motorcycle scrambling events in the Dingle Dell area, prior to the Brands Hatch circuit being built. I sometimes rode as a passenger on his bike around the scrambling track, on his practice days. One of his opponents was Norman Surtees, brother of John Surtees, who used to come and watch the races. I have been unable to find any information on the scrambling clubs, etc, especially about the races at Brands Hatch.

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