Knickerbrook corner at Oulton Park circuit has to be one of the most strangely named corners on any race track. But where exactly did the name come from?
Well it turns out the story behind the corner’s name involves explosions, underwear, and a couple caught in the act. Read on for the full story…
Derek 'Blaster' Bates
Credit for this story goes to Derek ‘Blaster’ Bates, an English explosives expert who’s unique set of skills made him an invaluable asset for knocking things down by blowing them up. Demolition was one of his specialities and his expertise were in high demand around Cheshire and the surrounding areas after WW2.
Towards the end of his career Blaster Bates swapped the melenite for a microphone and became a highly regarded after dinner speaker. He regaled guests with witty tales from his long and colourful career of making things disappear. His story about the naming of Knickerbrook is one of the most infamous.
Oulton Park history
Until 1953 Oulton Park circuit did not exist. And unlike a number of other race circuits, during WW2 there was no airfield at Oulton either. Instead the Park was used by the US army as a base for troops in the run up to the D-Day landings
The Park was owned by the Egerton family, and there once stood a large hall on the grounds. This was bombed by Germain air raids and destroyed by fire. After the war was over the land was returned to the family, covered in rubble and remnants of the army’s presence.
One thing the army left behind was a circuit of roadways for their vehicles around the Park. By the early 1950s a number of motor racing circuits had sprung up in post-war Britain and these roadways appeared to be a great starting point for a new Cheshire based circuit.
Blaster Bates get the call
Around 1951 it was decided that a new circuit would be built here. The hilly Park and beautiful countryside surroundings would provide a very challenging and picturesque circuit, completely different from some of the flatter tracks emerging on old airfields like Silverstone.
Blaster Bates got a call from the land owners to come and remove 3 large Beech trees that were standing in the way of the proposed circuit layout. He was asked to attend on a Saturday as the gentleman had a friend visiting on the weekend who’d never seen an explosion before.
After having been ‘at it all week’, Blaster Bates somewhat reluctantly but duly obliged to be there Saturday morning for another day of blowing things to high heaven, as much for the tree removal as for the two gentlemen’s amusement. As he put it ‘there’s no extra charge for entertainment chaps.’
down a rabbit hole
The three 60 tonne beech trees would normally have required some big holes digging underneath, but thankfully the rabbits had burrowed beneath them already. These were the perfect holes for Blaster Bates’ explosives, 15lbs for each tree.
After asking the two gentlemen ‘all at once or one at a time’, the fuses were set to detonate each of the three trees 15 seconds after each other. Just as the fuse was lit for the first tree, one of the two excited and expectant gentlemen pointed across to a steep bank, fairly close to the doomed trees. There was a couple in a ‘compromising position’ on the bank, about to have front-row seats for Blaster Bates’ show.
arse, knees and exploding trees
As Blaster Bates says, all you could see was his arse and her knees. Seconds later the first beech tree leaps in to the air as the explosive detonates and comes back down to earth with an almighty crash. The man leaps off the women and scurries up the steep bank, trying to cover himself up and leaving the woman behind.
The woman is hurriedly trying to dress herself on the steep slope when the second tree goes up. In shock she tumbles down the slope and lands in the brook (stream) at the bottom with her underwear around her ankles.
As she is hauling herself out of the water the third explosion occurs, and that is her queue to exit stage right. Quick as a flash she runs out sight, and the two gentlemen are rolling around on the floor in laughter. The entertainment was better than anyone could have expected, even Blaster Bates himself.
the naming of Knickerbrook
A few weeks later Blaster Bates gets a call from the people developing the circuit to discuss more tree clearing. They show him the proposed Oulton Park circuit layout, including the corners which have already been named.
They point to a corner right where he took out the three Beech trees only a couple of weeks earlier and said they hadn’t yet thought of a name for it. Immediately Blaster Bates says ‘Knickerbrook’, paying homage to the lady whose knickers had unfortunately met a soggy demise in the brook at the base of the hill.
The circuit developers went with the name at it has stuck ever since.
Blaster Bates tells the Knickerbrook story best
My summary above doesn’t do this story justice. You need to listed to Blaster Bates tell it himself for the full hilarious account of how Knickerbrook got its name.
Knickerbrook naming - a true story?
It’s a truly wonderful story which I have no reason to doubt, but I wanted to see whether I could help corroborate Blaster Bates’ account with a quick bit of map searching.
Looking at a recent satellite image of the circuit, we can see the large Oulton Park lake and then a small pond just to the West of it.
This pond is right on the inside of Knickerbrook corner and at the base of a large banking which is currently used as a great spectator area at Oulton Park.
A topographical map of the area shows that the lake is connected to the pond by a stream, or a brook, which continues running to the West of the circuit.
And this 1920s ordnance survey map shows that the lake and pond used to be joined up, and that the brook was still present to the West.
Blaster Bates says in his account that the banking the couple were on was south facing. The banking pointed out on the first map above is indeed south facing, with the pond and stream at the base of it. It’s highly likely then that somewhere around there was where the couple were caught in the act.