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Brands Hatch, The Definitive History of Britain’s Best-loved Motor Racing Circuit

By Chas Parker.

I blame Harry Redknapp.

For those international readers who don’t know that name, he’s the current manager of Queens Park Rangers Football Club – a club part-owned by Tony Fernandez, the Caterham F1 team man. I believe it was Redknapp who started the trend of using an adjective twice – as in “He’s a top, top player”. This morning, on Breakfast TV, I heard some air-headed female use the word ‘such’ twice, consecutively, in a ‘sentence’ (a loose term that). Heaven knows what she was talking about: perhaps fashion, as in “It was such, such a lovely dress,” or some such nonsense.

Redknapp freely admits that he can’t write and has never sent an e-mail – but he’s regularly interviewed on television, talking about “top, top players” – what a shame that he doesn’t seem to have many at his current club. He’s certainly got his hands full there, trying to keep them in the Premiership.

So our language gets corrupted more and more as the years pass – but fortunately some things don’t change much, if at all. Brands Hatch for instance.

Author Chas Parker clearly loves the place – as do I. Before he was married, my pal Ronne used to go every weekend, rain or shine. He took me to a club meeting a few years ago, and we sat in the stand at Paddock – and he knew almost everyone there! They were regulars too. Perhaps Chas Parker was sitting in that same stand?

The photographs from the 1950s show a Brands Hatch that is instantly recognizable: the place has hardly changed at all – apart from the addition of the Grand Prix loop in the sixties. The topography is what makes it what it is of course, and we ought to be grateful that the track couldn’t be upgraded to modern F1 standards. It would have changed out of all recognition – for the worse, no doubt.

I used to enjoy pointing out to modern GT drivers that a lap time of about 1:28 was similar to the times set by sportscars and F1 machines in 1968. Where else could you make such a comparison?

Parker provides a quick summary of the major events in each year, plus a more detailed analysis of each decade. Whether this can genuinely be described as the ‘definitive’ history of the track I’m not so sure, but the photography is largely superb, even though a number of images are familiar from elsewhere – such as that famous shot of James Hunt on two wheels at Paddock at the first start of the 1976 British Grand Prix. I know that one well because I’m sitting in the Paddock grandstand, lapping up every second of the drama.

I found these two on the web, capturing slightly different moments from the action at Paddock that day.

I treasure other great moments from my youth spent at Brands Hatch. Jo Siffert winning the ’68 Grand Prix, Jacky Ickx and Brian Redman winning the BOAC 500 in a GT40 in the same year, Ickx passing Niki Lauda round the outside, at Paddock, in the wet, to win the 1973 Race of Champions – but I didn’t want to be reminded of Siffert’s burned-out wreck of a BRM from the 1971 Victory Race. What an awful day that was.

Overall though, this is a lovely book, and if you look on Amazon, Chas Parker has written a number of other worthwhile tomes.


BRANDS HATCH – The definitive history of Britain’s best-loved motor racing circuit
By Chas Parker