Brands Hatch Preview: Classic course kicks off second half of 2019

Brands Hatch Preview: Classic course kicks off second half of 2019

Photo: Audi

Brands Hatch is, and always will be, one of the best race circuits on the planet. Nestled in the heart of the British countryside, over 30km south east of London, the former Grand Prix venue has become a favourite amongst fans and drivers alike for its old-school character.

The circuit first debuted as part of the DTM series in 2006, and remained on the calendar until 2013 before a five year absence. When the DTM returned in 2018 the series utilised the full 3.908km ‘GP’ layout, as opposed to the shorter 1.929km ‘Indy’ loop used in Brands Hatch’s first stint in the championship.

As the second half of the 2019 season kicks off with races 11 and 12, each driver will have to tame the iconic circuit to score well and bolster their title challenge.

Photo: DTM

The Track

The Brands Hatch circuit is held in high regard throughout the racing world. Undulating, narrow, and fast, the ‘GP’ layout is considered one of the most challenging laps in Europe.

Flying across the cambered start/finish line, drivers turn in and hold on through the rollercoaster right-hander at Paddock Hill Bend (T1). As the circuit falls away so rapidly, drivers are required to walk the fine line between understeering off into the deep gravel trap, or losing the rear over the crest and spinning round.

The pack climbs up to Druids at the start of the race. Photo: Audi

Climbing up to the hairpin at Druids (T2), the course then descends again through the deceptively difficult Graham Hill Bend (T3) before blasting past the back of the pit garages.

The next corner, Surtees (T4), leads onto ‘GP’ loop and the longest straight on the track down through Pilgrims drop. The exit here is crucial if a driver is to attack the car ahead or defend his position.

The next series of three right turns each represent their own individual challenge, as the left side tyres will experience heavy loading thanks to the high-downforce Class One machinery.

First through Hawthorns (T5) where drivers will rely on aerodynamic forces to carry in excess of 165kmh through the apex, before slowing it down through Westfield Bend (T6). On the exit of the corner, the circuit drops significantly through Dingle Dell before rising into the blind Sheene Curve (T7) that requires complete commitment from the driver.

The circuit then turns left, through the highly cambered Sterlings’ Bend (T8), before charging down to rejoin the ‘Indy’ circuit at Clearways. The drivers can be easily lured into carrying too much speed through the final corner at Clarke Curve (T9) in an effort to make up time on the relatively short dash to the line.

The GP loop is a spectacle in itself. Photo: Audi

Last Year

Mercedes dominated the DTM’s first event on the ‘GP’ layout, taking both pole and race wins at the British circuit.

The current R-Motorsports drivers of Daniel Juncadella and Paul Di Resta shared the spoils. Juncadella claiming his maiden race win in race one, whilst Di Resta scored a dominant win on home soil after holding off eventual 2018 champion Gary Paffett.

Di Resta lead a British 1-2 last time the DTM visited Brands Hatch. Photo: Audi

What to expect

The Brands Hatch circuit exudes racing heritage. With an almost tangible atmosphere, the committed race fans provide an excellent atmosphere for every minute of every session.

Each stretch of tarmac pays tribute to a legendary figure in British motorsports, or harks back to the humble begins of one of the UK’s most favoured circuits. The typically quick and demanding circuit requires drivers to produce their best form in order to be quick, leading to fantastic action throughout the pack.

Much like Zolder, visited by the DTM for the second weekend of the season, one wrong move and the race is over. Whilst there are extensive gravel traps in the arena sections of the circuit, once out on the ‘GP’ loop, only a few meters of grass separate a driver from making it home or departing early.

As the circuit demands such commitment, drivers and teams will be working hard to perfect set-up in the hectic two-day format unique to Brands Hatch. Expect to see busy practice sessions, and even busier qualifying laps as drivers seek for clean air to set a optimal time.

Brands Hatch is renowned for producing great racing, albeit sometimes physical. With only the hairpin and Druids (T2) representing the best opportunity to pass, sometimes drivers find themselves forcing a move on their opponent even if the door was never really ajar.

Rast is still the man to beat. Photo: Audi

With championship leader Audi Sport Team Rosberg’s René Rast looking to hold on to his points lead, the chasing duo of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline driver Nico Müller and BMW Team RMG’s Marco Wittmann are needing to score a significant number of points if their are to reel in the 2017 series champion before the final round at Hockenheim.

Despite the last round at Assen being the first time Rast hasn’t won a race over the DTM season since Misano last year, the Audi driver still holds a 22 point lead over Müller. Out of the top three, it is Wittmann who has had the most non-finishes this season, and he will be hoping for a clean run this weekend to help his quest to eradicate the deficit to Rast.