When a group of Sunday bikers stumbled onto a field 20 miles out of London in 1926 and decided it would make for a great racing circuit, little did they know they were about to create the foundations for the UK’s most beloved circuit. In 1950, the old grass layout got a tarmac topping and became the first purpose-built post-war racetrack in the UK. Quick, undulating, and exacting, Brands Hatch is a true driver’s circuit whose secrets hide beyond blind apexes and big gradients. With hardly any straights and a mix of fast- and mid-speed turns, the circuit has the peculiar habit of somehow favouring certain drivers over others who never seem to get the hang of the place. That’s mostly down to the way you need to work your brakes around here; most of the important turns will require you to get on the anchors while still steering—Clearways and Paddock Hill Bend being prime examples—and this means you’re always having to react to an unbalanced car.
They call this the mini-Nürburgring for good reason: narrow, undulating, and cutting through a lush valley through which a series of demanding turns ebb and flow, Cadwell Park has been thrilling drivers and fans alike since the late-’20s. Like Brands Hatch, this beautiful circuit started life as a grass course and, again like Brands, was expanded with a loop in the post-war years which is when it took on its current design. Being as narrow as it is, this is an epic club racing venue that has witnessed many a world champion strutting their unerring abilities on damp, cold afternoons in early-career single seaters. It’s a daunting place and, given your chosen ride, you’ll be catching air at least twice every lap. Once you learn the lines though, you’re going to find this to be a true driver-centric track. Driving talent here will always matters, especially in the wet.
The oldest and first proper road track in the UK, Donington Park introduced the British public to the Golden Age of motorsport in the 1930s and, despite a long hiatus between the end of the war and the 1970s when the track lay abandoned in its majestic country setting, it retains all its pre-war glamour and glitz. The circuit was saved from ruin by local millionaire Tom Wheatcroft whose ambition was to bring grand prix racing back to this bucolic slice of England’s countryside. Self-funding most of the work, Wheatcroft eventually managed to secure one round of the F1 Championship—a race that will always be remembered for a Brazilian superstar’s supernatural skill on a cold rainy afternoon. These days, this challenging circuit with hardly anything worthy of being called a straight and its tight turns and blind crests and rises is the site of Formula E’s global HQ.
LYDDEN HILL RACE CIRCUIT
Lydden Hill Race Circuit is a short, swift kick in the gut. The shortest road course in the UK, it packs a lot of body blows from its 1-mile only configuration. Even before the track invented the sport of rallycross in 1967, it was a trendy circuit for local and national saloon racing, popular with fans—who are always treated to wheel-to-wheel action—and a real driver’s paradise. It almost became the site of McLaren’s HQ when McLaren bought the track in ’91, but local planning nixed the whole project, and instead, the track went on to become the spiritual home of global rallycross as well as a fine club racing circuit that will challenge both your technique and, in race conditions, your craft. Finding your way through here often involves a lot of late braking and getting your elbows out.
Oulton Park was built astride the ghostly rotting remains of a stately mansion that burnt down in 1926. During the war, General Patton had his HQ here, and the army’s abandoned roads were used to chart a new track by local gearheads in the early-’50s. In ’54, the Gold Cup brought machines from F1 to sportscars to animate a sell-out crowd, and the rest is history. A difficult and narrow track that’s a lot faster than it looks, it was always a dangerous place to go racing until the early-’90s when the crumbling old circuit was upgraded into a top-class facility. In 2004, it was again upgraded to modern circuit standards, and the return of the Gold Cup for historics has spread the circuit’s reputation as the “Goodwood Revival of the North” worldwide. A lot of difficult braking points define this track that will reward drivers who thrive under brakes.
Britain’s most famed racing venue, the home of British motorsport since 1948, and a super-fast circuit that will test both driver and machine to their limits. Opened in 1952 in much the same configuration as what you’ll race on today, it was initially designed by linking landing strips from a former RAF training facility. Over the years the track has seen modifications to try and slow it down, including a massive facelift in 2010 that added a new section featuring a few tighter bends, but it did nothing to change the underlying nature of Silverstone: one of the world’s quickest racetracks with a series of neck-bracing turns that demand full commitment. You really need to trust your skill and your car around here. Coupled with the always changeable weather, the high-speed sweeps means there’s nowhere to hide at Silverstone: you’re either brave enough to keep your speed up through the apexes or you’ll be nowhere at all.
Snetterton, like Silverstone, is a super-quick ex-RAF base whose abandoned post-war landing strips proved far too enticing for the burgeoning motorsport scene in the UK to ignore. By ’48, the track was already the scene for some epic club racing, and it secured its status when Jim Russell created the world’s first racing school here in the ’50s. By the end of the ’70s, Snetterton was one of the fastest racetracks in the UK—and one of the safest given the acres of run-off areas afforded by its flat scenery. That track was mostly ripped up in the mid-’70s when the layout was shortened into the circuit that will challenge you today. The first track to have hosted 24-Hour race in the UK, it remains a popular and busy track for national motorsports and one that is always engaging to drive on your own, or in a race. GT cars in particular find this place a happy hunting ground.