How to master the best of British circuits. This month: Brands GP.
1 Brabham Straight
It may be called Brabham Straight, but it’s fair to say you won’t be getting any time to rest. You’ve just exited Clarke Curve which means you’ll be hard on the gas and holding on for dear life as you drift over to the left hand side of the track amid all the bumps. The track dips away before the rise into turn one, so be aware that you’re going to be unsettled, and rear braking helps to keep things in check. In order to make things harder, the track is also fairly undulated as well towards the pit wall, so you’ll be at a constant angle. Here you’ll probably be in about fifth gear (bike and gearing dependant) so it’s incredibly quick, but be thinking about setting up for Paddock early and be prepared for the rollercoaster of a turn that comes up as you climb the hill into the braking zone…
2 Paddock Hill
As mentioned, it’s absolutely vital to get your body shifted over as early as possible before you hit the rise on the entry to the corner as you’ll be hard on the brakes and don’t want things unsettled. For this reason you’ll want to be ready before the braking zone, which can be anywhere between the start-finish line and the top of the crest – dependant on the size of both your engine and your balls. If you’re closer to the crest (about where a 600cc bike would hit the anchors) then it’s best to not hit the brakes at the very top too hard, as it can send the machine very flighty at the rear.
On the way into Paddock Hill there seems to be an array of lines, yet the one that works well for a lot of people (and that I learnt from Leon Haslam) is to stay about a foot to the left of the middle of the track – or just to the left of the pit lane exit paint. You’ll be braking at an angle anyway and there isn’t much gain from being any further out – plus off line can get fairly dusty up there. You’ll be heading in there pretty quick even though it’s uphill so you need to be precise, and as the inside curb protrudes out pretty far you don’t want to be taking it so tight that you catch your pegs. As you tip into the apex you’ll find it actually sticks out slightly giving you a clean indication of where to clip, before making sure you’re on the gas straight away to get the pivotal drive out and up Hailwood hill.
The track drops away here like a rollercoaster ride, so a quality setup is absolutely vital to stop you from high-siding your way up the hill. You’ll want to stay away from the outside curbs as well, as they are made to stop cars exceeding the track limits and aren’t nice on a bike! The one thing to remember is that this is a great place to head up the inside of someone as well, so be brave and you’ll be rewarded, but don’t take the mick. Build up, as the gravel at Paddock has claimed many bikes and bones…
3 Hailwood Hill
If you’ve got Paddock Hill right, you’re going to have Hailwood Hill absolutely nailed. It’s on the run in towards another important overtaking spot, so a good charge up the steep hill is imperative. You should be right over to the left of the circuit here, basically on the white line. The track rises quickly and actually drifts slightly to the right, so don’t stay out towards the curb for too long, as it can catch you out. As soon as the bike is settled from the dip you’ll want to be preparing yourself for Druids!
Druids is another great overtaking spot, as you can stay out wide or come about a metre into the middle of the track – due to its nature you’ll be peeling in on the brakes so it doesn’t make too much difference. On the entry you have some great reference points – depending on the bike you’ll probably be aiming to hit the anchors just about where the kerb ends from Paddock, before trail braking all the way into the apex. As you release the brakes, it’s important
to hug the inside curb for as long as possible, although it works just as well to treat it as a double apex for the perfect exit as even though it’s a hairpin the corner is fairly long. This means to get a slingshot down Graham Hill you need to patient on the throttle or you’ll find yourself pointing towards the field at South Bank rather than down the hill, which isn’t good for anyone. Always give yourself a little room on the exit, and if you nail Druids you shouldn’t need to be on the kerb for the exit – about a metre out is perfect!
5 Graham Hill
You’ll now be firing down into Graham Hill bend, and you need to be making sure you’re aiming over towards the right hand side of the track to the kerb in order to get the perfect trajectory through the turn. You’ll want to be as upright as possible as you’re braking hard. It’s off camber as well, meaning you have to be incredibly careful on a good day, and especially if it’s wet or you’re on your first few laps. As you head down aim the bike further to the right, almost towards the marshal post, before hauling back to the left, clipping the apex as late as you can and picking the bike up to get on the fat part of the tyre. Don’t be afraid to use the outside kerb if you need to!
6 Cooper Straight
If you’ve nailed the exit of Graham Hill, you’ll be firing through the box all the way through Cooper Straight – even though it isn’t exactly straight. There’s no time to rest though, as you’ll be fighting the bike trying to wheelie and grip on the way out, and as soon as that’s all sorted you’ll be focusing on setting your body position up for Surtees! Just as the track kinks left here you’ll want to be getting over towards the right side of the track near the white line.
A completely different turn on the GP loop, Surtees is one of the most important corners to get right, but also one of the hardest. Aim to use all the track on the right hand side and where there’s a little tarmac change just before the two hundred yard board hit the anchors hard – although be aware you’ll be at a slight angle. Try to peel in late, almost where the outside kerb starts, and pick up the inside apex as late as possible; where the white line crosses the track. As soon as the inside kerb narrows out get hard on the gas as the track opens out, so pick the bike up and cover the rear brake – if you’ve got a good drive it will wheelie like crazy over the hill so be prepared. Start slow, because if you lose the entry, it’s incredibly hard to recover it back.
8 Pilgrims Drop
If you’ve got the run out of Surtees, Pilgrims Drop will be coming at you, fast. Cut the kink as tight as possible and on some laps you might even kick gravel behind. Watch the wheelie down the hill and catch it early as possible though, as the wind can take it quickly. Watch out for a speed wobble here as well and be as close to the white line on the left as possible.
9 Hawthorn Bend
Hawthorn is deceptive, as the quickest way through is to brake hard and quick before the three board, before releasing the brakes and turning it at the two board to roll through the corner, hitting the apex smack bang in the middle of the corner. It might sound wrong, but as an example, Iddon actually uses double the braking power here than at Paddock Hill! Your brain will tell you to trail brake in, but the corner actually goes uphill so will scrub speed off for you anyway. Use a high gear here, as
you don’t have enough time to catch it if the bike flicks out of shape on entry. This will be safer and faster, allowing you to gas hard on the exit all the way to the kerb.
10 Westfield Bend
Westfield is strange as there isn’t undulation on entry, which means your bike will probably want to pick the rear up without using much fork travel as there isn’t enough external force (like a hill). Stay to the left and do your braking in a straight line where the patch of tarmac is, before releasing and throwing the bike in – there’s really one quick line through here and the apex sticks out nicely. Commit on entry as the corner opens out with an incredibly bumpy exit, meaning the more speed you can carry through the better, as it puts less pressure on the rear through all the changes and undulation on exit. Stand up on the pegs all the way out of here and into Dingle Dell to let the bike buck and weave, but try and stay in the middle of the track.
11 Dingle Dell
As you approach Dingle Dell, treat it as one long sweep and aim to get as close to the white line on the left hand side of the track as physically possible. Go for this when the track opens up and drops away slightly... just make sure you’re concentrating where you want to be here as it’s easy to get wrong. Treat the section as one long corner and drive hard through the dip, using the compression on the bike as it pulls you back in line when you hit the bottom of the dip. There isn’t much reference for the entry to Sheene Curve, so aim for the outside of the top of the hill for the best entry.
12 Sheene Curve
If you have a nice line on entry, as you rise up the hill the bike will be facing towards the outside trees. Aim to hit the brakes at about the two board, but remember you’ll be carrying lean angle, so don’t overdo it. Sheene Curve actually has a blind apex that you’ll want to hit smack bang in the middle, so turn it as soon as you see the inside kerb. If you watch the racing everyone looks like little Meerkats trying to find the apex there! Everything will grind out, and you’ll be carrying a lot of lean angle. As you hit the apex, pick the bike out and if you can, drift the rear to turn it. Watch out though, there’s a slight crest on exit which can make the rear break away.
Make sure you get the bike back over to the right side of the track here, and aim to hit the brakes at about the two board. Because of how the entry is formed with camber the rear comes around easily, so take it easy until just after the one board where you’ll want to turn in. There’s a clear apex here which is the thickest kerb and there’s bundles of camber, so roll a load of speed through and gas hard on the exit as the camber will help… just try not to highside here as everything will be compressed and it will send you to space. Pick the bike up as the camber flattens, and the kerb on the exit is flat now so if you run out of road you have a bit of safety as well.
You’ll need to be back on the left side of the track as soon as you can here and use the bridge as a braking marker. It’s bumpy the whole way in, so get plenty of braking done upright on entry, turning in where the Indy track joins the GP loop. The track drops away as you tip in to go with all the bumps so add angle but try not to fully commit until the latest moment. Apex at the thinnest part of the kerb, before gassing hard all the way to the edge of the track into the dip where pit entry begins, and as it hollows out, aim to apex at the inside marshal’s post for the best line towards the start/finish line.
Paddock Hill is the ultimate rollercoaster.
Late apex Graham Hill Bend for a better drive onto the Cooper Straight.
Rush your corner entry into Surtees and it will knacker up your exit.
Hawthorn is fast and blind.
It’s a tricky camber out of Stirling’s.