Many of us sporting fans already have the 17th May penciled into our calendars, for this is the date that spectators in England will provisionally be allowed to return to sporting venues, on a non-test basis. With this date fast approaching, I have decided to list, in no particular order, my top 5 English racing circuits that I believe you should consider paying a visit to in mid-to-late May and beyond.
I should note from the off that I have excluded Silverstone from this list, for only volumes upon volumes of writing could do justice to its place in motorsport history. Hopefully, this list caters for all racing tastes!
Goodwood Motor Racing Circuit/Festival of Speed
With an overall history in excess of seven decades, the Goodwood circuit has seen late greats like Jim Clarke or Sir Stirling Moss, classics like Aston Martin DB3 or the six-wheel, championship-winning Williams FW08 and even the unparalleled Brawn GP 001 all take to its track.
One cannot help but agree with the words of Le Mans master Jackie Ickx:
‘It is hard not to have a good weekend at Goodwood!’.
The fact that the facility features a hotel and spa, also makes it an ideal destination for a family of motorsport lovers.
I must have been around 12 years of age when I discovered the British Superbike Championship, while casually flipping through the channels. The sight of motorbikes bouncing off ‘The Mountain’ is the very first memory I have of this sport.
Even looking back, it seems just as breathtaking. With at least five notorious elevation changes along the Lincolnshire Wolds, this circuit is an outright monument of nature. Its limited width and sinuous layout no doubt make Cadwell Park worthy of its nickname, ‘the mini-Nurburgring’.
As someone who’s always looking for a quality circuit in a fitting landscape, I must say this one is certainly up to standard. It may not have the FIA’s safety ‘stamp of approval’, but this one is motorsport heaven defined.
It is hard to argue against Donington Park being one of the most iconic motorsport facilities both in the UK and in the world at large. As true motorsport enthusiasts, we have to remember that for some three decades Donington housed the very best riders that Moto GP had to offer. In fact, it still plays host to high-level racing in both the British Superbike Championship and the Superbike World Championship.
It is for those reasons that it is something of both a sporting and business tragedy that, after its ill-fated attempt to host the 2010 British GP, the track somewhat fell into obscurity. In fact, in 2018, owner Kevin Woodcroft was forced to close the renowned Donington Grand Prix Exhibition, which had housed the cars of racing legends, such as Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost and Juan Manuel Fangio, for decades.
Still, Donington’s glory days live on in the memories of us fans. After all, it remains awe-inspiring to think that, at Donington, F1 legend Ayrton Senna completed what renowned F1 journalist Peter Windsor described as ‘one of the greatest opening laps in Formula One’s history’, rising from P5 to P1, all in the wet.
While it may somewhat lack in the heritage of circuits like Goodwood or Donington, Brands Hatch is certainly one of the most impressive tracks on the Isles. The natural elevation changes may not be quite as dramatic as those of Cadwell Park, but they are definitely distinctive, surrounded by seclusive groves of trees.
This one is also an ‘old school’ circuit, with gravel traps and quite limited space for error. Whether its on two or four wheels, the roar of engines echoing round the woods is always a thrill for spectators. The track has, of course, got its own distinctive history, with Nigel Mansell taking two very famous wins at the site in 1985 and 1986.
Though less extreme in layout, Brands Hetch blends the pristine character of circuits like Cadwell Park, with Britain’s high level open-wheel racing traditions. It is also quite handy that there’s, although not on the facility itself, like at Goodwoood, there is a hotel and spa right across the road!
Located a mere 19 miles from Norwich, Snetterton is definitely a place to check out if you’re a fan of the sport, whether you’re from Norfolk, or elsewhere around the country. Owned and designed by former F1 driver Jonathan Palmer, the track certainly retains the ‘old school’ feeling of racing facilities developed on former airfields, such as Silverstone.
Its layout and placement are bound to produce some great racing in junior Formulas and British Superbike as well. It is quite uncommon for tracks to feature turns named after greats who are still actively braking records, but Snetterton does indeed feature a corner named after Lewis Hamilton.
Perhaps, it may not have the high-profile of some other tracks listed here, but, Snetterton is a top-notch facility with a classic look and is indispensable to the local and regional motorsport community.
If reading this list has got you anywhere near as excited as me for the 17th May, then I’m sure you’ll be ticking the days off the calendar, just like me!