A charming unknown
Even the local heroes don’t really know their way. When asked when they last raced at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit, Jamie Green and Gary Paffett have to go back in their memories over a decade. The third one in the press conference on Friday prior to the two DTM races at the circuit in Kent, Augusto Farfus, isn’t really familiar with the demanding old-school track either.
“We are all equally unprepared for what is awaiting us,” Mercedes-AMG driver Paffett says. With 148 points, he is leading the drivers’ standings from his fellow Mercedes-AMG driver Paul Di Resta (121) and BMW’s Timo Glock (101). “Brands Hatch is not only a race track we hardly know, it is very demanding on top of that. You pay a big price even for the slightest mistake. When anyone had the intention of making a race weekend as tough as possible for us, it couldn’t have been planned any better. For all drivers, this is the hardest task in the DTM since a long time.”
For Jamie Green, it is a home round as well. However, the British Audi driver is last in the drivers’ standings with eleven points. Not just the lack of experience at the track, the tight time schedule is an issue for him: “I rather have a home race than none and I am happy that we are back in Great Britain. However, I would also like to race at Donington, that is my real home track. It is great for my fellow Brits that they don’t have to board a plane to be able to watch us during a race. The weekend will be thrilling. At this level in the DTM, we normally don’t have anything like this. We don’t have a free practice session on Friday to analyse the data after that and we only have five minutes between the two free practice sessions on Saturday. That could mix up the order on the grid pretty much.”
BMW driver Augusto Farfus has a similar view. In 2013, the Brazilian was second in qualifying at the 1.973 kilometres long Indy circuit. “Brands Hatch is one of the last old school tracks and very special,” Farfus knows. “It will not be easy. For Saturday, you have to make a prediction without any data. We have a packed schedule on Saturday with two free practice sessions, one qualifying and the race within just a couple of hours. There, you don’t have time for fine-tuning. And only after that, you can make changes on the car for Sunday. It will be difficult and according to me, there will be very different results because of this.”
The undulating track at Brands Hatch is legendary because of its circuit profile. The DTM aces will be racing at the 3.908 kilometres long circuit lay-out for the first time after their absence of five years. In the past, after turn 4, Surtees, the track went right towards the short-loop. This weekend, the long straight towards turn 5, Hawthorn Bend, is next. The five additional corners are all invariably right-handers which put extra load on the left front tyre. Corners with well-known names such as Paddock Hill Bend, Hawthorn Bend, Westfield Bend or Clark Curve fill any driver with respect. Paffett is particularly enthusiastic about the first corner. “Paddock Hill Bend is an unbelievable corner. There aren’t many corners in motorsport with such changes in elevation. But generally, there are no easy corners here. They are all tricky.” Green has a totally opposite opinion, at least about the aforementioned corner: “The track is sensational. It reminds me of a mini Nordschleife. We will be having fun, but it will be hard, too. Every corner is unusual and interesting. Apart from Paddock Hill Bend. That is a corner I hate. It is one of the worst corners in the world. The track has that typical British charm with all the trees at every corner. It is a completely different environment than at the modern race tracks.”
That a home race doesn’t just come along with advantages is something Paffett had to find out in the past days. The journey was a brief one, but the wish list was long. “Some friends and the entire family are coming to watch me race here. I had to leave many passes for the races at the reception of the hotel. From that perspective, I had more work to do than normally. I just hope that I haven’t forgotten anyone,” the Brit says with a smile.