News that a state-of-the-art banked oval circuit is to be built in Britain, 60 years after the closure of Brooklands, is welcome indeed, not least because promoters at the Rockingham Motor Speedway aim to win the race to host the first Indycar event on a European oval.
Hewn from a disused ironstone quarry on the outskirts of Corby, Northamptonshire, Rockingham (named after an adjacent village rather than the USA’s fabled North Carolina Motor Speedway) is the first major motorsport venue to be built in Britain since Brooklands was opened in Surrey in 1907. It will boast a 1.5-mile Superspeedway and 2.2-mile infield road course.
Having worked with Corby District Council since the onset of the project in 1991, sat on full planning permission for six years, and raised £28m to finance the first phase of construction, prime mover Peter Davies should realise his dream of opening next summer.
“We want to attract top quality motor racing at all levels to Rockingham,” said Davies, “and one of our priorities will be to stage a historic festival. We don’t have any aspirations to host a Formula One race in the next few years. We’ll offer something new that will broaden the interest in motor sport. Superspeedway racing has been the biggest growth area in racing in the USA over the last decade.”
Davies claims that the construction of an oval circuit has eased concerns over noise pollution and other environmental issues – a problem that affects many current circuits in Britain. “By utilising a brown-field site there are no private houses inside the ‘acoustic footprint’ and the design of the bowl throws noise inwards and upwards.” A major draw at the new circuit will be the setting up of a European base for the Richard Petty Driving Experience, through which road drivers can learn to pilot 160mph NASCAR stock cars. The British Automobile Racing Club will manage all sporting activities on the site, which is fitting since its earliest forebear the Cycle Car Club (subsequently renamed the Junior Car Club) ran the first events at Hugh Locke King’s mighty Brooklands autodrome in 1907.
The lap record for Brooklands’ 2.767-mile high-banked Outer Circuit stands forever to John Cobb in the Napier-Railton at 143mph, but it is thought that a current Indycar will lap the shallow RMS bowl (three turns are nine degrees, the fourth five degrees) at well over 190mph. Rockingham’s aim to attract major US series to race in Britain is boosted by retention of the services of the world’s largest sports management company IMG, who currently organise three of CART’s Champ Car races including the hugely successful round in Surfers’ Paradise, Australia.