Visiting Thruxton for BTCC and Formula 4

2021-08-29  Sport,   Travel and Leisure

With the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic somewhat reduced thanks to the UK’s vaccination programme, I decided to make the most of the last of the summer sun and head down to Thruxton to see some racing, see some family, and generally just do something that didn’t involve sitting in front of my desk or TV all day. I’ve had enough of that since 2020, after all.

On the Saturday I visited, the main event was qualifying for the British Touring Car Championship, with support series including Formula 4 filling out the programme for the day. This essentially amounted to back-to-back sessions from 9am to past 6pm with the exception of an hour-long lunch break, which I say is pretty good value for the £14 entry.

Thruxton itself is an entirely different circuit to Brands Hatch. Sitting just outside of Andover, the track forms a large loop around the outside of an airfield. Spectators are permitted along the pit straight, the outside of Turn 1, and up to the Campbell-Cobb chicane, leaving maybe three quarters of the lap that’s only visible in the distance across the field. There are grass verges around all the viewing areas, providing plenty of space to set up camp with good views of the track even on busy days.

The best viewing was to be had from the two grandstands at the Club chicane. As well as providing the best views of the more remote regions of the circuit, the section of track between Woodham and the chicane itself was host to most of the racing action, including many overtakes and several crashes. On the day I visited, a seat in the grandstand would set you back a reasonable £6, bringing my total admission spend to £20.

Despite Saturday not being the main racing day, the cars on display provided solid entertainment with a few notable incidents. There was a big crash involving several cars at the end of the second Mini Challenge race, and a Formula 4 race was won by a car that controversially took the lead by skipping the chicane on the last lap (which was later penalised).

What was particularly interesting to see up close was the way the BTCC cars took some of the kerbs, hitting the strips so aggressively that cars often bounced up onto two wheels temporarily. Watching the race on the TV the next day, the commentators mentioned that this was discouraged by the tyre manufacturers and may have been responsible for some of the failures we saw, but it certainly added to the spectacle.

All in all, I’d say Thruxton was definitely worth the trip. The circuit doesn’t give you as many viewing angles as Brands Hatch and doesn’t feel quite so “interactive”, but the track - and in particular the Club chicane - certainly made for some exciting racing and provided an enjoyable and affordable day out. I’ll absolutely be visiting again at some point in future.

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