Matt Robinson profile picture Matt Robinson a month ago 7
Blog

What Makes Paddock Hill Bend One Of The World's Scariest Corners

Paddock Hill is not a corner to be trifled with, but what is it that makes it so daunting?

Remind me later
What Makes Paddock Hill Bend One Of The World's Scariest Corners - Blog

I’m boxed in on the inside of the turn, unable to take the ideal line. Which is fine - with all these little Ford Ka racing cars bunched up, the last thing I want is to be squeezed out onto the gravel. Here, I should be safe.

And yet, a car a few places ahead in this EnduroKa sprint race starts to slide. As the driver goes beyond the point of being able to save it, I lift and brake, screwing up the balance while the car’s still heavily loaded up. The rear breaks away, but the penny drops and I know what to do - get back on the power.

This being a front-wheel drive car, the rampant fury of its 69bhp 1.3 straightens the car up, just as I see the competitor I’d been trying to avoid going sideways off the track. Just as I pass, the Ka digs into the gravel and disappears into a cloud of dirt.

Note the big tyre tracks in the gravel...
Note the big tyre tracks in the gravel...

Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Paddock Hill Bend. The downhill right-hander, turn one at Brands Hatch, is one of the UK motorsport scene’s most notorious accident black-spots. I myself have been off here, in my first-ever qualifying session last year. I made it back out again cleanly, but not everyone is so lucky. But what is it about Turn 1 at Brands that makes it so damn tricky?

No single thing, is the answer - there are a few factors. First up, it’s blind - a surefire way to make any corner scary is to have it obscured until you’re on top of it. Anyone normal (i.e. anyone other professional racing drivers) will have a voice screaming at them to brake long before necessary.

My first ever qualifying session including a cock-up at Paddock Hill...
My first ever qualifying session including a cock-up at Paddock Hill...

Speaking of which, we need to consider the braking point. There’s a crest on the approach to Paddock - apply the stoppers on it, and you’ll unsettle the car. Ideally, you need to be as far over to the left as possible, braking just after the hump.

As you turn in, it’s a steep downhill sweep to the right, meaning even in a slower car you really feel the G-forces. The apex is just after the brow of the hill, but you need to avoid clipping the kerb - there’s little benefit to doing so, and it’s tall, so it’s another thing that could potentially unsettle the car.

The apex of Paddock Hill bend is just after the brow of the hill. Aim for it, but don't hit the kerb...
The apex of Paddock Hill bend is just after the brow of the hill. Aim for it, but don't hit the kerb...

From here, it’s a case of opening up your steering and slowly drifting back to the outside edge of the track, toward a big and gravel trap. The final piece of the buttock-clenching puzzle, it’s a deep pit which can - as described earlier - turn a car over. Screw up here, and you’re going to feel it.

Burying your car in the gravel isn’t the only potential method of ruining your day, however. If you maintain steering lock later than necessary, you might spin. Given that you’re hidden from any following cars by the gradient of Paddock Hill, this is not a place you want to be sat sideways in the middle of the track. That’s a surefire way of getting broadsided.

Having safely made it through Paddock Hill bend, you'd better be watching your mirrors on the approach to Druids!
Having safely made it through Paddock Hill bend, you'd better be watching your mirrors on the approach to Druids!

The UK Circuit Guide book sums it up nicely, calling Paddock Hill “the most impressive bend of all the UK circuits,” adding that it is “memorable for the driver and a great corner for spectators. There is regular overtaking and many a mishap”. With Alex and I returning to Brands Hatch for the final round of the EnduroKa series in a few weeks - an epic 500-mile endurance race at the track - here’s hoping for more of the latter than the former from us.