I just got home from the U.K.! I was really excited to have the opportunity to go on a trip to Brands Hatch – even though it was short, and it was on short notice! Having grown up watching the British Touring Car championship, Brands Hatch is the quintessential British race track to me, so I was looking forward to going there.
As my travel schedule would have it, I would be arriving the morning of the event, so I made sure to get some rest on the overnight flight to London since I knew it would be a busy day!
On arriving, I was on the clock to get to the track, which is on the opposite side of London from Heathrow Airport. I got my rental car and when I went to put my backpack in the passenger seat, of course it was the driver’s seat, so that made me laugh.
I was absolutely more nervous about getting to and from the circuit than I was about driving new cars on a new circuit. Between having to navigate London traffic and the nuances of driving on the left, plus rush hour traffic on top of that, it was quite an adventure. It was also a good warm-up for the secondary roads I would be facing once I got off the Motorway.
The traffic was bad and caused more delays than I wanted. Several roundabouts were so backed up I was literally sitting in traffic for 15 or 20 minutes to get through them!
As I was getting close to Brands Hatch, there were directional signs, which was perfect. I went to the left for the paddock entrance as indicated by the sign, but I quickly realized I must have passed by it. I found myself on a single-lane, two-way country road though a village. I had to crawl up the embankment when a car was coming toward me. The stress level was up just a bit by that point because I could hear the cars on track, and I was trying to retrace my steps. I finally made it to the main entrance and got in!
Looking at the schedule, I noticed the event ended at 3:30, which I thought was odd because it was so early. When I looked up the temperature – it was 3 degrees Celsius outside – I saw that the day ended at 3:30 because the sun would set shortly thereafter. By the time I left the track at 4 p.m., it was dark!
After the event, I had to get to my hotel, which was back over near Heathrow Airport. Once I got close, I had to fill up the rental car with petrol before I returned it early the next morning. When I got to the gas station, the gas cap on the car was green. I thought it meant the car ran on diesel, like green indicates here in the U.S. But then I saw a green handle on the unleaded pump and a blue handle on the diesel pump! Since the car didn’t have a tachometer to get a sense for a high- or low-revving engine, I had to get the manual out of the glove box to make sure I didn’t screw it up and put the wrong gas in. I was only three miles from the airport, but it’s a long three miles if you have to push the car! Now I know that green means unleaded in the U.K.!
I woke up the next morning trying not to think about the fact it was 1 a.m. at home. I returned the rental car drama-free, which was a big sense of relief! Check back later this week for a full report of my day driving the legendary Brands Hatch circuit!