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Rockingham (Corby, Northamptonshire)

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Track Information

Rockingham Motor Speedway, located in the village of Corby in Northamptonshire, has plenty to boast about. It is the fastest banked oval motor racing circuit in Europe and only the second ever built in the UK (Brooklands in Surrey being the only other). The ‘banked oval’ concept is an interesting one for those of a technical bent; such a track doesn’t actually need to be perfectly oval at all (indeed Rockingham has a circuit shape more akin to that of your car’s passenger window). No matter, tracks like this one are banked (in Rockingham’s case to a maximum of seven degrees), for good reason, to utilise the laws of physics for one simple but exhilarating purpose - speed.

This is a serious track and in comparison with others in its class, well, just think of the world-famous USA circuits at Daytona and Indianapolis and you have the picture. Speed is the single uncompromising pursuit for which this track was created. In 2001, Tony Kanaan took his Lola Ford Champ Car around the circuit in a scarcely believable - and record breaking - 24.719 seconds. To give you some idea of the speeds involved here, consider that this was a 1.47 mile (2.37 km) circuit. Kanaan’s time translates to an average speed of 215.397mph.

When Rockingham is not hosting Formula 3 events, GT championships, touring car championships (to name but a few), the tracks and facilities are available to keen thrill chasers wanting to take part in practically every conceivable activity from super cars to skidpans, off road to off the scale horsepower, Ferraris to Minis, F1 to go carts. If you can dream it up and it involves wheels and thrills, chances are you will find it here.

Rockingham’s claim to unrivalled flexibility is not one that is made lightly. The circuit has 13 different track configurations covering just about any specialisation you could think of. Its 11 metre wide and 1.94 mile maximum track distance provide a great deal of scope for variation and the surface is in excellent condition. Long straights run into high-speed bends such as the legendary Turn 1 and Gracelands, while the slower infield layouts cater for every conceivable driving experience. Single seater experiences take advantage of the high speeds possible on the oval track and the exhilarating feeling of driving at speeds up to 120mph just inches for the concrete perimeter wall, while supercar and other driving experiences mainly take place on the infield National circuit, with skid pan, off road and go cart experiences located in their own dedicated areas within Rockingham.

Facilities

As a modern purpose-built circuit, Rockingham has a superb range of facilities available for experience day participants and guest spectators including the all important cafeteria. Pets are not allowed and children accompanied for obvious reasons.

Rockingham is easy to find too. A mere 30 minutes from Bedford with easy access from the M1, A1, A14 or the A6116 and of course Corby railway station (with its links to St Pancras, London) is only two miles away. Not only that, but with 10 quality hotels within a three mile radius to say nothing of countless moderately priced alternatives, a good night’s sleep is assured should you wish to extend your visit.

History

Rockingham is possibly the most modern race circuit in the UK, having been opened by the Queen on 26th May 2001.

This 52,000-seater venue is only the second purpose-designed ‘banked oval’ circuit ever built in the UK, and indeed is the only one that remains - the first at Brooklands, Surrey was opened in 1907 and closed in 1936.

The ‘banked oval’ concept utilises a surface design and layout more commonly found in North American circuits where the track, generally running anti clockwise has a pronounced inverse surface camber, the angle of which becomes more acute at the bends. The idea is broadly similar to that of cycling velodromes in that the ‘banking’ effectively exploits gravity and centrifugal force to aid traction and handling. Rockingham does however manage to additionally incorporate the more conventional European ‘road type’ track within its circuit.

The venue has become a regular host to the British Formula 3 championships as well as the British GT and Touring Car Championships. The Rockingham 500 British Champ car event is the UK’s fastest car race and other less extreme attractions have included truck rallies, motorcycle racing and even carting competitions.

It is interesting to note that Rockingham was originally planned as a small test track. Back in 1993, a surprising number of all American champ cars and Indianapolis racing cars were being built or modified here in Britain, interest in this area of motor sport was growing fast, but the problem was that there wasn’t a single track in this country where they could be properly tested.

A possible location was identified on the site a former steelworks in the town of Corby, Northamptonshire and planning permission was granted that year. The idea grew as interest in the project began to gather pace, from that small if unambitious test track (intended to have grass bank seating), to that of a modern national motor racing stadium. Construction began in 1999 and two years, 300 acres and £70 million later Britain’s first all-seater motor sports stadium was completed and opened.

Rockingham Motor Speedway UK is affectionately twinned with its American namesake, Rockingham Motor Speedway in North Carolina.

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Experiences at Rockingham (Corby, Northamptonshire)

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