So long Brands Hatch…

BrandsPit… it was good while it lasted.

No, Brands Hatch isn’t closing down. It’s just that I may not attend any of their track dates this year despite the fact that it’s a great circuit with great staff and good facilities. If you’re interested to know my reasons why then read on.

Brands Hatch’s 2014 track day calendar has recently been published and only one day time event on the Indy circuit is with three groups per hour while all the other dates are four groups per hour. As someone with a few track days under their belt (including many at Brands Hatch), I can confirm that track days with four groups per hour suck compared to ones with three groups.

Four groups per hour means another 25-30 bikes at the circuit which makes for more crowded parking lots and garages. There’s just a lot less room and longer queues for things like food and toilets.

The biggest negative about a four group per hour event is that you either get 4 x 15 sessions per hour and 7 sessions in total during the day or 5 sessions of 20 minutes for the day. Either way you get about 40 minutes less track time as a result and if you factor in more sessions with the potential for more red flags then you could end up with even less track time than that.

Two forthcoming track days at Brands are in fact being offered as three group per hour events on the longer GP circuit but they are being charged at a whopping £229 (US$ 366). That’s car track day prices! Contrast Brands GP track day prices with £149-159 (US$ 240-254) for Donington GP or £159-175 (US$ 254-280) for Silverstone GP. Whichever way you look at it, I just don’t think that riding at Brands Hatch offers the equivalent value for money.

For track day riders, there are other brilliant circuits within two hours of Brands that quite frankly offer better value for money. These include Snetterton, Bedford Aerodrome (both managed by MSV just like Brands), Silverstone and Donington (the last two of which are truly iconic).

Circuit Groups/Hr Av Cost Track Time Cost/Hr
Brands Indy 4 £99 1:40 £60
Brands GP 3 £229 2:20 £100
Silverstone Int’l 3 £139 2:20 £60
Silverstone GP 3 £167 2:20 £71
Donington GP 3 £155 2:20 £66

The Cost/Hr figure is what a rider pays to ride at the cicuit per hour of track time

The table above shows that Brands GP is worse value for money compared to the other circuits listed and you can also see how much less track time you get in a four group per hour track day and that’s without factoring in the extra bikes and bodies that cause more competition for space and facilities.

I’m not entirely convinced that this situation has come about as a result of greed either on the part of MSV or the track day organisers renting the circuit because Brands probably doesn’t have to work too hard to fill their calendar and they’re looking to earn the same fee per day regardless of the event. The track day organisers renting the track therefore either need to either sell more places or charge more.

On the Indy circuit, they know they can’t charge a lot more than they already do which is why they’ve opted for four groups per hour. On the GP circuit, some riders will pay (a lot) more for the chance to ride the GP ciruit because it only hosts one to two bike track days a year, so track day organisers can run 3 groups per hour and still be reasonably confident about selling all the places despite their eye wateringly high price tag.

If track day riders begin to avoid Brands Hatch events thereby making them less economic to operate, then MSV may need to re-think and change their prices so that the track day organisers can revert to three groups per hour at more sensible pricing. If however, riders continue to flock to Brands like lemmings then nothing will change and maybe other circuits will start to look at what Brands is doing, change their policies and/or raise their prices accordingly too.

It’s important that track day riders let organisers know that the four group format is not what they want otherwise this could be the start of a slippery slope towards less track time, more bikes at venues and higher prices.

Hopefully this won’t be the case but we’ll have to wait and see what transpires for the remainder of 2014 going into next year.

Update
It appears that Brands Hatch isn’t the only circuit operating four group sessions because the only track days available at Castle Combe are also four groups per hour at a cost of £130 for the day.