Michelin Ginetta GT4 Supercup front-runner David Pittard gives us the lowdown on this weekend’s venue for the BTCC package Rockingham in the latest instalment of his #TrackTalk feature.
Rockingham International Speedway – One of the most unique circuits in the UK and the fastest race circuit in Europe, Rockingham offers a unique challenge to drivers and fantastic facilities for spectators with its grandstands hosting panoramic views of all the action.
Construction of Rockingham, near Corby, started in late 1999 and after almost ten years of planning and 23 months of construction work, the circuit opened for business in January 2001.
The circuit was constructed as a banked oval with the intention of bringing American oval racing across the Atlantic, as well as the use of the infield for further circuits.
The circuit hosted the CART Championship in 2001 and 2002, the second race being won by Scotsman Dario Franchitti, and also organised and hosted a UK stockcar race series called ASCAR from 2001 to 2007.
It has been one of the UK’s premier racing venues since its opening, regularly hosting rounds of British F3, British GT and BTCC, as well as rallying, club racing and motorbike racing.
A classic race at the Rockingham circuit from 2011, the first appearance of the NGTC turbo engines which made for great racing against the s2000 spec cars. An action packed race with all the aspects that make the BTCC special! Also a podium for the peoples favourite Paul O’Neill!
Rockingham’s signature bend! Using the banking it is easily flat out in most modern cars that use it. Definitely an adrenaline rush as you approach it for the first time and can be sketchy in the wet!
You can be very brave braking hard into the hairpin, as if you over shoot its possible to use the rest of it to turn the car around, so look out for who is overly brave during practice and qualifying especially! A squared off hairpin invites drivers to hit the first apex but it is always beneficial to hit the second to get out of the corner. A good place to pass with the long straight preceding and the wide track on entrance
A very short braking area, into a tight 90 degree right which then leads into a steep uphill section making the exit crutial. A place to watch for track limits with the extended run off.
A medium speed corner with an even smaller braking area, where carrying minimum speed is critical. A bumpy apex can unsettle the car and make it difficult to get back on the power.
Good to set yourself up from Chapman to open up Pif Paf. A fast, long, bumpy left hander with two apex’s really work the rear right tyre over a race weekend and propels you back towards the main grandstand. Again keeping the minimum speed up at the first, tighter apex is critical before daring yourself to go as early as you can on the power and accelerate all the way through the second apex as the corner opens and sweeps up again into Gracelands
Left hander with an unsighted exit! (However we had plenty of practice of unsighted exit’s at Knockhill!), that rises up to the apex before dropping away towards the apex. One of the faster, flowing corners on the circuit that will really test a cars aero and requires commitment from the driver.
The other major overtaking point at Rockingham. As you swoop from right to left it is possible to keep right to lunge up the inside. The corner itself is very tight, but misleads you, as again the track is so wide on entrance and exit. The corner starts as you’re still braking meaning its easy to snatch a front, before really tightening up to the apex and then opens again to a huge open area to accelerate out to.
A very tricky braking zone with no markers what so ever. It is easy to lock a wheel into the chicane but is also a good place to pass if someone is conscious of it. You have to be very patient through the chicane, you can’t attack the kerbs as it is too slow so you must be precise to get the best exit possible onto the long start finish straight. It is very daunting sliding out to the wall getting on the power as… I can speak from experience there isn’t much give in that wall, but when you get it right its a satisfying end to the lap!
Here is the pole position lap from KX Akademy graduate Tom Ingram in 2013 in his Ginetta G55:
Rockingham is a circuit I really enjoy. It hosted one of my first races and its very tight and technical, I relate it to a kart circuit and have always gone well there! I’m confident of a good result this weekend as I believe our set up will work well and I’m confident at the circuit.
Its been far too long since I’ve visited the podium and we’ve lost some ground in the championship race, but with seven rounds still to go, anything can happen so I’m only aiming for race wins and podiums!
(All images: Jakob Ebrey Photography)