Thruxton are to improve the safety of Church corner with a number of run-off and barrier alterations over the next few years following a trio of high-profile accidents during the BTCC meeting earlier this year.
Church, ‘the fastest corner in the country’, came under scrutiny after Nick Foster, Ollie Jackson and Simon Belcher all suffered high-speed incident at the corner during the meeting in May, the latter sent barrel-rolling into the trees by the circuit’s existing safety barrier.
Following a re-evaluation of the safety of the corner, Thruxton’s operator BARC (British Automobile Racing Club) have applied for planning permission to make alterations to the corner. This will involve levelling off the run-off area and removing a section of shrubbery and trees to allow the installation of more substantial barriers.
The work will be undertaken in two phases over the next two winters, with Thruxton Group Managing Director Bill Coombs saying the changes show an on-going focus from the circuit to improve safety.
“Thruxton has always had a long-term desire to level off the run-off area at Church, but because of the slope at the early part of the run-off, a solution was always going to require planning permission,” said Coombs.
“Although a fast corner, Church has always been a relatively safe bend and so the priority has always been to focus on improving safety at corners where accidents were most likely to result in injury – hence changes to the chicane kerbing for bikes and considerable work moving the entire start-line Armco back four metres at the beginning of 2014.”
Coombs added that the circuit hopes to enlarge the run-off area further in future, which will require about 300m of hedge to be removed, with a gentle slope put in the key, early run-off area.
Once finished, the hope is for the ‘key areas’ of the run-off to have a gentle graded rise towards the barriers, with a much smoother run-off to be extended in places towards armco and belted tyre barriers.
“This is a much more complex project than it might appear,” he added. “It will require a significant amount of material to raise the levels as well as considerable drainage work, and needs to be combined with some flood defence work for Thruxton Village. Hence there is still much technical detail to be sorted, but the hope is that we will get planning approval early in the new year.
“This should allow some work to be started prior to the February test and 2015 season, but it will be completed in stages, with the bulk happening over the winter from 2015 to 2016. The scale of the work and limited close-season time means it is expected to take a few years to complete fully.”