British Grand Prix – Brands Hatch July 1982

British GP Brands '82

In July 1982 I had my first “Up-close” experience of a real Formula 1 race when I attended the British Grand Prix with my two younger brothers.  Back then, the British GP used to alternate each year between Silverstone and Brands and I was fortunate that it was the latter that year.  It was the only time I’ve ever visited Brands and I have to say that although I’ve been to Silverstone many times since, I’ve always favoured the lovely Kentish circuit as it has some great vantage points for spectators combined with the significant elevation changes and it’s actually possible to see the cars for nearly three quarters of the lap from a number of points.

One of my abiding memories of that week-end was a kind of “dull sadness” which surrounded the whole event following the tragic death of the late great Gilles Villeneuve at Zolder six weeks earlier. Despite the shock and sadness of this huge loss to the world of F1, the show continued (as one would expect it to), however, it was somewhat surreal for me to experience the colour and general razz-matazz of the “F1 circus” on my first visit in such sad circumstances.   The other striking thing I remember was the great freedom and access extended to all the fans by the organisers and a general feeling of being “Welcomed” by the teams and drivers.  For twenty quid each we got grandstand seats at Druids hill bend and as part of the ticket price we also got access to a full pit-lane walk-about – I couldn’t quite believe it!  The atmosphere in the pitlane was more akin to a club race at Thruxton!   Security took the form of a piece of rope tied between wobbly plastic cones, with some children (and adults) actually touching the cars – “Hey dad what happens if I press this button”!!   We were quite literally in seventh heaven bumping into icons of the sport every couple of yards – with the drivers freely signing autographs and chatting to fans.  Our Irish contingent were there in reasonable numbers to cheer on both our guys; John Watson in the McLaren and Derek Daly in a Williams.

My memory of the race itself is a bit of a blur – the absolutely awsome sound of the Turbocharged Ferraris and Renaults – was really quite something!  Niki Lauda took the top spoils and the Ferrari pair of Pironi and Tambay the remaining podium spots.  Thirty years on I still cherish (and value) those wonderful memories of a time when the world of F1 was quite a different place.  Unfortunately I don’t possess the words to describe the myriad of contrasts between F1 then and now.  When I browse pictorial books from the period like say; “Grand Prix International” one gets a sense of how F1 must have been; and fortunately for me that’s exactly how I remember it; Colourful, Brash, with Side-burns and Long-hair and totally Balls-Out racing!  I recently had the pleasant experience of having some of those memories brought back into sharper focus when I discovered the old photographs I took that week end 30 years ago on four rolls of  “Fujicolor 200″ with my trusty Practica SLR camera.   I think the cost of developing the photo’s was more than the price of getting into the circuit!  My earlier mention of being able to touch the cars is borne out by the photo I took of my younger brother reaching into the cockpit of the Williams -  wonderful memories – Enjoy!


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