America comes to Kent

In May this year, the tight confines of Brands Hatch played host to top-line American single-seaters for the first time since 1978. After 25 years plenty had changed in the politics of the race series, but Brands itself had lost none of its charms.

America comes to Kent

Fine skies above the tree-lined Indy circuit made the event one of the most photogenic of the year - and the British crowds showed their appreciation with a 60 000-strong turnout over the Bank Holiday weekend.

"The Englis are big-time racing fans," said top driver Bruno Junqueira. "They were very excited and a lot of them came out to see us race. It's nice because Brands Hatch is such a great track that it deserves a first-class open-wheel race."

The drivers enjoyed their overseas weekend to a man - and none more so that Sébastien Bourdais, who took his first series win in the race. But the rookie would have to admit that he had some help from Paul Tracy's bad luck. The Canadian veteran had ruthlessly dominated the weekend and cantered to pole position (in single-car qualifying) before his car let him down whilst shadowing Bourdais in the race.

From there on it was an easy ride to the end for the Frenchman, who did an excellent job of conserving his fuel in a typical Champ Car strategy race where nobody was able to run flat out the whole distance.



Champ Car was never in rude health this year and it was a small field that made the trip to England. But all the names were there - team owners Bobby Rahal, Stefan Johansen, Carl Haas and Derek Walker. Emerson Fittipaldi and Mario Andretti were among the former driving greats in the little Brands paddock.

Mario won himself plenty of new friends by giving rides around the circuit in an Audi TT, while other guests were whisked around in Mustangs.

There were those who lamented that the race was not run on the full Grand Prix circuit, and a monotonous and traffic-plagued event suggested this might not have been a poor idea. But safety on the big track needs work before such machinery could be sent out into those lonely woods.

Sadly it doesn't look like the series will be back next year as its objectives keep shifting. One hopes it won't be another 25 years before the Yanks return to Kent.

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