Castle Combe Circuit History
Castle Combe Circuit opened just 18 months after Silverstone, in the summer of 1950, making it one of the longest established circuits in the UK. Until 1999, the circuit followed its original layout around the perimeter of the old air base. In that first year, a young Stirling Moss won a race here and over the next few years the likes of Mike Hawthorn, Colin Chapman and John Surtees thrilled huge crowds.
The 1960s and '70s were blighted by planning problems and the track didn't take off until 1976 when a lease was eventually obtained and the development of the circuit as a modern national racing venue began. The resurfaced, and now reshaped circuit, provides what is generally recognised as the closest circuit racing in British motor sport.
Castle Combe has been somewhat modified in 1999, increasing the length of the circuit slightly (now 1.85 miles) and reducing speeds on the two long straights by the introduction of a pair of chicanes (the Esses and Bobbies). The rest of the circuit is almost flat-out driving, lifting for some of the corners with heavy braking needed only for Quarry and Tower (in addition to the chicanes). The entire circuit essentially follows a gentle slope
- the centre of the circuit is basically a small hill so the far side of the track is completely hidden from the paddock. The lowest point is at Tower, the highest at Quarry.
One of the problems with the circuit is the treatment of the run off areas. The entire run off is little more than freshly ploughed earth which in this part of Wiltshire is a very fine, rich soil - superb for growing things in, but a little troublesome when it gets on the circuit, as is prone to happen especially at the new chicanes. The result is a low-grip gloss applied to the surface of the tarmac
The corner after the start/finish straight is taken flat out before taking a left-hand bend over the brow of a slight hill and somehow you have to brake whilst the car is still a little unstable for what the Autosport Circuit Guide describes as 'perhaps one of the hardest (corners) in Britain'. There is little run-off space here and this could result in a very expensive accident if you get it wrong. The first chicane is the Esses and is easy to spot whilst very fast, as is tower which can also be a little scary as you now have to break hard just after in order to make the next chicane Bobbies. This is slower and difficult to spot accurately, luckily there is a sensible run off here and you just rejoin the track. Then its foot down to camp corner in which all you see is a nice white wall approaching you, care is
required here as mistakes will be expensive.
The track is 1.5 miles South of the M4 between J17 and J18. It's well signposted from Junction 17, so you cannot get lost.
This charming, 1.84 miles around, circuit is one of the fastest circuits in the country but is fairly safe as there are generally a lot of run-off areas. But watch out for Quarry which sees its fair share of spills and Camp which can have you going off into the tyres near the pits if you drive too fast.
Facilities are good, with a large cafe with good catering, a bar and reasonable lavatories. Also they have a proper control room and a scruitineering bay.
They are very strict about noise here because of the residents. As well as scruitineering they also check every car with a meter before it's allowed out on the track. Cars with exhaust systems louder than 100db will not be allowed on!
Camping is allowed and there are lots of B&Bs nearby or nicer hotels if you want one. There is petrol just outside the circuit to the East, Castle Combe village is great. One of the most beautiful villages in England.
Some Caslte Combe Racing History
These articles make for great reading and a feel for the History of the Circuit