Castle Combe

Click here for a map of the pre-1999 circuit.

Castle Combe: 25 miles east of Bristol, SW UK.

Circuit Distance: 1999 - 1.864 miles (3.000km) 1950 - 1998 - 1.84 miles


In 1949, the Bristol MC & LCC used to hold race meetings at Lulsgate Airfield (now Bristol Airport), but after the RAC had problems gaining approval for race meetings it was decided to use the perimeter track of the former wartime airfield of Castle Combe. After negotiations were completed, the first race meeting was held on the 8th July, 1950, although spectators were not allowed. Spectators were allowed in to the next meeting on the 7th October, where a crowd of 12,000 saw Peter Collins and Stirling Moss competing in F3.

By 1955, Formula 1 races were being held, but spectator safety was becoming an issue. As a result, car races were suspended for 1956, although motorbike races continued. It wasn't until 1962 that car races were resumed, once the BRSCC had installed safety banking in 1961.

The circuit was resurfaced in 1964, but planning permission problems were starting to dog the venue. A planning enquiry in May 1968 gave the circuit three more years of use before total closure in 1971, but after a successful year including a round of the year European Formula 5000 Championship, a reprieve was won in June 1972 which allowed five meetings a year for a further three years.

The circuit lease was purchased in 1975 by Howard Strawford, despite the threat of closure. Planning officials were pursuaded to keep extending the planning permission, a highlight being the June 1980 planning enquiry where James Hunt was the expert witness for the circuit. Permanent planning permission was finally granted, and the freehold of the circuit was purchased in 1985.

The Circuit was modified for the first time during November and December 1998, with the addition of Bobbies and The Esses. This was in response to a number of high speed accidents, culminating in a wheel flying into the crowd at Camp Corner, killing a spectator. The lap record for the old circuit is held by Nigel Greensall in his Tyrrell-Judd 023 at 50.59s (130.93mph).

In 2004, the British Superbike Championship visited the circuit for the first time, which necessitated further changes to the circuit. Bybrook chicane was the result - a pimple of tarmac added to the inside of the circuit just before Camp Corner, with hay bales and tyres put in the middle of the circuit proper to enforce the corner. This had no effect on the circuit used by cars.

A hot lap with Erling Jensen

in a V8 Rover Engined Skoda Tiga Coupe silhouette special, pre-1999.

Going flat out across the start, you approach Folly corner at 140mph. You move to the right of the circuit, and hug the inside line of the corner - this corner is really only a curve so you can continue flat out. Its then on up to Avon Rise, the fastest p art of the circuit, where you can reach 175mph or more.

When in Avon Rise, you need to brake hard and change down to third before going through the left flick before Quarry. Once through this, you brake again and change down to second. There are several lines through Quarry - you choose the one which best suits the set-up of your car. Its then on to the farm straight, a quick confidence lift around Old Paddock Bend (taken at 135mph), before entering Hammerdown. You reach 155mph before braking hard and changing into 3rd for Tower Corner.

For the next third of the circuit you go flat out - through West Way and onto the Dean Straight at 170mph. You keep going flat out until you pass the pit entrance, when you brake extremely hard and change down to third for Camp Corner. Once through, its flat out over the start line, 58 or 59 seconds after the last time...