It had been some considerable time since the College had heard from one of her most famous sons, former Grand Prix racer Jonathan Palmer (A. 1969-74). In fact, to my recollection the last visit he paid to the school was when I had invited him to talk to the school’s Auto Club back in 1982! We were therefore particularly delighted when Jonathan contacted our President to invite the Association to enjoy a day’s hospitality at Brands Hatch. We were offered a large suite high above the main startline straight offering a magnificent view of every corner of the circuit.
Our party of 30 was made up of a rich variety of OBs, friends and family – a great mix of parents and alumni that we felt perfectly reflected the culture of “inclusivity” that the OBA is so keen to promote.
During one of Jonathan’s frequent visits to our suite he spoke to us all about his racing career and subsequent involvement in his Motorsport Sensation programme. He was genuinely delighted to welcome representatives of the college to Brands Hatch, and invited us to make this an annual event – of course we accepted on the spot!
For many of our party this was their first visit to any kind of motor race. I myself had not been here in ages (I raced here in the late eighties, and saw Jonathan’s first Grand Prix here in 1983). It was heartening to see Brands Hatch in such good shape – long gone are the days of cold meat pies on wind-swept and muddy trackside bankings (unless that’s what you want!). Jonathan has now bought Brands Hatch and he outlined his plans – he clearly has a vision and energy that convinced those of us who love this place that it is now in very good hands.
For the entire day catering staff hovered around us ensuring our sustenance and refreshment as we witnessed an astonishing variety of colourful machines hurtle round the Kent countryside - occasionally vandalising the crash barriers below us – and I must take a moment to thank the staff at Brands Hatch. Without exception we encountered friendly and helpful personnel at every turn (pardon the pun) – they exemplify the leap forward in professional courtesy that one can now expect here. Tracy and Wendy treated us all like Royalty – most notably when my wife had to be despatched to the railway station to get to Margate for a show (the glamorous life of a dancer!); a taxi was summoned along with a natty little golf buggy to ferry her across the circuit to said cab! We could get used to this, we thought, and suggested to David Gold that the OBA’s next motorsport event might be in Monaco…
The quality of the racing was as varied as the machinery on show; if the Porsches were a little processional, the touring cars more than made up or it, most notably in their second race when all involved appeared to have forgotten the highway code braking distances and Paddock Hill bend became lost in clouds of blue smoke and airborne gravel! Race after race we were treated to the site of young blades charging up the main straight towards us, diving down Paddock and off into oblivion. We were shocked to hear that some of said blades were in fact as young as 15, and Clive Hall’s (R. 1977-81) partner Claire was quick to advise her young son, Jake, “not to even think about it”.
The race schedule was interrupted by a pit lane “walk about” – a wonderful opportunity for brand managers to shower us with brightly coloured baseball caps and literature expounding the virtues of tyres and cleaning fluids – and a magnificent lunch of cold meats and assorted foliage (delicious!). It was during lunch that we witnessed the moment that a Renault Clio decided it was time to pile headlong into the trackside barrier below our vantage point. It’s difficult to maintain one’s dignity when exclaiming “did you see that!?!” with a mouthful of poached salmon… but I think I managed it.
On behalf of all those present I thank David Gold, Jonathan Palmer and Fiona Aiken for organising a magnificent day, and strongly urge all OBs to join us next year! It is especially encouraging that David is so keen to see more of this sort of event on our social calendar; events that compliment and contrast those traditional alumni standards of dinners and balls. More of the same please, Mr President!
This is just a note to thank you all for organising such a wonderful event. Sarah & I had a fantastic time. We were thoroughly looking forward to the day (not just because we could leave our 4 month old son for others to look after) and it exceeded everything we could have hoped for. Not only was hospitality provided outstanding but we also noticed that the atmosphere of the whole circuit was extremely well organised, friendly and professional. We've always enjoyed motor sport but never really thought it was something for the "average punter" to easily take part in. We were wrong and we will be returning with friends. Fiona, David & Jonathan, thank you for conceiving and organising such an event. It opened our eyes.
CHEERS - Rob Little (A. 1982-87)
Those attending included:
David Gold (S. 1986-91) & guests
Jonathan Palmer (A. 1969-74)
Alex (R. 1979-84) & Miriam Bremer
Nick Bremer (staff, 1969-2000)
Jack Bremer (BCJS 1990-94)
Adam Belson (R. 1979-84)
Tim Loadsman (L. 1951-57)
John & Greg Robinson
Jane & Eliot Kimble
Rob Little (A. 1982-87)
Bolaji Odunsi & guests
Clive Hall (R. 1977-81), Claire & Jake