We had a sit down with a professional driver Jack Layton to discuss all things driving, so that you can feel confident driving on the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit
What inspired you to become a professional driver coach?
I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of teaching and communicating. Combining that with my passion for motorsport, I’m fortunate enough to do a very rewarding job in an industry that means a lot to me.
What does your job as a professional driver coach include?
My job can vary from one day to the next, as Chief Instructor at Goodwood, I lead and train all the instructors within our ARDS school as well as developing their corporate events and driving experiences. When working in my own capacity, I do more bespoke driver coaching on behalf of race teams, individual track day enthusiasts and club racers.
One of the most rewarding things for me is taking a new track day driver from learning the basics to getting their race licence and venturing into the world of competitive motorsport.
Off track what do you do for fun?
It’s hard to say when I find my job has some really fun moments, but I enjoy following most sports, cycling, skiing and doing the occasional sim race – oops that’s also on track I guess!
Driving on track
What do you think it takes to be a skilled driver on track?
In short it can take a lot, but here are some key skills a good driver should be able to master:
– Visualise the track ahead
– Process information at speed and adapt quickly
– Be aware of their surroundings
– Have the right mentality to be self-disciplined – we can’t be fast everywhere!
– Have a good feel and understanding for what’s happening to the car and surface
What advice would you give to someone that has never done a track day before?
The more you can prepare for the day the more you’ll get out of it. This could include getting your car serviced and checked beforehand, which will lower the risk of a breakdown, to memorising the circuit layout and ideally booking in some instruction. Always build up gradually so you are consistent. Remember everyone starts somewhere and you should not try to be too fast too soon!
For those experienced drivers out there, what would your key piece of advice be to improve?
Maximise what you can learn from your track time. Hiring a driver coach is the most effective way of doing this. They will look at what you are doing and pass on their years of experience and knowledge to improve your driving. It’s also a good idea to invest in an onboard camera so you can watch your driving back on and see what mistakes you can spot!
You have been at many of the Salone Events Track Days, what is your view of them?
Salone Events Track Days are always very special. They’re not just any track day, from the high-end cars customers bring to the extra thought that goes in from the organisers. The words ‘relaxed’ and ‘bespoke’ comes to mind.
What is the most epic moment on track in your professional driving career?
Working on behalf of Lamborghini at Goodwood Speed Week was pretty epic, I was lined up on the start/finish straight alongside each manufacturers’ halo cars. It must have been a multimillion-pound traffic jam!
Who is the most successful racing driver you have coached?
It wouldn’t be fair to say who the most successful is, as many are still young and early in their career, but I have assisted quite a few drivers who have found their way onto the BTCC grid and support races.
What is the biggest challenge people face on track?
For new track day drivers, it’s probably managing the space around them and their ability to drive at speed with other cars nearby. This could loosely be likened to their race craft technique, but obviously an element of defensive driving and caution should be adopted on a track day.
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit
Talk us through Brands Hatch Indy Circuit – how would you advise to approach each turn?
Brands Hatch Indy Circuit is only 1.2 miles long but there is a lot to fit into a lap. Here is a brief breakdown of a few reference points and considerations for each turn. Here is a video of me driving around the circuit.
Turn 1: Paddock Hill Bend
A fast right hander that is unsighted on entry, drops down severely and is off camber. Preceding this corner, you will be coming down the start/finish straight on the right side nearest the pit wall. Just before the start line, you’ll move ¾ up the track to the left. The track here rises up so you can’t see the corner entry whilst the outer profile to the corner begins fairly early!
With this in mind, the priority will be to maximise track width at the point of turn in but to remain stable and straight whilst breaking. Line up with the marshal post directly ahead when you start the braking process to help you end upon the left side. You will want to start loading up you steering wheel as you run alongside the access road on the left with the maximum steering input at the very edge of the gravel trap.
Aim to apex fairly late on the curb to the right just before the track drops down. Only run a minimal amount of curb or none to avoid making the car unstable. Ideally be back to some throttle input before the apex and allow the car to gradually run wide using all the exit curb just after the car goes through the dip at the bottom.
Top tip: if you are going off the circuit into the gravel, avoid trying to steer to come back onto the tarmac. Instead relax your steering input and stay straight. The gravel is deep and as you drop down you will likely dig in and roll over if you’re side on!
Turn 2: Druids Hairpin
As you approach, you will see the bridge crossing the track. You can use this as reference point to gauge braking. Most novice drivers are encouraged to stay very wide through the entry, almost on the very outside of the track with an apex ¾ around the corner.
A much more preferable line is to point the car in across the middle of the track just before the bridge to enable straight braking towards the inside curb early on. You will then allow the car to slow down into its minimum speed mid corner coming away from the curb to enable some ‘rotation’. Hopefully with enough front-end grip you can clip a second or late apex with a straightening steering lock in a ‘V’ profile.
Turn 3: Graham Hill Bend
A 90-degree left after a short downhill run. There are two potential lines to take as you approach this corner. The driver’s preferences and car’s characteristics will somewhat dictate this. The track kinks to the left as you head towards the braking zone so start off braking fairly central to maintain stability. When you end up on the right side and/or have a straight wheel, fully commit to brake pressure and trail it for this corner.
Hopefully you will create a small amount of rotation just after turn in (around one car length before the curb ends) which will enable you to get back on the power as early as possible. Only use a very small amount of curb at the apex as its quite aggressive and will often throw the car wide to exceed track limits!
Turn 4 & 5: Surtees and McLaren
A fast open left followed by a fast open right. Potentially this is a flat-out section in some cars, but well worth building up to. Always start off with a brake, then attempt a lift before trying it flat-out. Your exit speed from the previous corner may also affect this as well as your tyres going off if it’s marginal. The key here is getting the right balance and correct weight transfer to straighten this section up. As a guide, aim to be turning in by the first orange square on the barrier before the curb on the right.
However, it’s more important to be looking through to the apex here than fixating on a turn point. The apex is at the end of the widest point of the curb. You’ll feel a bump in the tarmac as you clip it. Then allow the car to use all the track out towards the curb on the right as you aim to drive through McLaren without much steering. Try not to think of McLaren as a corner but more the start of your braking zone for Clearways. You should be back on the power well before the apex at Surtees and remain on it up to and even past McLaren depending on your car.
Turn 6: Clearways
A very long right-hand turn that causes most cars to understeer. For the purpose of a track day and knowing you shouldn’t be overtaken by a late dive up the right side, position your car from the apex of McLaren across to the left edge of the track whilst braking. You don’t have to use the full track width here if it stops you getting back to an apex but you may find you get close to the edge momentarily.
Be mindful of too much weight transfer forward in the first part of the braking zone as the track drops down slightly and you may need a minimal amount of steering lock. Aim to be back on the power as soon as the car is pointing towards your apex which is at the end of the widest part of the curb on the right as it narrows.
Exit speed is of paramount importance here with the goal being to reduce lock as early as possible and utilise the full track width as you carry speed back out to the left side. You will get close to the gravel which will be unnerving, but aim to only be fully on the left for a moment where the white line crosses the track at the end of the pit entry. Force yourself to look ahead here to the Clark Curve so your line is a smooth ark.
Turn 7: Clark Curve
Clark Curve is the final part of the lap onto the start/finish straight and a continuation of Clearways to the right. You’ll want to be looking to apex on the right side just after the raised marshal post and the start of the pit wall. If you’ve got the last corner right you should be totally flat out with a straight wheel now driving down the right side of the track for the shortest distance down the straight.
What is the most technical part of the Brands Hatch Indy Circuit?
Undoubtedly Paddock Hill Bend. It’s fast, slightly unsighted, with bumps, camber and elevation change. This corner has multiple parts a driver needs to link together to get right, but is probably the most rewarding corner in UK motorsport. Oh, and if you get it wrong, you’ll be in the gravel!
What are the most common mistakes you see drivers make at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit?
On a track day, it’s probably taking a very wide line and late turn in for Druids. The reference cones can be a helpful starting point but there is more than one way to skin a cat!
How do you ensure you get the perfect approach to a corner each time?
Good braking technique and track positioning is important but looking far enough ahead to anticipate your inputs makes a huge difference. You don’t have much time to rest on the Indy circuit so get mentally ready to focus.
And finally, what are your top 5 tips for improving driving around Brands Hatch Indy Circuit?
- On a track day always build up slowly to be consistent. Brands Indy is a short lap so remember it’ll potentially take a few laps to build up tyre temperature.
- Keep looking ahead, there are no long straights to take a break!
- Find space by managing the cars around you. There can be a few pinch points with the overtake on the left rule!
- Learn some of the many reference points so you can start to judge how much more speed you can safely carry.
- Always try and get some instruction booked, it may only be 1.2 miles long but there’s lots to learn!
WHERE CAN PEOPLE CONTACT YOU IF THEY WOULD LIKE TO BOOK TUITION FOR OUR TRACK DAYS AT BRANDS HATCH?
Thank you so much Jack, these tips are so helpful and I am sure our clients will take your advice on board to improve their driving skills. We look forward to seeing you at our next track day!