Buckmore Park near Chatham, Kent is one of the best and most well known circuits in the UK. Since its launch in the 1960’s there have been quite a few changes and improvements to the circuit, however it still retains its ‘old school’ feel and technical layout. Since the circuit was bought by John Surtees CBE back in summer 2015 the circuit has undergone further improvement which will continue in the years to come.
It plays host to every type of karting in the country including all non-gearbox MSA formulae at club and Super 1 level, Club 100, BUKC, and Buckmore’s own myriad of in house hire karting championships. It has also been the circuit of choice for the prestigious Henry Surtees Foundation challenge which takes place every October.
Buckmore Park is one of the trickiest and most technical laps in karting due to large elevation change, positive and negative camber, fast and slow corners. The weather is always unpredictable too due to its microclimate thanks to it being situated in dense woodland and its proximity to the Medway river Valley.
Turns 1 & 2 (Conway’s & Henry’s)
Across the start/finish line the entry to turn 1 is fast. A quick scrub on the brakes is normally all that is required. An earlier than expected but smooth turn in here allows the kart to make the optimum line. Attempt to apex on the latter part of the inside kerb at turn 1 and hold it tight through turn 2 (Henry’s) following the white line with your inside wheels. Smooth throttle application as you apex is critical.
Turn 3 (Hairpin 1)
Use all the track on the exit of 2 and follow the white line to the baking zone of 3. Brake hard and sharply just after the change in tarmac by the Marshal’s post on the left. There are ripples in the track here so be aware and try not to lock up. Turn in late and attempt to get close to, but not touch the inside kerb. Trail brake all the way to the apex and apply the power promptly but smoothly as not to make the kart bog. On exit use all the track but keep off the kerb.
Turn 4 (Hairpin 2)
Bring yourself almost all the way to the right from the exit of 3. Brake late and bed the kart into the turn for a late apex. Miss the first part of the apex by about half a kart, and just nip the second part of the apex kerb. The tarmac is very slippery at this corner so be smooth, a high minimum and exit speed here is critical for the long flat out run down the hill.
Turns 5 & 6 (the Esses)
Flat out in all karts, just nip the first left hand kerb, and drive over the red and white inside of the right hand turn 6 to straighten the line. You are trying to scrub as little speed as possible here so minimal and smooth steering input is required. In the wet, aim straight for the left hand kerb of 5 very early and brake in a straight line applying minimal steering input. Jump over the left kerb to turn the kart and then use all the right hand kerb in 6, minimise wheel spin on exit.
Turn 7 (Symes sweep)
The fastest and most exhilarating corner on the track as you plunge down-hill with what must be a nearing 4 meter elevation change. Flat out in most karts when rubber is laid, turn in smoothly at the end of the kerb on the left. Keep it pinned as you four wheel drift down the dip, keep your body solid in the kart as go through the apex, just touching the inside kerb with your front right wheel. As you pass the apex the kart will load up very quickly as the tack levels out again, this is why it’s important to be solid in the kart. Stay in the middle of the track for a heartbeat before the critical turn 8.
Turn 8 (Pullmans)
Staying in the middle of the track from Symes, turn in gradually and very smoothly while rubbing the brakes. Too much brake pressure will unsettle the kart, and mid corner speed is crucial. Rub the brakes all the way to the kerb for a very late apex. You want your inside wheels to just drop over the back of the kerb (woops MSA track limits) onto the grass-crete here as there is a dip which will hook the kart and drag you around the corner. Stay left on exit for a good run though turn 9. In senior karts you want to exit so your right hand wheels just don’t touch the middle seam in the tarmac, in minimax/cadets/hire karts you’ll want to stay a little further left, maybe half a meter to a meter from the middle seam.
Turn 9 (Paddock)
Having stayed left from Pullmans, again rub the brakes as you turn in, trail braking. As a guide you should be turning in so you run your inside wheels just over or just inside the end of the middle seam in the track where the tarmac changes. Power on hard just before you apex to make the most of the banking in the track. Just nip the inside white line but beware of the drain hole in where the kerb meets the track (especially cadets/minimax) as it can unsettle the kart. This corner has a lot of grip due to the banking, tarmac, and rubber laid down so you can carry a lot of speed into it.
Paddock is also an effective overtaking place if you get it right, if you are close behind your competitor through Pullmans take a straight line from the apex at Pullmans to the apex of Paddock and brake in a straight line, you will surprise your opponent and be alongside before the turn in. Beware this is a high risk move and should be exercised with caution, you must fully commit and plan the move a few corners before.
There is a massive and bumpy kerb on the exit which looks daunting and if you half-heartedly use it will feel bad. It is best to run this but you have to fully commit to it and run all the way on it. There is a smoother line through it if you exit Paddock and aim to go in a straight line to the entry of turn 10, like the photo below. You should aim to put your left wheels as far left on the red/white bit as possible, then run just off the back where the kerb ends. Try being solid or relaxed in the kart as you run over this, different karts will respond better to one or the other for the smoothest ride.
Turn 10 (Garda)
Garda is the main and easiest overtaking place on the circuit due to the very late apex for this corner. Brake late and in a straight line with a bit of tyre scrub, and turn in smoothly and late allowing the kart to load up as the track rises to the apex. You should aim to apex right where the inside kerb ends (weird I know) but don’t go on the kerb as there is a massive dip where it ends which will kick you sideways and might throw your chain. As you apex the track starts to fall and there is quite a strong adverse camber. Keep right on exit. The faster the kart the further right you want to keep on exit. Senior Rotax/X30 will want their right hand wheel to be almost on the white line where the track juts out before the dip, whereas Cadets/hire karts should have more of a middle exit to carry more speed.
Turn 11 (Senna S)
Keeping right from the exit of Garda, as you plunge down the very steep gradient you accelerate very quickly. You should be flat here in all karts. The faster the kart the more kerb you should take. Minimise steering lock at the exit to keep the speed up. Beware the kart jumps on the bump in the middle of the corner. This corner is effectively an acceleration zone.
Turn 12 (Café Curve)
The last corner, uphill, over a crest, blind exit. As you rise up the hill follow the track as it kinks ever so slightly right before turning into the blind left hander. Apex in the middle of the kerb, taking a nibble on the inside. Open the steering after you apex allowing the kart to run onto the top of the white exit kerb. In senior karts this corner is only just flat out so keep your foot in, you may have to build up to it. Run the exit kerb for a little while and let the kart come off naturally as you drive toward the finish line. Make a straight line to Marshal Post 1 ready for another lap.
That’s a lap of the awesome Buckmore Park, one of the most fun circuits around and a personal favourite of mine. The main overtaking spots are Hairpin 1 & 2, and into Garda on the brakes, however you can also overtake into paddock (if you are brave enough) as well as turn 1 with a good tow.
Over the winter of 2015/2016 Buckmore has been undergoing some major improvements including tarmacking of some runoff areas with plans for the rest, as well as new safer barriers replacing all tyre walls.
I hope this helps, if you have any further questions leave a comment below, or message me on twitter @PiersPrior or at facobook.com/PiersPriorRacing
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