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Thruxton to enhance safety of Britain’s fastest corner

Thruxton, the fastest circuit in the country, is to further improve the safety of Church, the fastest corner in the country via a phased series of run-off and barrier alterations over the next few years.

The Hampshire track has long been one of the most popular and respected venues on the UK motor sport scene, appreciated by competitors and fans alike for its challenging foot-to-the-floor nature and old school approach to punishing errors.

Church came under the microscope earlier this year following a trio of accidents there during the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race meeting. Three cars left the circuit at high-speed in separate incidents and came to rest on the other side of the corner’s safety barriers. No injuries were sustained, and the racing was able to resume once temporary barrier repairs had been effected.

Following a comprehensive re-evaluation of the safety of Church, Thruxton’s operator the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) subsequently applied for planning permission to make alterations to the flat-out right-hander.

This will involve levelling off the run-off area and removing a section of shrubbery and trees on the outside of the corner to be able to install more substantial barriers. It is a considerable engineering feat, and one that will be undertaken in two phases over the next two winters.

“Thruxton has always had a long-term desire to level off the run-off area at Church,” explained Thruxton Group Managing Director Bill Coombs, “but because of the slope at the early part of the run-off, a solution was always going to require planning permission.

“Although a fast corner, Church has always been a relatively safe bend and so the priority has always been to focus on improving safety at corners where accidents were most likely to result in injury – hence changes to the chicane kerbing for bikes and considerable work moving the entire start-line Armco back four metres at the beginning of 2014.

“We have been in discussion with the MSA, MCRCB, Environment Agency, Planning Authority and Thruxton’s landowner Western Air for quite some time, and it is hoped that we will gain permission to enlarge the run-off area further – which will require about 300m of hedge coming down – and gain a gentle slope in the key, early area of run-off. Western Air has been extremely co-operative in helping us with this.

“This is a much more complex project than it might appear, and it will require a significant amount of material to raise the levels as well as considerable drainage work, and needs to be combined with some flood defence work for Thruxton Village. Hence there is still much technical detail to be sorted, but the hope is that we will get planning approval early in the new year.

“This should allow some work to be started prior to the February test and 2015 season, but it will be completed in stages, with the bulk happening over the winter from 2015 to 2016. The scale of the work and limited close-season time means it is expected to take a few years to complete fully.

“When finished, the key areas of run-off should have a gentle graded rise towards the barriers – rather than a drop as at present – should be much smoother, extended in key places by 10-15m and will be fronted by Armco and belted tyre barriers.”

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