Mallory Park: The Tightest Curves in the U.K.
August 27, 2007
Mallory Park is the second-smallest race circuit in the U.K., with a loop of only 1.35 miles (2.17 km). But there’s a lot of action packed into that small space. Mallory is irregularly shaped, sort of like an oval with a narrow handle. The “handle” part is Shaw’s Hairpin, the tightest corner on any U.K. racetrack. It’s also got Gerard’s, one of the U.K.’s widest turns; some drivers call it an “endless right-hander.” Despite its short length, Mallory Park has a great deal of variety and requires some nerve and skill to drive well.
Mallory Park was first used as a race track in the late forties, when the Leicester Quarry Motorcycle Club used it as a grass track. It wasn’t paved until 1955, when it was bought by Clive Wormleighton. It changed hands several more times, and the basic design of the original grass strip—the oval with the “handle”—was kept the same, although some structural changes were added as the years went on.
There are two straights at Mallory Park: the long Kirkby Straight, connecting Shaw’s Hairpin to Gerard’s; and Stebbe Straight, leading from Gerard’s back to Shaw’s Hairpin. On both, it’s possible to build up a great deal of speed going into the turns. In addition, Gerard’s is an exceptionally wide turn; most drivers accelerate through it, building up even more speed through Stebbe Straight and into the hairpin. Several chicanes, or small twists in the track, have been added in the past in order to keep racing speeds at safe levels.
In 2002, the British ACU felt that competitors were gaining too much speed at the end of Stebbe Straight going into Shaw’s Hairpin, so they decided to build a small chicane or turn designed to check driver speed. The turn was built at the end of Stebbe Straight and named Edwina’s, after Edwina Overend, one of the circuit promoters.
Between races and events at Mallory Park, it’s sometimes possible to drive the track yourself through a company that offers race experience days. If you’re heading off on a racing experience day at Mallory Park, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a breakdown of the park’s most noted features.
Kirkby Straight. The starting line is placed at the beginning of Kirkby Straight, heading into Gerard’s. The straight gives you time to build up speed heading into the long right-hand turn up ahead.
Gerard’s. Considered by most drivers to be Mallory Park’s “sweet spot,” Gerard’s is one of the widest turns at any U.K. circuit. It gives drivers plenty of time to build up speed in the curve, and many drivers find themselves actually shifting up as they proceed through the turn.
Stebbes Straight. After building up speed on Gerard’s, drivers have another straightaway. Stebbes Straight sees some of the highest speeds on the racetrack, as drivers have moved through the Kirkby Straight and Gerard’s before getting there.
Edwina’s Chicane. Coming up is Shaw’s Hairpin—and in the past, racers have built up dangerous speed approaching it. To keep the speed under control, Edwina’s was added to force riders and drivers to brake and narrow into single file. However, collisions have been known to happen as drivers merge into a single line.
Shaw’s Hairpin. The tightest curve on any U.K. racetrack, Shaw’s Hairpin takes some technical skill to get through without losing significant speed.
Bus Stop Chicane. After Shaw’s Hairpin, there’s a long straight down the handle and then into Kirkby Straight. Drivers can build up serious speed here. The Bus Stop chicane was added before Kirkby Straight to put a check on speed.
Lake Esses. One of Mallory Park’s most attractive features is the lake in the middle of the track. Racers drive on the edge of the lake at Gerard’s and at the Lake Esses curve at the end of Stebbes Straight, heading towards Shaw’s Hairpin. On occasion, unlucky cars have been known to wind up in the lake.
Don’t let the length of the track fool you—Mallory Park is an extremely fast race track, with tight turns that can get quite technical. It’s got a long history in British racing and beautiful grounds as well. Anyone might be able to drive it, but few can drive it well—especially in a fast sports car. Driving Mallory Park is definitely a challenge for anyone who loves speed.
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