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Brands Hatch helps TV’s Paul Hollywood find Top Gear

Monday, June 27 2016

Celebrity baker Paul Hollywood used Brands Hatch's expert rally instructors to give him a competitive advantage ahead of his appearance on BBC's Top Gear last week.

Taking part in the popular motoring show's Star in a Rallycross Car feature, Paul was pitted against comedian and fellow celebrity petrolhead Jennifer Saunders, who was making her second appearance on the programme. Despite having to contend with a soaking gravel section, the star of The Great British Bake-Off was five seconds faster than his rival.

Hollywood's impressive pace in the wet conditions set a strong benchmark for future guests, and his mastery of the slippery conditions was undoubtedly aided by his extensive instruction. Taking the wheel of the Brands Hatch RallyMaster Toyota GT86 two days before his latest TV appearance, he was taught the basics of driving fast on the variety of surfaces offered by the former Grand Prix venue's dedicated course, perfect preparation for the tarmac, gravel and mud of the Top Gear course.

Hollywood1Stepping out of the car, Paul was full of enthusiasm. "Amazing experience," he said. "I always thought one day I must try some rallying, and now I've had a little go I feel the bug has bitten a little bit.

"It's a great little circuit, the car's really receptive, and the instruction is fantastic. The knowledge [is useful] not just in a racing car but in day-to-day driving; if you get caught on ice or a bit of snow or the wet and you lose it, there is a bit of traction that you can use to get out of trouble."

Hollywood was also full of praise for his instructor: "He was fantastic, actually. It's so different the way that it handles on gravel, on soil and going through the water as well. I've never done rallycross before, I've never done any form of rallying. The problem is, once you go from the rally stage to the track, you've still got dirt on your tyres, so technically it's still a very skiddy surface, so I wanted to know what that feels like. Doing this has been fantastic."

Hollywood2Brands Hatch professional rally instructor John Caryl was also impressed. "Paul came in with all of the right moves, but for rallying not always in the right places at the right time! His ability to take in a new skill showed his professional attitude to immerse himself fully. He was always asking questions and soon learnt rally driving to great effect, which was clearly seen on the hairpin with an excellent exit, and on the final corner. His parting comment to me was 'I've got to come back and do more of this, it's so much fun'."

Paul also found the experience useful for his fledgling racing career, which continues at sister venue Snetterton in Norfolk on 6/7 August, when he'll be competing in an Aston Martin Vantage in the British GT Championship for the title-winning Beechdean team.

"It's been great for me with entering the British GT Championship," Paul continued. That instruction will be really useful. Will it pull me away from the racetrack? Maybe later; not now but it will! Beechdean said to me: 'don't bother coming back if you're not top!', so there was no pressure on me at all!"

Paul also confessed to being a fan of Brands Hatch ever since he came to the Kent venue to make a BBC film about racing hero John Surtees: "I love Brands Hatch anyway, but the fact that they've got these little pearls all over the place is an added addition."

The Top Gear episode is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK until late July. Click here to view.

The Brands Hatch RallyMaster experience is available to anyone with a driving licence, and is priced from just £99. For more information call 0843 453 1000 or click here.