Motorbike racing commentator James Whitham got Kent’s newest bar off to a flying start on Friday 15th May.
More than 150 people attended the launch of the new Racing Bar at the four-star Thistle Brands Hatch hotel in West Kingsdown.
The Racing Bar which has recently had more than £200,000 spent on it, is crammed with memorabilia from more than eight decades of racing at the world-famous circuit situated adjacent to the hotel. As well as a Ducati and a Suzuki motorbike on display, the bar is filled with photos of racing drivers and bikers.
Formula One heroes Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and Nigel Mansell are all on the Racing Bar’s gallery wall of fame. Along with motorbike legends from Mike Halewood and Barry Sheene to Carl Foggerty and modern-day hero Valentino Rossi.
Former British and World Superbike racer James Whitham told fans at the launch of the Racing Bar of his fond memories of competing at Brands, including the 1998 World Superbikes Championship racing neck and neck against Carl Foggarty and Troy Corsa.
He said: “There were 120,000 people at the circuit that day and as we came down Clearways I could hear the crowd screaming above the noise of the bikes.” Whitham’s career ended in 2002, when he was involved in a pile-up on the finishing straight at Brands. The following year he began commentating on British and World Superbikes on the Eurosport channel.
He said: “I can’t believe I won’t be at Brands this year covering World Superbikes in August. It was always the highlight of my year. Hopefully it will be back again next year”.
Whitham believes the Racing Bar is a real tribute to the racers of old who have entertained the crowds over the years. Cutting the tape to open the bar he said: “It’s a fantastic venue with a great atmosphere. I was really impressed.”
The following day, British Superbikes racer Simon Andrews, brought his 200mph 1000cc Kawasaki ZX10R Ninja bike to the hotel to meet bikers.
The Management of the Thistle Brands Hatch are hoping the Racing Bar will become a favourite venue for bikers. They plan to have a special biker’s night on the first Friday of every month.
The bar – which also screens sports every night - is open to local people who want a drink in a nice atmosphere and to watch sport on TV.
Sarah Ingram, the hotel’s general manager said: “When we decided to launch the Racing Bar we wanted to capture the history and excitement of motorsport and enhance the relationship we have with Brands Hatch.”