Published: 07:00, 17 November 2014
A reckless driver who put lives at risk when he sped onto Brands Hatch circuit while a race was in progress has been jailed for eight months.
Jack Cottle had his hysterical girlfriend and a friend in the car when he drove onto the Kent track during the VW Fun Cup event at the circuit in June.
The friend filmed from the back seat as Cottle laughed as he completed a circuit. A clip was put on YouTube, attracting 2,300,000 hits.
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Cottle, of Milton Gardens, Tonbridge, admitted causing a public nuisance at an earlier hearing.
Maidstone Crown Court heard racers were hitting speeds over 100mph when he steered his girlfriend’s white Volkswagen Polo onto the famous track during an endurance race.
A judge was told he had was dared by friends to perform the “foolish prank”, putting the lives of racers in danger.
The YouTube footage showed Cottle, 22, heading down the pit lane at just before 4pm on June 14 with his girlfriend begging him to stop.
As he did so, a competitor had to have his release from the pits delayed.
Video: The moment Jack Cottle enters the Brands Hatch circuit
“There was clearly a danger to him as Mr Cottle went past his car,” said prosecutor Iestyn Morgan.
“He went down the lane, gained access to the track and proceeded to do a full circuit.
“It is quite clear he put himself and his passengers in danger, and also other drivers who would not expect an ordinary road car going considerably slower than they were to be on the track.
“Red flags were put out and racing came to an end because of the danger to the track.”
By then the race had been in progress for about three-and-a-half hours. It was stopped with just 30 minutes to go.
Mr Morgan said the 26 drivers had paid around a total of £200,000 to compete. Organisers Fun Cup UK lost £4,200.
When interviewed by police Cottle, who admitted causing a nuisance to the public, said he had been egged on to do it and he “got carried away”.
He added: “If I get egged on, I just do it. I just thought I had the opportunity to do something no one has done before.”
He added that he was sorry about what had happened but declared he would do it again.
Judge Martin Joy told Cottle the offence had to be dealt with severely to deter copycats.
He said: “Competing cars were travelling in excess of 100mph when you drove a full circuit.
Your girlfriend was hysterical and screaming, begging you to stop. You ignored her.
“There was also great danger caused elsewhere by you. It was thought by one driver that yours must have been a doctor’s car or the safety car.
“It is clear your actions were premeditated. Your behaviour was deliberate. It was inexcusable.
“When you came off you were laughing, while the lady was having a panic attack. She was taken to a medical centre.
“Many of the drivers were upset and having a go at you for risking lives and ruining their day. You said you had done it as a dare.
“There is clear evidence there was real danger. Unless this sort of behaviour is dealt with severely others may be tempted to do copycat offending.”
“It is clear your actions were premeditated. Your behaviour was deliberate. It was inexcusable" - Judge Martin Joy
The judge said such conduct should be dealt with firmly by courts. The attitudes Cottle expressed in a pre-sentence report were concerning.
“In my judgement the sentence must reflect the need to deter others who might be tempted to act as you did,” he said.
“I am satisfied it is so serious a non-custodial sentence is inappropriate. I consider suspending the sentence would be inappropriate.
“Immediate imprisonment is necessary to reflect the harm caused and culpability.”
Judge Joy added he did not consider his power to disqualify Cottle should be exercised.
Speaking after the sentencing, Jonathan Palmer, Chief Executive of MSV (the owner of Brands Hatch), said: “I am really pleased that Kent Police and the Court have quite rightly taken such a tough stance on this deliberately reckless act, which endangered the lives of the drivers racing on circuit and the volunteer track marshals, not to mention Jack Cottle and his passengers.
“His idiotic and selfish behaviour – aggravated by his unrepentant attitude in subsequent media coverage - received much immediate condemnation.
"His conviction and prison sentence will serve to reinforce the message that this kind of antisocial behaviour is not only stupid, but will lead to prosecution.”
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