Silverstone Race Circuit is the home of British Motor Racing and has been since its inception in 1948. You can’t avoid the feeling of awe when you first catch sight of the Pit Straight and hear the whine of the cars speeding past. It is the circuit that every driver wants to experience, and every racing enthusiast wants to visit.
The History of Silverstone
The history of the Silverstone Circuit began in 1943 when the RAF needed a bomber station during World War II. It stands near the village of Silverstone, and if you look at the track from the air, you can still see parts of the airfield’s original three runways. They were designed so that any one of them could be used to send up the heavy bombers regardless of the direction of the prevailing wind.
Towards the end of 1947 knowing it was deserted, a local resident by the name of Maurice Geoghegan decided to use it to stage his own motor race with just 11 of his friends. But it was the following year when it really came into its own. The Royal Automobile Club were looking for somewhere to stage the British Grand Prix and of all the disused airfields they could have chosen, Silverstone became the favourite.
For that first Grand Prix in 1948, the racing took place along the runways marked out with bales of hay, but the outer perimeter was soon decided on for subsequent years. Since that first use, the circuit has changed considerably, the first being a chicane that was introduced at Woodcote. This was in response to a massive pile-up in the 1973 Grand Prix that resulted in the retirement of 11 cars.
Since 1991, more changes have been made to almost every corner, including Maggots, Becketts, Stowe and Club, resulting in a barely recognisable circuit to that used in the early days. It is one of the longer circuits in the F1 calendar at 5.891 km, and along with some technical challenges and spectacular corners, it is definitely oneof the favourites.
What Races You Can See Here
Apart from the iconic Formula 1 Grands Prix that have been held since 1948, Silverstone is also host to the British Racing and Sports Car Club and Historic Sports Car Club. These racing days include many single-seaters, from Formula Ford to Formula 3 and Caterhams, and post-war racing cars from the 1950s up to the 1980s. There are also many opportunities to watch supercars, touring cars and even rallycross.
Not content with four wheels, the two-wheelers get a look in too. The Moto GP Grand Prix is also held at Silverstone, with many different motorcycle races over the weekend.
A Feel for the Track
The well-known corners and straights of Silverstone can be a challenge for drivers. This 3D map gives a good indication of how the circuit is laid out and how to approach each of the corners, and is an excellent introduction if you are are planning on driving the circuit yourself.
At the end of the Pit Straight, you have a fast right-left through Abbey and Farm, taking it flat out before you get to one of the slowest corners on the circuit at Village. Once out of the hairpin at Loop, you can speed up through Aintree before you hit a 180-degree corner at Brooklands and Luffield. Once through Woodcote, you can accelerate all the way through Copse, a fast right-hander to the beginning of the corners before Hangar Straight. The corners begin with Maggots, then through Becketts and Chapel, a fast section with many left-right combinations. After the fast Hangar Straight, is a 90-degree corner at Stowe that needs to be taken carefully before slowing down for another 180-degree turn at Vale and Club before returning to the Pit Straight.
The speed of this circuit will change depending on the cars used, but typical top speeds can be almost 200mph on the Hangar Straight, 180mph on the Pit Straight, dropping to around 40mph on the slowest corner at Village.
The Magic of Silverstone
The history and the majesty of past Grands Prix all add up to why both drivers and enthusiasts love it. It is a highly technical and fast circuit, which lends itself to exciting and thrilling races. It’s no wonder it is still at the heart of British motor racing.