Silverstone is the premier motor racing venue in the UK, and famous around the world for hosting the British Grand Prix, world endurance championship, and MotoGP. But where did it start? And how did it evolve to it’s current configuration? Read on to find out.
The first Formula One season started at Silverstone in 1950, but that wasn’t the beginning. The circuit had first hosted a race two years earlier. The former world war two bomber station was only on a one year loan from the Air Ministry to the RAC at the time, but the 1948 race marked the opening of Silverstone Circuit.Brooklands had been the UK’s original motorsport venue – and with it the worlds first permanent racing circuit – but the second world war oversaw its demise. The Brooklands site had served an important role in aircraft development and manufacture, causing much of the circuit to be damaged.
Whilst the war was ultimately bad news for Brooklands, it was good news for Silverstone and the countless other circuits which sprang up on airfields around the same.
The 1948 race was run on a configuration that made full use of the huge runways and perimeter roads. The circuit was marked out using oil drums and hay bales. Although you’d still recognise the footprint today, it was nowhere near as fast or flowing.
When grand prix racing returned in 1949, a simpler, shorter and ultimately faster circuit was preferred. This time the circuit was using just the perimeter roads – with a chicane at club corner. This is the configuration most people would now recognise. The one which was used for the first world championship grand prix in 1950 and for decades subsequently.
The world championship for drivers was started in 1950 – and Silverstone had been decided to host the first round. With a crowd of 200,000 in attendance, including King George VI – the race was won by Giuseppe Farina in his Alfa Romeo 158.
In 1951 the lease was taken over by the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC) from the RAC, and in 1952 the pit area was moved from just after abbey curve, to between woodcote and copse corners – where it would remain for many years (in fact pit buildings still remain here and used regularly – although not used for Formula One any longer).
The circuit remained unchanged for many years, until 1975. Join us in part two to learn more.