The History of Silverstone

Posted in May 20th, 2013
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Tied to British motor racing history in multiple ways, and one of the most important Formula One circuits of all time, Silverstone has long been the de facto home for the British Grand Prix. From being farmland in the 1940s, to being one of the most modern circuits in the world, Silverstone has been host to numerous landmarks in the Formula One World Championships, and currently hosts a wide range of different events alongside the British Grand Prix.

The Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire first came to the attention of race drivers and organisers during World War II, when it acted as a farmland base and airfield for the British  Air Force. After the war, the Royal Automobile Club helped develop a circuit on the former air field and working farm, with the result being a 3.67 mile circuit that hosted the RAC Grand Prix in 1948 – the inaugural race was won by Luigi Villoresi, and by 1950 the circuit had been expanded to be used or inaugural Formula One World Driver Championships.

During the 1950s, Silverstone became the British home of the Formula One Championship, and also played host to visits from the British Royal Family as motor racing entered a golden age of popularity. Drivers to experience early success on the Silverstone circuit included Giuseppe Farina for Alfa Romeo; by the end of the decade Silverstone was being operated by the British Racing Drivers’ Club, and alternated major races with other circuits like Aintree and Brands Hatch into the 1960s.

During the next few decades, work was completed to expand the land around the circuit to make Silverstone into a world class racing venue – this also involved making safety changes to the circuit, which included better walls and banking and pit areas. During the 1960s and the early 1970s, the creation of Silverstone Circuits Limited also led to a lucrative mechandising business for the circuit’s owners, one linked to the circuit’s association with British driver Jackie Stewart’s three World Championship victories.

Subsequent years saw BRDC continue to build up the land around Silverstone, while adjusting flats and corners to take new developments in turbo charged racing into consideration during the early 1980s. New bend replacements and renovations to pit lanes were also motivated by accidents and the deaths of racers like Ayrton Senna on other circuits. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Silverstone became the focus for the British Grand Prix as the previous alternation with Brands Hatch was dissolved.

By the 21st century, Silverstone was firmly established as one of the most historic circuits in world motorsports, and as a focus for ongoing improvements to safety and circuit technology – a circuit invader in the early 2000s raised security concerns, and Silverstone has been adjusted to be more secure – the congestion caused by motorway entrances around the venue has similarly been somewhat relieved by new roads. As of 2013, Silverstone remains the home of the British Grand Prix, as well as events from the Superbike World Championships, British F3, the British GT, and parts of the Le Mans endurance series.

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