Say the name Silverstone and immediately most people think of the British Grand Prix. But there is a wealth of history of this famous circuit, and its offerings today are far more varied than just that one event. The Silverstone Classic is an important annual fixture in our calendar here at Fiennes Classics, Fiennes Performance and Fiennes Showroom so let’s take a look at what lies behind that legendary name.
As is the case for many race tracks, Silverstone occupies a former RAF airfield. The airfield ceased operations in 1946, and the first race on the site was an impromptu event held in September of the following year that became known colloquially as the Mutton Grand Prix after one driver ran over a sheep.
In August 1948 the Royal Automobile Club leased the airfield from the Air Ministry with a view to running the first British Grand Prix since Brooklands in 1927. It was not possible on the UK mainland to close public roads for racing, as happens in Monaco or on the Isle of Man, but the by then non-operational airfields dotted about the country seemed to offer an ideal solution to the problem. Immediately upon securing the lease the RAC started using the runways for racing.
The 1948 British Grand Prix took place before around 100,000 spectators on 2nd October, on a circuit marked out with oil drums and straw bales that combined the perimeter track with the runways. In 1949, for the Grand Prix in May and the new International Trophy meeting in August, they used the full perimeter track.
In 1952 the lease was taken over by the British Racing Drivers’ Club. That lease was only for the perimeter track, and under the guiding hand of track manager James Brown there began a series of works that fashioned it into the track that, excepting one or two slight alterations, remained the essential shape of things at Silverstone for the next 38 years.
There was a major redesign in 1990/91, and the track was further modified in 1995 to increase driver safety following the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at Imola. Over the years the British Grand Prix has flirted with other circuits – Brands Hatch, Aintree and Donington Park – but despite financial dramas and intimations of the end, the race continues to call Silverstone its home.
But of particular interest to us at Fiennes is that other event – the three-day Silverstone Classic every July. Hundreds of historic race cars, around twenty races, displays from about one hundred clubs, exhibits of over 10,000 classic cars, over 100,000 people – what’s not to love?. If you have a car that you would like to take, either as an exhibit or to race, we have the expertise to help you. At Fiennes Classics we can get your vehicle looking and running at its very best, and at Fiennes Performance, supported by Fiennes Engineering, we have a vast wealth of skills and experience to get you in serious contention in competition. And, of course, should an ‘error of enthusiasm’ occur, we also have the facilities to reverse any temporary redesign of your vehicle that might have occurred!