At Silverstone on 7 March 2018 we officially started the construction programme for The Silverstone Experience, with a Ground Breaking Ceremony. Our Royal Patron, Prince Harry, was in attendance to see how the project will encourage the engagement of young people, and in particular the next generation of engineers, with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). The format of the day therefore began at the Silverstone University Technical College (UTC) and presentations were made by Stuart Pringle, Managing Director Silverstone Circuit; Sally Reynolds, CEO The Silverstone Experience, and Ross Brawn Managing Director of Motorsports at Formula 1. Prince Harry then met students and teachers at the UTC.
His Royal Highness then officially started the construction phase with a ceremony in the empty Hangar building which will be converted over the next year to house The Silverstone Experience archive, heritage and museum displays. Lunch was then served in the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) clubhouse.
Silverstone ‘Home of British Motor Sport’
The Silverstone site is vast in scope and has a deep history and heritage. Archaeological research suggests Mesolithic, Neolithic and Early Bronze Age artefacts and cultural geography. Late Iron Age/Early Romano-British pottery has been excavated within the circuit. The site is also in close proximity to the Roman Road between Towcester and Alcester. Luffield Priory, associated medieval remains and other Early Modern links are also suggestive. However, although some of this longer history is evident in the names of key parts of the circuit, The Silverstone Experience (TSE) will ensure that the heritage of Silverstone and British motor racing, particularly after 1945, is interpreted for a wider public, as well as being protected for future generations. Luffield Abbey Farm, attached to Stowe, appears to have been a small farm managed by tenant farmers up until the site was requisitioned by the Air Ministry at the start of the Second World War. The airfield was closed in 1946, and in 1948 was converted into a motor racing circuit, initially utilising the runways and perimeter track. Since 1948 the circuit has been continuously operational. The permanent exhibition will celebrate the history of the circuit and the country’s position at the very heart of the global motor sport industry. The UK has a central role in technological innovation and leadership within global motorsport.
A Historic Race Track
The farm buildings, though altered and extended, form the core of the heritage area of the site and currently house the BRDC archive (known as the BRDC Farmhouse). In 1950 the World Drivers Championship was created and the very first World Championship event was held at Silverstone. Since then, the circuit has played host to the British Grand Prix – the country’s largest single sporting event – a record number of sixty-eight times. Between 1955 and 1962 the British Grand Prix alternated between Silverstone and Aintree. The even-numbered years were at Silverstone and the odd numbered and 1962 were at Aintree. Between 1963 and 1986 the race alternated between Silverstone and Brands Hatch. From 1987, and more radically in 1991, a series of modifications modernised the Silverstone circuit. Throughout its history, Silverstone has been closely linked to British motor racing and the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC), founded in 1928, oversee the circuit and its history.
Historic personalities have always been evident at the circuit, be they volunteers, behind the scenes enthusiasts or racing motorists. Oral histories are capturing some of these key mmeories. Silverstone has hosted the most important personalities in world motorsport since the Second World War, including iconic Formula One drivers; Juan Manuel Fangio; Jackie Stewart; James Hunt; Alain Prost; Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton. Touring Car legends have included Jack Sears; Gerry Marshall, and John Cleland. Motorbike racing has had a strong history at Silverstone, notably Barry Sheene in the 1970s and more recently Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marques. Can these heroes inspire the next generation? The Silverstone Experience certainly aims to do so, through promoting wider knowledge of heritage and history in diverse and dynamic ways that particularly engage young people in STEM subjects, even if they do not become racing drivers!