On the day that Lewis Hamilton celebrated his sixth Formula One World Championship in Austin, Texas, USA, I was visiting a brand – new family attraction at the home of British Motor Racing in Silverstone, Northamptonshire.
Located in a restored former World War Two RAF hangar, the Silverstone Experience is a brand new two-and-a-half-hour journey celebrating the past, present and future of the iconic Silverstone circuit, village and local surroundings.
Beyond the expansive reception area there was a small café, toilets and well stocked gift shop. I first went outside to explore the Heritage Trail and was pleasantly surprised to find some live races were taking place on the circuit. I stood and watched the Formula Ford 1600 Walter Hayes Trophy races enjoying the sounds and spectacle of the Silverstone circuit live!
The end of the Second World War had left Britain with no major race track but plenty of airfields. One of these airfields was situated in the middle of England outside the village of Silverstone so was seen as an ideal location to bring back international motor racing to Britain.
Sopwith Hawthorn Jaguars 1958
I knew nothing about the history of the RAF base which helped create the conditions for the future motor circuit. I found it fascinating reading the account of Stowe School boys creeping into the grounds to drive cars along the unused former runways after the RAF no longer used the airfield. The RAF Silverstone section vividly describes the history of the circuit as an airfield and encourages visitors to train to be part of a Second World War Wellington Bomber crew.
British Grand Prix 1950, Farina leads Fagioli
The Royal Automobile Club arranged a one year lease with the Air Ministry and ex-farmer, James Wilson Brown was given just two months to turn the site from a wartime airfield and farm into a race track. I stood and watched vintage film footage of the first British Grand Prix held at Silverstone in October 1948 when an estimated 100,000 people flocked to see Luigi Villoresi beat a field of 22 others in his Maserati.
Race Day Marshalls
Currently a Formula One race at Silverstone can attract more than 300,000 visitors with millions more watching on screens around the world. Visitors can sit in a replica car from the race and have their photograph taken. I decided I had better not as I may have struggled to get out of it!
Replica of The White Horse Pub
A recreation of the Silverstone village pub, The White Horse, told the story of local village residents and of Elephants found wandering in the local woods! Apparently a circus complete with animals used to rest over in the village during the winter and their elephants left to wander in the woods! You can even pull up a bar stool and play the Silverstone board game, but unfortunately no drinks are served in this pub!
The pre-show, `The Grid` takes you on a journey through seventy years of motor racing history as you stand, watch and listen as iconic motor racing cars roar away from the grid on screen at the side of you.
Mansell & Senna 1991
There are many stories of human enterprise, great sporting rivalries and engineering innovations which are told using state of the art interactive displays and iconic film and photographs. Visitors can also learn about the science and production skills behind the sport as well as viewing the historic racing cars and motor bikes.
Barry Sheene Leathers & Helmet
On display are Barry Sheene`s 1979 RG500 Suzuki, leathers and helmet and Nigel Mansell`s 1992 British Grand Prix – winning Williams FW14B. The most recent additions include the RB6 Red Bull with which Mark Webber took the chequered flag in the 2010 British GP and Maverick Viñales’ podium-placed 2017 Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike.
Michael Schumacher Helmet
There are over 177 objects on display ranging from race day programmes, a section of a Wellington bomber and the Grand Prix signing on sheets which drivers like Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher had to sign before racing. Visitors can look at their helmets and take a close – up of their signatures in the signing in sheet.
From the Pit Wall
If you have ever wondered what goes during race weekend in the pit lane, the medical suite or commentators’ box, it is here for all to see. You can even have a go at commentating on a race yourself or see how quickly you can change the wheel nut bolts on a Grand Prix motor racing car. I did very well at recognising the various coloured flags used during motor races. In fact, I got them all correct!
The Grand Prix Signing In Sheets
To finish your tour, a special seated cinema experience, the `Ultimate Lap of Silverstone` with authentic special effects takes you for a spin of the circuit with commentary from an all-star team including Murray Walker. Hold on to your seats! It`s Go, Go, Go!
Famous Names of the Silverstone Circuit
If you love Motor Sport, Grand Prix racing, the design and engineering of motorcycles and racing cars or have a passing interest in the local history of the Silverstone area including its links with the RAF, you will not want to miss this memorable experience.
I simply loved it.
Why not check it out?
Twitter & Facebook: @SilverstoneExp