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50 Years Of Grand Prix at Silverstone

By raccars Published

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This month's Grand Prix at Silverstone will be the 50th time the event has been held at the venerable venue. And, three weeks later, it will host a celebration of Britain's auto racing history with the Silverstone Classic event, 25-27 July, with a huge parade of Formula One cars past and present. Few motor racing circuits in the world can claim such a heritage.

Silverstone grew up in the post WWII years, located in a sleepy rural hamlet. The Air Ministry appropriated the fields between Brackley and Towcester, to make a new training airfield. The landscape was flattened and hangers, runways and living quarters were hastily erected in a £1 million project. A year later, RAF Silverstone housed 600 trainee air men, ground crew and 54 Wellington bombers.

After the war, the air base fell into disuse until the RAC, in August 1948, sought to create a new racetrack and took up the lease. Motorsport was growing in popularity at the time and the first race was held only two months later. The four mile runway and perimeter roads gained a makeshift bridge, a couple of grandstands and a race control tower and the track was set out with miles of rope and straw bales in their thousands, creating corners and protecting spectator areas.

A sunny, rather chaotic Saturday 2nd October 1948 saw the first international Grand Prix held at the venue, with over 100,000 visitors watching Luigi Villoresi triumph in a red Maserati 4CLT. The following 48 Grand Prix saw victories for great names, including Juan-Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, James Hunt, Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher and, more recently, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Occasional races were held instead at Aintree and Brands Hatch.

The 25 drivers of that original race have all passed away but a young Sir Stirling Moss took part in the day's 500cc F3 event and now, aged 84 and one of British motor racing's best loved personalities, will be leading a spectacular anniversary cavalcade on Sunday 27th July at the Silverstone Classic event.

The Silverstone Classic takes place annually on three grids, showcasing over 120 historic F1 cars in Britain's biggest classic racing event. Races include a Thirties GP challenge, Nineties BTCC Super Tourers and Group C prototype sports cars. New races this year feature Seventies and Eighties F3 cars and more than 40 Nineties GT cars in a blockbuster grid.

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