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A look back at Silverstone as a Grand Prix venue on its 50th anniversary

July, 3rd 2014 sees the return of Formula 1 to Silverstone for its 50th year for a weekend of fast-paced racing and action-packed entertainment.

In this blog we’ll take a look back at Silverstone as a Grand Prix venue, reflecting on those defining milestones for the circuit.

1940s

In 1948 Royal Automobile Club (RAC) set out to look for a site to host the British Grand Prix. With no suitable race tracks in existence and no money to build a new circuit, unused airfields across the UK, with their redundant concrete runways, were highlighted as obvious sites to hold the race.

The centrally positioned Silverstone was selected, and temporary fixes were put into place to transform the former airfield into the home of British motor racing.

The original 3.7 mile circuit was created using the two longest runways and large sections of the perimeter road, narrowed by oil drums and hay bales. The 1948 race saw around 100,000 spectators witness the first British Grand Prix since 1927. The 65 lap race saw Italian driver, Luigi Villoresi triumph against a field of 28 drivers, 20 of which were British.

A year later, in 1949 the circuit shortened to 3 miles and became a more recognisable shape to that the circuit resembles in the present day.

1950s and 1960s

The 1950s was full of firsts for Silverstone. King George VI became the only royal monarch in history to attend a British Grand Prix race in 1950, celebrating the newly created European Grand Prix. Whilst Stirling Moss became the first British driver to win at the circuit in 1955.

And the wins kept on coming in the 1960s, with British driver Jim Clark winning for four consecutive years from 1962 to 1965.

1970s and 1980s

During the 1970s British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) bought the 720 acre Silverstone plot and redeveloped the track, building new pits and erecting a chicane at Woodcote. The chicane not only helped increase the number of close finishes but also maximised overtaking opportunities.

However in 1973, Jody Scheckter caused an eleven car pile-up when he spun at the Woodcote chicane. Sadly Andrea de Adamich attained serious ankle injuries in the collision which forced him to retire from Formula 1.

Cars taking to the Silverstone track in the 1980s increased to speeds of up to 160mph. To avoid repeat accidents, in 1987 a new corner was inserted into the track before the Woodcote chicane.

1990s and 2000s

The 1990s and 2000s saw several refurbishments to the circuit to make it safer without losing speed. Changes to the circuit saw the start and finish lines moved, with new pits and paddocks constructed. The site was improved for spectators, with viewing capacity increased to get the best sights into the greater challenges the drivers faced.

2014 – The 50th Anniversary of Silverstone

As only the third venue to host at least 50 Grand Prix races, those attending the Grand Prix in 2014 will be making history. Marking this momentous occasion for Silverstone, there will be celebrations throughout the weekend, kicking off on July, 3rd with the pit lane opened to fans for free.

Spectators will also be treated to live music, air displays and a special 50th anniversary commemorative parade of previous winning Formula 1 cars, including Sir Jackie Stewart’s Matra MS80 which drove to victory in 1969.

Other cars confirmed for the event include Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23, the very car that he won in at Silverstone in 2008, and Nigel Mansell’s Williams-Honda FW11b within which he triumphed in 1987.

Tickets for the Grand Prix are available from £65 per person and can be purchased through Silverstone call centre on 0844 3728 300 or by visiting www.silverstone.co.uk.

For people who love to be at the heart of the action, tickets which grant the public access to the north section of the centre of the circuit, as well as admission to the Silverstone50 Heritage Paddock, are also available. These ticketholders will be able to view the inside of the fastest corner on the track, Copse corner. Needless to say, tickets for this jaw dropping and exhilarating extra Silverstone experience have limited availability and are available at an additional cost.

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