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Like so many of England’s racing circuits, Silverstone started life as an aerodrome. When the Second World War ended in 1945, England’s other two circuits, Donington Park and the legendary Brooklands, had fallen into disrepair. And so it was that the outer taxiways and interconnecting runways of Silverstone became adopted by the Royal Automobile Club as the home for the British Grand Prix in 1948. The circuit was fast and challenging and in 1949 the shape was formed that remains the basis of the track to this day.
When the Formula One World Championship was incepted in 1950, Silverstone held the very first round, won by Guiseppe Farina in an Alfa Romeo. In 1951 the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) was handed the lease by the RAC, and huge modifications were made. The pits were moved to the straight between Woodcote and Copse, from the Farm straight where they had originally been, and a short circuit was built within the larger circuit, cutting from Becketts corner to Woodcote.
From 1955 the British Grand Prix swapped venues between Aintree and Silverstone, but with the advent of the 1960s, Aintree fell out of favour and the race was switched between Silverstone and Brands Hatch.
In 1971 the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) bought the entire 720 acre plot on which Silverstone sits and went about redeveloping the track. New pits were built and a chicane was erected at Woodcote which provided close finishes and great overtaking opportunities.
In 1987, with speeds reaching astounding levels, a corner was built before Woodcote, and in 1992 a new complex of corners was created between Farm and Woodcote. And in recent years various upgrades have been made to the track’s facilities. A racing school now exists at the circuit and with government funding a new bypass has been built, greatly improving access to the once notoriously out-of-the-way venue.
In 2010 came another major change to the circuit’s Formula One layout, designed to further improve the venue for spectators and provide an even greater driver challenge. The new infield layout juts right at the reworked Abbey bend before heading into the new Arena complex of turns. This takes drivers on to the main straight of Silverstone’s National circuit, before rejoining the previous Grand Prix layout at Brooklands.