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Silverstone to mark 70 years of Grand Prix heritage

Published 19 June 2018

To mark 70 years since it hosted its very first Grand Prix, Silverstone will be celebrating with a special event next month’s Classic. A collection of cars that contested the inaugural Royal Automobile Club International Grand Prix in 1948 will for a key part of the 20-22 July event.

Often referred to as ‘The Race on the Runways’, it was an historic meeting which marked Silverstone’s opening as a motor sport venue. That first official race was staged a makeshift circuit using the wide runways and portions of narrow perimeter roads of what was at the time a disused wartime airfield.

The track was demarcated with 170 tons of straw bales plus 250 oil drums and, curiously, saw the drivers racing flat out towards each other from opposite ends of the same long runway at RAF Silverstone.

Despite hasty preparations, a full 25-car field was assembled on the start/finish line (then located before Woodcote Corner) for Britain’s first major post-war international race. The 65-lap encounter was dominated by the two factory-entered Maserati 4CLTs of Luigi Villoresi and Alberto Ascari (pictured top Credit SHL/BRDC).

Race On The Runways (1)

Despite starting from the back of the grid after getting delayed on their way to the circuit and missing qualifying, the two Italians fought their way to the fore and wowed a 100,000+ crowd. Two years later, Silverstone hosted the very first FIA World Championship Formula One race on a much-changed layout and, since then, has held a further 50 British Grands Prix.

Juan-Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, James Hunt, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher and – most recently with four consecutive triumphs – Lewis Hamilton have all won the prized British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Many of the cars that have raced at the famous Northamptonshire circuit over the years can still be seen at Silverstone Classic. The Pre- ‘66 Grand Prix Cars features a 50+ car grid of front-engined F1 cars from the 1950s as well as a thegame-changing rear-engined racers from the first half of the 1960s. 

And the jewel in the crown - the pair of FIA Masters Historic Formula One Championship - recreate F1’s golden age of DFV cars (1966 to 1985) complete with period livery.

Race On The Runways (10)

A collection of cars from the original race – including ERA, Talbot Lago and Maserati racers driven by the likes of Lord Selsden, Raymond Mays and Peter Walker in 1948 – will be on display as well as being fired up a track parade on Saturday afternoon.

Event director Nick Wigley said, ‘Under the leadership of the legendary Jimmy Brown, a rundown aerodrome was transformed into an international race circuit in little more than 10 hectic weeks, laying the foundations to what is now one of the most hallowed rounds on the Formula One calendar.’

Tickets for the Silverstone Classic need to be booked in advance. Adult admission is priced from £45. Full details can be found at silverstoneclassic.com.

Silverstone Classic

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