Features - News Feature
MARCH 1, 1990
The redesigned Silverstone circuit
BY JOE SAWARD
The resdesigned Silverstone circuit was designed by Silvestone Circuit's chairman Tom Walkinshaw, George Smith, the Development Director of Silverstone and Hamish Brown, the Managing Director. The three received advice and comments from Bernie Ecclestone.
The circuit has been lengthened from its present 2.975 miles to 3.2 miles and will not only include changes in layout, but also exciting contour variations and new trackside spectator areas.
The work will begin in August after the Foster's British Grand Prix. It is expected that the new circuit will be used for the first time in May 1991.
"Spectators will have a better perspective than has been available before," said Walkinshaw, "and competitors will be faced with a far more challenging circuit.
"We believe that these changes will enhance Silverstone's worldwide reputation and enable us to go forward into the 1990s at the forefront of international motor sport."
From the startline the track will be the same until it reaches Maggotts where, instead of sweeping left, there will be a new series of fast curves -- right, left, right, before the new section rejoins the present track at the start of Hangar Straight. The key to the new Becketts Esses will be to minimise the loss of momentum between the two straights.
"We had a problem at Becketts because we wanted to move the circuit in to allow better traffic flow for spectators," explained Walkinshaw. "I think it will make spectacular viewing and will be very fast."
Hangar Straight remains unchanged, but there have been major changes at Stowe and Club.
"At Stowe and Club, the cars were going so fast that they were taking Club flat in qualifying," said Walkinshaw. "The safety aspect is very important with Grand Prix cars getting faster and faster we obviously had to do something. We've tightened up the exit to Stowe and the track will now drop down 12ft into the infield. That'll still be a very demanding corner."
This sweeping downhill section will lead through a fast lefthander into The Vale, after which the track will rise up again to a left-hander, leading into a long right-hander at the old Club corner.
From here the track follows its original course up to Abbey and Farm Straight, before swooping downhill -- under a new bridge -- to a new fast right-hander which will be known as Bridge. This will lead the cars into an arena area, which will be surrounded by thousands of spectators.
This area includes two left-handers, Priory and Brooklands, and then the double right-hander at Luffield which leads the track back to the old Woodcote and the start-finish line.
"The intention is to enable spectators to see four or five corners from one place," said Walkinshaw. "There are very few circuits where that is possible."
The new layout is also expected to provide more overtaking places. The traditional passing spots at Copse and Stowe will be augmented by the left-hander at the exit of The Vale and by Priory.
"The contouring will hopefully make the circuit a lot more interesting," explained Walkinshaw, "and by digging out a bit we can build more spectator banks with the earth available.
"When you are working in Grands Prix you have to keep improving all the time. That's what we are doing. We have spent in the region of #6million in the last few years and this phase will cost us #2 million."
The work is part of an ongoing development programme which has been instigated to ensure that the British GP stays at Silverstone. It was on the basis of these changes that, in January, the FIA confirmed that Silverstone had taken up its option to stage F1 for a further five years, until 1996.
FIA Vice-President (Promotional Affairs) Bernie Ecclestone was present at the Silverstone launch and was obviously very happy with the changes.
"Of all our current 16 worldwide locations," he said, "it is especially satisfying to see a circuit that has hosted Grands Prix since 1948 showing such confidence in the future of motor sport."
The new Silverstone is a valid attempt to adjust to the needs of the present generation of racing machinery, without the use of chicanes. It is imaginative and should provide a much better, and more exciting, circuit.