Celebrating 60 Years as the Home of British Motor Sport
Today Silverstone celebrates its Diamond Anniversary, marking 60 years to the day since Luigi Villoresi won the inaugural RAC Grand Prix in a Maserati.
Once the war had ended in 1945 Britain was left with a number of redundant airfields but without a major race track. The Royal Automobile Club was interested in Silverstone as a potential site and approached the Air Ministry in 1948 and a lease was arranged. At this time the centre of Silverstone Circuit was a farm producing cereal crops, so the RAC employed farmer James Wilson Brown to create the first Grand Prix circuit at the site and gave him just two months to build it. On October 2nd, 1948, amid straw bales and ropes, Silverstone's first event took place, the RAC Grand Prix.
The crowds came in their thousands, thrilled to see the return of Grand Prix racing after so many years of war time austerity. The 3.67 mile course sent the 23 competing cars racing around part of the perimeter track, up the two former runways and back to the perimeter. This layout meant cars were racing towards each other head-on until they turned sharp left and returned to the perimeter. For this reason canvas screens were erected across the centre of the circuit to stop the drivers being distracted, while the spectators were not allowed in the centre of the circuit because of the potential damage to growing crops.
The winner of Silverstone’s inaugural race was Luigi Villoresi, claiming the first prize of £500, and recording an average speed of 72 mph in his Maserati.
Commenting on Silverstone’s 60th Anniversary Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits Limited, said, “We are extremely proud to be celebrating 60 years of Silverstone on Thursday. We have marked our Diamond Anniversary with various activities throughout the year, including themed displays and parades at all of our promoted events. “The greatest drivers, riders, cars and bikes have all raced and won at Silverstone, and the circuit has featured some of the most memorable races in the history of motor sport. They are all part of Silverstone’s rich heritage and, with the planned redevelopment of the venue, we are looking forward to welcoming the future stars of racing to Silverstone over the next 60 years.”