A Wing-win situation
Sverstone’s new Wng pt comp ex wasn’t snort of notab e adr-Hrers on tne occasbn of ts off da auncn, :ven BerHe was, mem, comp mentary BY ROB WIDDOWS
NV. hat a difference 17 years make. With a long-term Grand Prix contract safely in its pocket, the British Racing
Drivers’ Club has been able, at last, to bring Silverstone circuit forcefully into the world of 21st-century Formula 1 racing.
Bernie Ecclestone, who thrust these changes upon the BRDC by threatening to take the British Grand Prix to Donington Park, did not attend the launch. But he sent a typically cryptic message to the assembled company at the launch of The Wing, a new building with new pits at a new startline. “I am delighted with the progress and the prospects for the future of Silverstone,” he said. “It’s just a shame it couldn’t have been
completed 10 years ago, but well done.”
Bernie may not have been there, but everybody else was, from Sir Stirling Moss to Valentino Rossi. Moss, who first raced at Silverstone in 1949, was invited to give his opinion on the new-look circuit. “Well actually, I don’t think it’s as good as the old one, not nearly as fast or dangerous,” he said to muffled laughter. “You’re not supposed to say that,” replied host Jake
Humphrey. “But we can now say we are equal with the very best in the world,” countered Moss. “This new building puts us miles ahead.” The Wing is 390 metres in length, 30 metres high and houses the pits, 41 pit garages, race control, a media centre, hospitality suites, a 100-seater auditorium and three vast halls for
exhibitions, conferences and product launches. The development has cost the BRDC some £28 million and The Wing will have to earn its keep between Grands Prix each summer. “This is part of a long-term plan for the future growth of Silverstone as the centre for motor sport in the UK,” said outgoing BRDC president Damon Hill, who has been instrumental in the 1111)
saving of Silverstone as the home of the British GP. “This symbolises the role that Britain plays as a world leader in motor sport and it is a vital part of the future prosperity of Silverstone.”
A surprise guest at the launch of the new complex was Rossi, who was exploring the revised circuit on a Ducati Superbike in advance of the British MotoGP race, having missed the 2010 round through injury.
“It’s a great track, very fast, very technical,” he said, “and so much history too, from the days of Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheene, all those great battles. I’m looking for Cal [former British Supersport champion Cal Crutchlow] — maybe he can give me a few tips about this place.” Sir Jackie Stewart, much involved in earlier BRDC negotiations over the future of
Silverstone, congratulated the current board for what it has since achieved. “We now have everything we need, and it’s remarkable that a private members’ club has been able to afford to make this happen,” he said. “I think F1 can be proud of what we now have, and it was desperately needed in the UK.”
Last summer’s British Grand Prix winner Mark Webber ably demonstrated the versatility of the new building by driving his Red Bull into the auditorium. Those in the front few rows had been supplied with car plugs.
“Bit tricky to find the neutral button and switch it all off in the dark,” said the Aussie, deadpan, as he stepped from the car. “Silverstone means a lot to me. It’s where I started, and it will always be a special place for me as a driver. It’s a great track in an F1 car and now we have state-of-the-art facilities to go with it.”
In a few days time The Wing will face its biggest test when the teams, and the fans, settle in for Grand Prix weekend. For now, the BRDC can feel justifiably proud of delivering what had been demanded in return for a new long-term contract from Mr Ecclestone. Those of you watching between Club and Abbey will have a new view of a new future for Silverstone.