The changing face of Silverstone


As part of the bid to host MotoGP, Silverstone has introduced a new loop on the track, called the ‘Arena’. It’s a large-scale operation, however you look at it. But a trip to the Northamptonshire circuit yesterday proved to be quite an eye-opener.


Firstly, the Silverstone you know is unrecognisable at the moment, and that’s because hosting MotoGP doesn’t just mean adding a new bit of track. Run-off areas need to be changed from asphalt to asphalt/gravel, and curbs need to be reprofiled to have negative camber so that riders can get their knee down.

And that’s just the start. Altering the run-off areas means work on the grandstands too, which need to be pushed back and rebuilt. And widening the track means taking the bridges down and rebuilding longer ones. All in all, this is a monumental undertaking.


I caught up with Silverstone’s managing director, Richard Phillips (below), while touring the track, and he was understandably proud of the progress made so far. “As you’re making changes like this your risk assessments change, so the knock-on effect is that you’re really revamping the place,” he explained.


“We’re keeping all the old heritage bits, but is it a shame that something like Bridge won’t be used? It will still exist, and we can still use it as [part of] a classic circuit. In terms of moving with the times it’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good to have something new for people to race on.” Indeed, Bridge corner is not what it once was, so I’m not sure it’s too much of a loss at all. The fact that Maggotts, Becketts and Copse remain unchanged is much more important.

So far £7 million has been spent on the track and Stowe circuit, 180,000 tonnes of earth have moved around the site (none of it has left the circuit yet as it is all being reused elsewhere), and more than 200 workers are kept busy every day.


Click here to see a larger image

Above was taken from the yellow dot on the map below and looks up towards Priory on the right. On the left is part of the new loop under constrcution.


One of the great things that came across when talking to Phillips was that the spectators are very much at the centre of Silverstone’s plans – the banking is being raised and views across the circuit from the grandstands should be much better.

This year’s Formula 1 Grand Prix could well take in the Arena complex. However, Silverstone is still waiting to get confirmation on those plans from a certain Bernie Ecclestone… Next year more money will be spent again on the new pits and paddock complex off the straight between Club and Abbey. It’s amazing what’s possible when you’re safe in the knowledge that you have a 17-year contract to host F1 in your back pocket… That said, all the work to date would have been done anyway for MotoGP, and only the different run-offs – to suit both bikes and cars – have made a difference to the plans so far.


The last time we saw a circuit in this condition it was Donington last year. Something tells me the future is much brighter at Silverstone, though.

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