Silverstone Experience is every motorsport fans dream museum
I have been debating with myself about when to go and visit the Silverstone Experience, as someone who is frequently at Silverstone circuit, I have seen the development and building of the museum so thought I should check it out. I am sure glad that I did which I will tell you why in this article. It opened after many delays to the public on 25 October 2019, delayed by several months as the contractors who built it had gone in to administration.
The museum sits right by the main circuit security entrance and is part of the circuits long term development plan which includes building several hotels which aims to make Silverstone a better motorsports tourist destination that it currently is. For now you have track day experiences and this museum, I decided to go and check out the museum.
Wall of Fame
The museum consists of outdoor and indoor parts and is open 7 days a week excluding during major events. So do not expect to use the museum entry fee of £25 as a cheap way of gaining entry to the British F1, sadly it will not be open during such high profile events. The museum also features a cafe, a gift shop and with a bit of insider help and an invitation, the BRDC archives, sadly I did not visit that part.
So on to the outdoor section or Heritage Trail as they have called it. This consists of a small walk around the old bridge section of the circuit between Luffield, Brooklands and Abbey. The outdoor stand at Luffield corner presents you with a prime view of Luffield corner, off in the distance you can see National straight and the BRDC building. I was greeted with an ongoing track day that featured a glorious mix of cars ranging from a Bentley Continental GT3 all the way down to a third generation MR2. The sights and sounds added a layer of warmth to the cold and windy British winter weather. You can walk on the old piece of track too which leads you to the bridge where you have a mural of the legendary British F1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton as well as the Wall of Fame. Which lists out names of drivers who have conquered the fast paced circuit over the years and different layouts. Truth be told, the real interesting stuff is kept inside.
Inside you walk upstairs to the entrance of the main indoor museum where you are greeted to a nostalgic video showcasing the glitz and glamour of Silverstone throughout the years. Be sure to pay attention to the screens on both sides of the room, they display a slightly different video which you really should not miss. Without spoiling it for you it gives you a glimmer of what is through the other side of the door.
Once the video is over you find yourself on the top floor, you can go at your own pace here but on the top floor you step back in time, a time much before the conception of the circuit, the lands once owned by the Stowe estate. We learn here how some of the corners got their name. Village, Abbey, Stowe, Luffield were all names of things on or around the circuit though I think that was in fact quite obvious. On the site originally sat a monestery though the exact layout seems to be a mystery as the remains of it were never found. More recently the land and trees were cleared to make way for an airfield for the first and second world wars.
Racing didn't start didn't officially start until 3 October 1948 though a few students from Stowe school had broke in to the airfield with the help of bribing a security guard and found some sports cars. As the saying goes, boys will be boys, and they had decided to have a race and in the process wrote off some of the cars which led them to be on the brink of being expelled from school.
Facts about the first Grand Prix held at Silverstone
I found the interactive content to be the most enjoyable in particular the commentators challenge, which is far harder than I thought it would be, you really get to learn how the likes of Murray Walker can bring F1 in to the homes of the nation. Then for your engineering and tech heads you have the components of what goes in to building a racing car. Your early cars were quite literally sitting on bicycle tyres and the levels of fitness needed to operate an F1 cars brake pedal is phenomenally insightful. The effects of aero in a wind tunnel and the size of the 1.6 Turbo F1 power units. I could keep going on but don't want to spoil the magic inside.
An F1 engine with Turbo sitting up top
You do have a generous selection of primarily British racing cars on display, highlights for me is the Silk Cut Jaguar XJ-12 LM which won the 1990 24 Hours of Le Mans. There is also a selection of racing memorabilia on display as you would expect to see in a museum. For me though, it is the interactive content that makes it a worthwhile and educational experience. Diving deep in to the history of the circuit and geeking out on the more technical aspects of racing that we probably don't normally give a second thought to. I would really encourage everyone who can check it out to check it out.
Finally thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed my piece on the Silverstone Experience. As an aspiring motor journalist I urge you check out my video work which is found on my YouTube channel. www.youtube.com/HMCarReviews