Silverstone: a long history with endurance racing

Both the ELMS and the FIA WEC will contest the circuit that is the home of 'British motorsport' again this year.

The ‘home’ of British motorsport is undoubtedly Silverstone, a track with a long and storied past, based in the Midlands of England. It is the venue for the opening round of the 2013 FIA World Endurance Championship where teams will start their fight for championship titles and honours, to be played out over eight rounds and four continents.

The start of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship race at Silverstone
The start of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship race at Silverstone

Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport

Opened as a World War Two airfield in 1943, near the leafy village of the same name which is situated approximately 75 miles north-west of London, the track was taken over by the Royal Automobile Club after the war. On 2ndOctober 1948, amid straw bales and ropes, Silverstone's first event took place, the RAC Grand Prix.

In 1951, the British Racing Drivers' Club took over the lease from the RAC and set about turning the temporary airfield track into something more permanent and more prestigious – an evolutionary process which has continued to the present day.

While Formula One Grand Prix racing has always been a feature of the track’s history, endurance sports car racing didn’t make its first true appearance at Silverstone until 1976 when the inaugural six-hour event was held.

Changes to regulations for sports car racing in the late 1970s paved the way for a golden era of Group C in the 80s, with the likes of Porsche, Lancia, Jaguar and Mercedes all vying for the World Sports Car Championship. The Silverstone 6-Hour and 1000km races became a cornerstone of this championship and the event was often used by the teams as a warm up to the all-important Le Mans 24Hour race, which followed it on the calendar. These events, run under the aegis of the FIA, went on until 1992.

In addition, and alongside, these endurance races for sportscars were also endurance Touring Car events, contested for the coveted Royal Automobile ClubTourist Trophy which, from 2013 onwards, will be awarded to the overall winner of the Silverstone round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.

One of the most significant prizes in international motorsport, Tourist Trophy races have been held at Silverstone more times than at any other British circuit, starting in 1970. Notable names from the world of both touring and sportscar endurance racing who have lifted the trophy are Derek Bell, Jochen Mass, Tom Walkinshaw and Enzo Calderari.

True endurance racing then took a break from appearing at Silverstone, only to return in 2004 with the launch of the Le Mans Endurance Series, the fore-runner to the ELMS. Since then, races have taken place every year except 2012 and are back in force this year on the 12-14 April with both the ELMS and the FIA WEC holding 3-hour and 6-hour events respectively.

FIA World Endurance Championship

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series WEC , European Le Mans
Drivers Derek Bell , Jochen Mass , Enzo Calderari , Tom Walkinshaw
Article type Special feature
Tags elms, fia, silverstone, wec