Racing drivers praise new museum at Silverstone Circuit ahead of public opening tomorrow
Former motor racing drivers are among the many people to hail the new £20m museum at Silverstone Circuit which opens to the public tomorrow (Friday, October 25).
Grand prix race winner John Watson and three-times Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti praised The Silverstone Experience during a tour ahead of the opening.
Formula 1 driver Watson, who raced for teams including Brabham and McLaren in the 1970s and 80s, was amongst scores of drivers who have contributed stories to the attraction.
“The exhibition achieves so much. For me it’s a walk down memory lane, but if you look to the future generations it’s about education and inspiration," he said.
"I first visited Silverstone as a spectator in 1966 and 53 years later it’s mind-blowing to see the growth and evolution.”
Scottish driver Dario Franchitti won four IndyCar titles whilst competing in America and is currently vice president of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), whose archive is housed in The Silverstone Experience.
“I was at a dinner several years ago when this was just an idea and we all thought it would be amazing,” he said.
“To see the cars, the race suits, helmets and paperwork is brilliant. I think this is going to inspire a new generation to really get involved in racing.”
The Silverstone Experience has been a seven-year project to restore a Second World War RAF hangar.
The charity behind the initiative, Silverstone Heritage, was awarded a grant of £9.1m by The National Lottery Heritage Fund as well as grants from several councils.
Charity chief executive Sally Reynolds said: “My favourite part of the exhibition is the Tech Lab, where we have got lots of interactive exhibits that explain how to design a world-beating racing car or motorcycle.
"It explains how gears and engines work, what you need to do to make the fastest car and keep it safe – we even have our own wind tunnel!”
Visitors will learn about the science behind the modern-day sport as well as seeing historic cars and bikes.
On display will be Barry Sheene’s 1979 Suzuki, leathers and helmet – modified with a hole to allow him to smoke whilst wearing it – and Nigel Mansell’s 1992 British Grand Prix-winning Williams.
Most of the cars and bikes are only on loan too so Ms Reynolds said the exhibiton will be ever-changing so there is always something new to see.
Never-before-seen documents from the BRDC's archive are also available as well as interactive displays, board games and a pub - but without the drinks.
The 4000m2 building restoration and design was led by award-winning architect Jane Lock-Smith, managing director of Cube Design.
She said: “We started the project in 2014 and it’s been a long haul to get to this stage, so to see the building open is amazing. It’s been a real team effort – we’ve worked together through thick and thin – and the result is so impressive.
"I have a real passion for motorsport and to see the content really makes me smile.”