The archive of the British Racing Drivers’ Club is to go on display in a newly-restored Second World War RAF hangar as part of a £20m project to tell the story of Silverstone motor racing circuit.
The Silverstone Experience will open to the public in Northamptonshire on 25 October following a seven-year project supported by HRH Prince Harry and stars from across motor sport, including world champion Sir Jackie Stewart, Formula 1 engineer Ross Brawn and commentator Murray Walker.
The charity behind the initiative, Silverstone Heritage Ltd, was awarded a grant of £9.1m by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and is aiming to inspire the next generation of engineers with the hands-on family attraction. 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.
Unseen items including programmes and trophies from the BRDC archives have been given a new home as part of the project, which includes the creation of a state-of-the-art Collections and Research Centre. Archive items on display for the launch include a driver scrapbook from the 1940s, a valuable collection of BRDC gold stars won by Formula 1 champion James Hunt and a 1992 grand prix signing-on sheet featuring the signatures of Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher, Mansell and Damon Hill.
Sally Reynolds, CEO of Silverstone Heritage Ltd, says: “Creating a home to tell the historic story of Silverstone was first discussed by the BRDC as long ago as 1971, so I am immensely proud to see this seven-year long project come to fruition. The talented and committed team of staff and suppliers behind the project have built an exceptional attraction that will inspire visitors with its incredible stories.”
Sir Peter Luff, Chair of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, has praised the unique and inspiring blend of sport, science and history. He said: “The National Lottery Heritage Fund has an incredible track record when it comes to funding projects that will inspire future generations of engineers and scientists across the UK. We’re delighted that our funding for The Silverstone Experience will continue to do just that, whilst also highlighting some of the incredible feats in British motorsporting heritage that this iconic venue is home to.”
The 4000m2 building restoration and design was led by award-winning architect Jane Lock-Smith of Cube Design. The exhibition, which features over 20 hands-on activities from climbing into a replica 1940s grand prix car to learning how to pilot a Wellington Bomber in a recreated training machine, was designed by sports museum specialists Mather & Co.
Paul Lee, Mather & Co design director, says: “This project has been fantastic to work on. Silverstone’s history goes way beyond motor racing and it has a rich heritage and social community, something we sought to bring out in our designs and storytelling. The attraction has been designed for a spectrum of demographics, not just motorsports fans.”