Silverstone: What a thrill!
Our World | On 18, May 2011
Yesterday, I was a guest at the opening of the new Silverstone Wing. As the name suggests, it’s located at the Silverstone racetrack in Northamptonshire and it’s new and shaped like a wing.
Anyway, enough of the obvious. As fans of F1 will know, Silverstone has always been a bit poorly regarded in terms of facilities on race day, especially when compared against some of the newer circuits around the world.
Well, the home of F1 in the UK now has a landmark to be proud of, not only in providing state of the art facilities for the teams in their shiny new pits but, more importantly for us and our clients, upstairs in cavernous event space, suitable for exhibitions, conferences, gala dinners and the like. This is a building that wouldn’t look out of place in Abu Dhabi or Shanghai.
Apparently, it’s a quarter of a mile long and the biggest space of its kind between London and Birmingham. Yesterday, it certainly accommodated well over 500 people very easily with a reception area, auditorium with partially raked seating and two separate lunch areas, one sit down and the other stand-up. And with stand-out food too, provided by Silverstone Hospitality, the on-site provider. The stand-up lunch comprised bowl food- plenty of it, very varied and delicious too with efficient and friendly service.
For a first event, it was very impressive. Mind you, it had to be with royalty there in the person of HRH The Duke of Kent, who performed the official opening in his capacity as President in Chief of the British Racing Drivers Club, along with the great and good of British and world motorsport down the ages. They even dusted off Murray Walker.
Now, when you go to an event like this, it always pays, in my experience, to have a perceptive question tucked up your sleeve, just in case any are invited from the floor.
I was all set to ask whether cars could access the meeting space for launches when up popped Mark Webber who drove his Red Bull Racing F1 car right into the auditorium at some speed and, thankfully, pulled up using those huge carbon-fibre brakes not 6 feet from where I was sitting.
Good job they didn’t ask for questions because that rather took the wind out of my sails. Not that I would have heard the answer anyway because those things are loud.
As you would expect, there’s more parking space than you could shake a stick at and the access now via the A43 from the M1 and the M40 is excellent. Just as well really, given that, as wartime airfields tend to be, Silverstone is rather in the middle of nowhere. The nearest train station is Milton Keynes, about a 30 minute drive away, airports are further afield.
Another downside at the moment is the shortage of quality hotel bedrooms in the immediate area. However, a later stage of the Silverstone Project is to have hotels on site, I believe, which will change the Silverstone Wing from a day event space into a residential one too.
The best part of the day was walking out across the car park to return to the office and making Mark Webber stop for me in his very nice Porsche. I can’t imagine he often does that for pedestrians at Silverstone.