The British Racing Drivers’ Club today unveiled its £27 million new “Wing” – a state of the art pit building which puts the circuit on a par with most Grand Prix venues around the world.
The Wing is the culmination of a painfully long and drawn out process stretching back over a decade with Bernie Ecclestone pressuring the BRDC to improve its facilities and the club making cautious steps so as to avoid financial ruin.
Ecclestone was not present at today’s opening by HRH The Duke of Kent, but he sent a message, saying that the facilities set Silverstone up for the future, “The new pit and paddock complex is a state-of-the-art facility and will form the backbone of Silverstone’s plans to be a world class facility of its type, ” he said. “I am delighted with the progress and prospects for the future of Silverstone. It is a great shame that it could not have been completed 10 years ago, but well done Silverstone.”
It was a very confident and upbeat presentation with a huge cast reflecting Britain’s pivotal role in the development of motor sport and its success.
Five of the six living British F1 world champions and some British GP winners were on hand including Nigel Mansell, Jenson Button, Jackie Stewart, David Coulthard and Johnny Herbert who joined fellow winner and BRDC president Damon Hill in talking about how important this building is in securing the future of the British Grand Prix. “It’s important that we were able to do this,” said Hill. “We could have lost the GP and this place secured the contract. Keeps Britain on top.”
Hill talked about the time when Silverstone thought it had lost the race to Donington and then with the failure of that project how they were able to negotiate a long contract for the future based around the new facility.
Ross Brawn was also on hand and made the important point that Silverstone is one of F1’s great assets along with Ferrari and one or two other circuits, “The history of Silverstone cannot be manufactured. It’s unique and we had to preserve it, “ he said.
The enormous Wing is an echo of Silverstone’s past as an air force base during World War 2. It was designed by London architects Populous, who also redesigned the circuit last year and who have worked on projects like the Emirate Stadium, the new Wembley Stadium and even the new Olympic Stadium. The Wing will become the visual symbol of Silverstone, something it has always lacked as an airfield circuit. It has clearly been decided that having an iconic building makes a statement and it can be done at a reasonable cost compared to the build costs of new F1 venues like Delhi and Austin, Texas.
The Wing is not completely finished yet, certainly there is quite a lot still to be done on the interior, but its vast halls and rooms have a multitude of possible applications all year round, independent of F1 or of motor racing.