Silverstone, early March 2020. The home of the British Grand Prix is buzzing with activity. Ah, those pre-lockdown halcyon days.
A touring car media day means the track is seeing action, while there’s construction work on a new hotel and a business park expansion next door. The vast, swanky new visitor centre is open. As well as the main business, there are dozens of engineering and motorsport companies outside the gates and hundreds more within a few miles, seeded and grown in the vicinity of one of the world’s most important motorsport hubs.
But what if Silverstone wasn’t one? Let’s take an alternative history tour.
Peter Grimsdale’s entertaining book High Performance tells how, in 1947, the farmer whose land became RAF Silverstone offered to let a motoring club use the airfield’s perimeter roads and runways for some racing, only for an air ministry caretaker to arrive and turf the racers off.
They returned in 1948 and the first British Grand Prix of the modern era was born. But if the landowner had been grumpier in the first place or the racers had been disinclined to follow up their ignominy, who knows where they would have ended up. I’m going on a road trip to find out.
Perhaps it could have been here, just a few miles south, at Finmere Aerodrome, formerly RAF Finmere. Like Silverstone, it was a bomber base with three concrete runways and a large perimeter road.