Silverstone’s new Grand Prix circuit was officially opened last week. But it’s not just Bernie Ecclestone’s needs that have necessitated a £300m rejuvination of the Northamptonshire circuit.
MotoGP is now to be hosted at Silverstone and it, too, will use the new layout, notably which turns right into a new Arena section just before the famous old bridge.
And it’s the bridge that’s the problem – its concrete stantions are too close to the edge of the track for MotoGP riders’ safety. The new Arena complex cuts it out of the loop.
Potentially that’s a pity, because although the Arena complex should make some overtaking easier, the new track misses some super corners. The left-right kink at Abbey/Farm before the bridge is merely a good corner but Bridge, which follows just afterwards, is superb.
Priory, the left that follows that, is also exciting, much faster than it looks; then it’s into Brooklands where the new Arena track rejoins. But it’s the flow from one corner to the next that makes that section of track such a treat for drivers.
Fortunately, although not in use for top level motorsport, the layout is still available to drive, now called the Bridge Circuit. I drove it last week.
I need to thank the Ferrari Owners Club for the opportunity. I drove it in Autocar’s long-term F430, which proved unfalteringly durable during several half-hour sessions and virtually as quick as any car out there, up to and including 360 Challenge race cars. It resisted wearing its consumables admirably, too. There aren’t many cars that can take that sort of abuse yet prove so cosseting and accommodating on the drive home afterwards. And hardly any that also have the F430’s on-track speed.
The circuit itself is still excellent, of course; fast, sweeping and exciting.
But there’s one minor setback. The pits are being moved from their current position to a short straight on the approach to Abbey (just before the bridge), where a very long right hander called Club used to be.
Club’s broad, fast and opening sweep is now a short, tricky half-right followed by a short straight.
It’s less exciting and less amusing than before, and the new pit wall on the inside looks pretty unyielding too. (The outside run-off is Tarmac, not gravel, so is the recommended side to fall off onto should you develop a tank slapper.)
The new section? I’ve no idea yet. But no matter how fabulous it turns out to be, it’s nice to know the old loop is still (more or less) intact.