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Visiting The Silverstone Experience
As huge Formula One fans we were very excited to be invited to The Silverstone Experience. We visited in July 2020 and there were a range of safety measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19; tickets must be booked in advance as visitor capacity is limited inside the experience, there are regular hand sanitisation stations and we noticed enhanced cleaning of interactive displays. We were even given a stylus pen to use on touchscreen exhibits. We booked a timed slot online and when we arrived there was lots of space in the car park and at the entrance to The Silverstone Experience. Our temperatures were taken, we had to complete track and trace forms on entry and staff were behind visors or screens.
The Silverstone Experience opened in October 2019, after a seven year project to restore a Second World War RAF Hangar. The experience begins up a flight of stairs, where you walk onto a starting grid for a short film that gives you a brief run-down of the history at Silverstone.
The story behind Silverstone
The first main area at The Silverstone Experience tells the story behind the track, including the history of each corner. Silverstone was a Second World War airfield where Wellington bombers used the runway but did you know that 800 years ago the home of motor racing was a place of peaceful prayer? Corners like Luffield, Abbey, Becketts and Chapel are reminders of the monastery and chapel which once stood on the site.
There’s lots of information boards and video booths where you can find out about men and women who worked at Silverstone during the war but the kids were far more interested in the hands-on activities, especially practising to shoot barrage balloons.
The village of Silverstone helped to shape the early years at the racing track and you can even walk through a replica of the bar at the village pub!
The First Grand Prix
Walk through to the next section and racing begins at Silverstone, with the first Grand Prix in 1948. It’s amazing to see a very precious Cooper from the first race meeting at Silverstone and you can sit in a replica ERA which gives you a really close-up idea of how far racing cars have come in terms of engineering and safety. Look at that cockpit compared to modern F1 racing cars!
Lower Level Exhibits
The exhibition then takes you downstairs (there is a lift for family groups or individuals to use if needed) where you can find out more about racing at Silverstone and see some iconic racing cars and bikes.
There’s lots to learn in this section and we all had a go with a wheel gun (I won’t be applying to be an F1 mechanic anytime soon). In one area you can learn about the development of medical treatment for drivers from Sir Jackie Stewart and it really looks as though he is standing right in front of you. The Silverstone Experience have used the latest technology to bring the story behind racing to life.
There’s also a Tech Lab section which looks at materials, tyre compounds and brake dampers. This area links together science and sport and helps to look at the amount of work and thought that goes into every high performance car and bike that goes out on the Silverstone track.
There’s also some cars and bikes that show the development of racing from the 40s through to the 70s and 80s, right up to the 90s and present day. When we visited we were able to see Stuart Graham’s Chevrolet Camaro and Nigel Mansell’s 1992 Williams. We were all in awe at the signing-on sheet displaying the signatures of heroes like Ayrton Senna and Michael Shumacher. You can check the current vehicles on display on The Silverstone Experience website here.
We were extremely lucky to also see a Mercedes AMG W11 Formula One Car 2020 with black livery which featured in Channel 4 coverage of Formula One. We were told that the car is a temporary exhibit and leaves The Silverstone Experience on 9th August 2020, so book you tickets quickly if you want to see it.
The Ultimate Lap
The exhibition ends with The Ultimate Lap, a short special effects cinema experience, which takes you for a lap around the track with some of the iconic drivers and historic moments from the past. The screen wraps around the room and the seats vibrate, to immerse you in a whirl around Silverstone.
We were in need of some lunch after all the excitement and we were allowed to pop back to the car to get our picnic, which we took outside. Visitors to The Silverstone Experience can sit track-side to enjoy a bite to eat (although check before you travel as the track area is occasionally closed). There is a café which is open 10am to 4pm where you can buy sandwiches, snacks and drinks.
The sun was shining and there wasn’t any outdoor shade but we were just tucking into our picnic when I heard the unmistakable sound of an engine… a Formula One engine. We were told when we entered The Silverstone Experience that Mercedes Juniors were testing on track and we might be lucky enough to see them but we hadn’t expected testing to start when we sat trackside!
There’s no way of telling whether the track will even be in use on the day of your visit so it’s pure luck and we were very lucky indeed! We sat and watched the Formula One car complete a few circuits – in a year when tracks are closed to spectators on Race Day!
After the best picnic ever, we wandered around the Heritage Track Trail which is a short outdoor walk on parts of the old track layout. The Heritage Track Trail does close depending on circuit activity and will be closed on 5th-10th August 2020 due to the British Grand Prix. You can check for closure on The Silverstone Experience website here.
We spent just over three hours at The Silverstone Experience, including our picnic and some time on the Heritage Track Trail. There’s lots to learn and some great interactive elements but due to the amount of text based exhibits I think it’s definitely better for families with older children. Eldest (9 years old) and Youngest (5 years old) absolutely loved the wheel gun challenge and sitting in the ERA Replica Racing Car. I thought that the racing sign-in sheet was really special as I grew up watching Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
We were extremely lucky to see a car on track and to see the Mercedes AMG W11 Formula One Car but there is always something going on at Silverstone and I think any racing fan will enjoy the journey through the history behind the home of motor racing.
Top Tips for a visit to The Silverstone Experience
- The Silverstone Experience is at Silverstone, NN12 8TN
- Tickets must be booked in advance online. Visit silverstone-experience.co.uk for tickets.
- There is a café serving snacks and hot drinks. You can take a picnic and eat outside but there isn’t any shelter or shade.
- The Heritage Track Trail does close depending on circuit activity and will be closed on 5th-10th August 2020 due to the British Grand Prix. You can check for closure on The Silverstone Experience website here.
- Click here to take a look my video of our experience for an idea of what to expect.
I visited in July 2020, all information is correct at the time of publishing.
I visited as a guest of The Silverstone Experience. Images, words and opinions are my own..