The home of British motorsport celebrated its milestone 75th anniversary in style both on and off the famous Grand Prix track at the record-breaking 2023 Silverstone Festival (25-27 August).
The newly renamed Silverstone Festival (formerly The Classic) lived up to its Bank Holiday billing with an amazing line-up of memorable retro races, parades, displays and family entertainment.
While glittering gatherings of incredible road and racing cars remained at the core of the amazing three-day event, the evolution of the festival proved to be a huge success attracting a record attendance with a significant uplift of full weekend and Sunday tickets.
From the moment the gates opened at 7:30am on Friday morning, the schedule on and off the track kept all ages fully entertained with interactive activities and must-see crowd-pullers including a mouth-watering Foodie Fest, Fan Zone with displays of current F1 cars, and live music on all three evenings from chart-topping bands including The Christians, ABC, the Sugababes and McFly. There was even a pop-up Diddly Squat Farm Shop with an adjoining bar selling Jeremy Clarkson’s own Hawkstone beers and ciders. All this and lots more.
For many the unrivalled line-up of 20 epic races was the biggest attraction, and honouring the 75thanniversary, this year’s line-up covered many of the venue’s golden eras including a special showdown for front-engined grand prix cars dating right back to the circuit’s opening in 1948. Starring a field of fabulous Ferraris, Maseratis, Cooper-Bristols and other period icons, this was won by the 1960 Scarab Offenhauser of Mark Shaw.
Setting the scene for action to follow, the packed racing programmes on both Saturday and Sunday kicked off with 50+ grids of jostling Formula Junior single-seaters. Both were edge-of-the-seat thrillers won by Sam Wilson in a Lotus 20/22 – Sunday’s victory came by just two hundredths of a second in a dramatic side-by-side photo finish with the Lotus 22 of Horatio Fitz-Simon.
Saturday’s standout highlights included Gary Pearson and Alex Brundle winning the Yokohama Trophy for Masters Sports Car Legends in one of two fantastic Ferrari 512Ms contesting the sunset showdown for Le Mans-style racers from between 1962-76.
Earlier in the afternoon, Steve Brooks won the Masters Endurance Legends race in his stunning Peugeot 90X, a sister diesel-engined prototype to the Peugeot’s 2009 Le Mans victor.
Brooks, though, was chased all the way by Tim de Silva in a Pescarolo LMP1, the hard-charging American setting a new 125.9mph lap record for the historic Silverstone circuit – a layout that features a slightly faster entry to Club Corner than used for the British Grand Prix and other races.
Earlier in proceedings the HSCC Thundersports showdown was won by Michael Lyons in the recently restored IBEC 308LM – the one-off Cosworth DFV engined sportscar designed by the legendary Harvey Postlethwaite to race at Le Mans in the late seventies.
Lyons also triumphed in the second of the two blue-ribband showdowns for the Masters Racing Legends (Formula One ‘66-’85), this time behind the wheel of a JPS-liveried Lotus 92 as raced by Nigel Mansell in the 1983 F1 World Championship.
The first was won by Florida-based Ken Tyrrell in his Tyrrell 011, the very car Michele Alboreto won the 1982 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix to give the Cosworth DFV engine the last of its 155 Grands Prix victories.
Sunday’s highlights included brothers John and Gary Pearson sharing an Jaguar E-type to win the 50-minute, two-driver MRL Big Cat Challenge – Gary adding to his trophy cabinet when also winning the MRL Stirling Moss Trophy in an earlier Jaguar D-type.
Another notable success came when multiple BTCC race winner Sam Tordoff roared back through the field of American muscle cars to take the chequered flag in the Adrian Flux Trophy for Transatlantic Pre ’66 Touring Cars – another 50+ car grid which included a number of touring car greats from yesteryear including Steve Soper, Gordon Sheddon and Andy Priaulx as well as Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy.
Squeezed in between all the exciting races, the track also witnessed a number of memorable demonstrations, parades and even a Fun Run with hundreds taking to the iconic track to raise funds for the event’s charity partner, Kidney Research UK.
Further promoting Silverstone’s 75th birthday and its remarkable Grand Prix heritage, the non-competitive demos offered the stirring sights and sounds of laps by a BRM V16 harking back to the fifties as well as by more modern V8 and V10 propelled F1 cars. Headlines among these were Jacques Villeneuve’s Renault powered Williams FW19 from the late nineties, and current Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team driver Esteban Gutiérrez rekindling further memories when putting Lewis Hamilton’s eye-catching Mercedes F1 W04 from 2013 through its paces.
There was also an incredible showcase of thundering NASCAR stock cars from the USA. These American V8 engined racing icons bringing the noise with parades and a demo run on-track over the weekend – the Festival celebrating NASCAR’s own 75th anniversary.
Turning the clocks right back to Silverstone’s origins, the Stuart Graham ‘Scarf and Goggles’ Trophy – presented annually to what is judged to be the most admired racing car on track at the Festival – was presented to Luc Brandts for his Talbot Lago T26, a beautiful machine which actually contested the very first Grand Prix at the circuit back in 1948.
Away from the track, there was more going on at the Yokohama Shift and Drift Zone than ever before as hot rods, dragsters and drifters joined the party. However, it was Terry Grant who was awarded the Mervyn Garton ‘Scarf and Googles’ Trophy for the best off-track visitor attraction. Terry was presented with the trophy by Mervyn’s grand-daughter, Tallulah, following an incredible weekend of stunt driving skills as he wowed packed crowds on all three days. He was clearly very moved to receive the award.
The Yokohama Trophy for the Club Car of the Show was presented to the owner of a beautifully restored 1962 Lotus Elite displaying with Club Lotus while the Adrian Flux Car Club award of the Show went to the Ford RS Owners Club which assembled an incredible line-up of new to old blue oval models which also took to the track for a special parade celebrating the 120th anniversary of Ford.
The biggest track parade of the weekend saw more than 600 Porsches take to the Grand Prix circuit on Saturday evening to mark 75 years of the renowned German sportscar company.
“We set out to celebrate Silverstone’s 75th anniversary in style and I think we achieved that on all fronts,” confirmed Event Director, Nick Wigley. “There really was something special for absolutely everyone to savour over three memorable days of epic entertainment both on and off the Grand Prix circuit. Roll on 2024!”
The date of next year’s Silverstone Festival will be announced shortly along with full information on how those booking tickets well in advance can secure the best prices on tickets.
In the meantime – and for those who missed the Festival – full coverage of all three days of track action can be accessed on the event’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@silverstonefestival. Additionally, a two-programme highlights series hosted by car loving TV personalities Ant Anstead and Jodie Kidd will be screened on ITV4 in the coming weeks, too.
A full record of Silverstone Festival race results is available here.
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