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10 key elements to watch at the Silverstone Festival

The name may have changed, but Silverstone’s annual historic racing extravaganza remains a vast event on all levels. From F1 to NASCAR and a plethora of sportscars, these are some of the main features of this year's celebration

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This year is a special one for Silverstone. The Northamptonshire circuit is celebrating 75 years since motorsport was first hosted at the old airfield and this weekend's Silverstone Festival event is set to be a great way to mark the occasion.

From classic Formula 1 cars to more modern sportscar greats, machinery from just about every era of the track's history is set to do battle, while a host of star names will also be in attendance.

Some of the cars appearing are far less associated with Silverstone, however. Take the NASCAR demos that celebrate the organisation's own 75th birthday.

Here is our guide to some of the main elements to keep an eye on at the event, which has been rebranded for this year from its previous Silverstone Classic name.

Silverstone at 75

Silverstone's inaugural grand prix in 1948 will be celebrated

Silverstone's inaugural grand prix in 1948 will be celebrated

Photo by: Motorsport Images

The central theme of this year’s Festival is a celebration of 75 years of grand prix racing at Silverstone. It was back in October 1948 that the recently disused wartime airfield was pressed into service as Britain’s first major post-Second World War race track. A rudimentary course was set out on the old runways with straw bales and oil drums to mark the circuit and spectator protection was provided by a rope.

Throughout the Festival weekend, events and demonstrations will celebrate 75 years of Silverstone as the venue has evolved from a bleak airfield into a state-of-the-art circuit.

At the heart of the 75-year activities will be some high-speed demos for post-1966 GP cars. Each afternoon, these glorious machines will have a 15-minute demonstration session when Silverstone will echo to the sound of V8, V10 and V12 engines being put through their paces.

A tremendous line-up of cars has been brought together including two Leyton House Marches, along with Arrows and Tyrrells from the late 1980s and early 1990s, most of which are rarely seen on track.

Front-engined feast

Scarabs are likely to scuttle to the front of the HGPCA pack

Scarabs are likely to scuttle to the front of the HGPCA pack

Photo by: JEP

In honour of the early years of Silverstone, a fabulous grid of front-engined grand prix cars will have a standalone race on Sunday afternoon.

The Historic Grand Prix Cars Association promotes and encourages the ongoing use of these cars in the way they were intended. On Saturday, both front- and rear-engined beasts share an overflowing grid, while on Sunday, they are split to give the front-engined machines their own race, and it will be a wonderful spectacle involving cars from the first dozen years of Silverstone.

These are the cars from the era before Colin Chapman and John Cooper moved the goalposts by switching engines to the back. They are cars from the time of Juan Manuel Fangio, Mike Hawthorn and Jose Froilan Gonzalez.

In action will be Maserati 250Fs, Formula 2 Cooper Bristols, ERA R3A and a glorious 1950 Alfa Romeo Alfetta, but it is the American Scarabs that should set the pace. They arrived in GP racing too late to stem the rear-engined tide but the 1960 car in the capable hands of Mark Shaw will be tough to beat.

NASCAR in Northants

Jordans' Camry is set to be among the NASCAR machinery completing demonstration laps

Jordans' Camry is set to be among the NASCAR machinery completing demonstration laps

For the first time in the story of the event, NASCAR will come to Northamptonshire to mark 75 years of National Association for Stock Car Automobile Racing.

A demonstration session on Sunday afternoon will give Silverstone fans a taste of the Days of Thunder. Around 16 cars, spanning the NASCAR story from 1958 to 2017 will be let loose for some high-speed laps and it promises to be an incredible sight and sound. These cars are loud!

The organisers have been able to pull together a representative collection of cars, ready to run and give Silverstone fans a little glimpse of what NASCAR is all about. Given that it is the most popular form of motorsport in North America, it should be an unforgettable experience.

Notable among the cars will be the Toyota Camry of Mike and Andrew Jordan, the latest project for the former British Touring Car racers. They plan to race the car at Daytona at the end of the year so the chance to run at Silverstone will have added significance for them.

Playing the Pro-Am game

This Osella is one of the many cars Spiers is set to race at the Silverstone Festival

This Osella is one of the many cars Spiers is set to race at the Silverstone Festival

Photo by: JEP

Over the past couple of seasons, car owner John Spiers and professional all-rounder Nigel Greensall have teamed up to tremendous effect and have taken many top results in cars from Spiers’ growing collection.

They are the perfect Pro-Am partnership and could bag more success across the course of another busy weekend of racing. One car that Greensall won’t be driving is Spiers’ stunning ex-Jean Behra Maserati 250F, a stand-out car in the front-engined HGPCA pack and driven with determination and pace by its owner. Spiers also goes solo in Thundersports in his Osella sports-racer. Greensall then joins in for five two-driver races in five different cars, including a McLaren M1B, a Lister Knobbly and a TVR Griffith. Spiers races eight times in seven cars, which takes stamina and adaptability.

They will run the TVR at the front of the vast International Trophy pre-1966 GT pack and in the Knobbly they are among the major contenders for the Stirling Moss Trophy. They’ve already won in this car this year, including in the pouring rain at Oulton Park last month.

Modern historics

Recent prototypes can be found on the bumper Masters Endurance Legends grid

Recent prototypes can be found on the bumper Masters Endurance Legends grid

Photo by: JEP

When Masters Historic Racing introduced the Endurance Legends category for prototypes and GT cars as recent as six years old, the historic fraternity questioned whether this was a shrewd move or an act of folly by founder Ron Maydon. Would there be any demand for such modern machinery in the historic arena?

The story shows that it was a smart move to bring a new generation of cars under the Masters umbrella, sitting alongside much older ones.

Endurance Legends has really struck a chord and this weekend’s grid of well over 40 cars is a new record for the category. As well as attracting new teams and drivers, MEL has encouraged a gaggle of established historic racers to step forward into almost-current machinery. Around half of the entries are from drivers who were already Masters customers.

There is quality and quantity on the grid, headed by prototypes from Audi, Peugeot, Riley & Scott and Pescarolo. MEL, which has two races towards the end of Saturday and Sunday afternoon, adds a real taste of Le Mans to the weekend’s programme.

Chasing Horatio

Fitz-Simon has regularly been at the front of Formula Junior fields this year but faces a stern Silverstone test

Fitz-Simon has regularly been at the front of Formula Junior fields this year but faces a stern Silverstone test

Photo by: Richard Styles

Formula Junior, the traditional show opener for the Festival, will deliver a fantastic capacity grid of front- and rear-engined single-seaters from the late 1950s and early 1960s. There is no better way of getting the race programme off to a flying start than with one of the most enduring and popular historic categories of all.

This will be a big weekend for Horatio Fitz-Simon, the Anglo-American youngster who has been the winning force this season. Uniquely, Fitz-Simon is striving to claim both the UK championship and the pan-European Lurani Trophy, a feat that has never been achieved before in the same year. It’s going well so far in the UK, but Fitz-Simon knows that this weekend will be his biggest test as the annual Silverstone GP thrash always brings out the big guns in Junior and scoring two more maximums will be very tricky.

Fellow Lotus 22 pilot Clive Richards has been a constant challenge, but the toughest grid of the season also includes star names Samuel Harrison, Sam Wilson, Lukas Halusa, Alex Ames, Tim de Silva and Michael O’Brien.

Recent F1 history

Gutierrez is set to drive 2013 Mercedes during Sunday's demo

Gutierrez is set to drive 2013 Mercedes during Sunday's demo

Photo by: Motorsport Images

While the Festival pays notable tribute to 75 years of grand prix racing at Silverstone with a focus on the early years, the story will come right up to date thanks to the involvement of the Mercedes and Williams Formula 1 teams.

Based just seven miles down the road at Brackley, the Mercedes squad will display six cars raced by Lewis Hamilton. But best news for the fans is that development driver Esteban Gutierrez will join the 75th anniversary demonstration on Sunday to put a 2013 Mercedes F1 W04 through its paces.

Williams, another local team, will celebrate its Silverstone history by displaying Alain Prost’s 1993 championship-winning FW15C. Williams will also be represented in the demonstration sessions with an ex-Jacques Villeneuve FW19 running on each of the three days. The stunning Renault V10-engined car will be driven by its owner, American Ted Zorbas.

On the infield, the Fan Zone will include current F1 cars from Alpine, Mercedes and Aston Martin, to ensure the latest years are fully represented.

Serial racers

Tim de Silva is set to be one of the weekend's busier drivers

Tim de Silva is set to be one of the weekend's busier drivers

Photo by: JEP

One of the many neat features of the Silverstone Festival is the opportunity that it gives car owners to tackle multiple races with a wide range of cars from their collection. Many drivers will contest two or three categories, but two of the busier people of the weekend will be father and son, Harindra and Tim de Silva, who will campaign four incredibly diverse cars across six races.

The American-based drivers are excellent racers and real enthusiasts, and are in the fortunate position to own a stunning array of period machinery. Though they don’t do too many race weekends, when they do, they certainly make it worthwhile with a hectic schedule, including back-to-back outings on Saturday morning when they will jump out of Formula Juniors and go straight into the two-driver Thundersports endurance encounter.

Tim, in particular, is a very quick and talented racer, who could go further if he chose to. Their line-up of cars takes in two Formula Juniors, a Lotus 11, a 1971 Taydec sports-prototype and a 2011 Pescarolo LMP1 car.

Pre-1966 GT stunner

A capacity 61-car field is set to tackle the International Trophy

A capacity 61-car field is set to tackle the International Trophy

Photo by: JEP

Silverstone Festival is famous for huge grids thanks to the bumper capacity of the Grand Prix circuit, which can host up to 61 starters depending on the type of car.

One of the biggest fields of all will be for the International Trophy for Pre-’66 Classic GT cars, which has 67 accepted entries for 61 places on the grid. The track licence allows more than the maximum number of race starters to go out for qualifying, so the six reserves will take part on Friday and then hope that a grid slot becomes available for the race.

This awesome spectacle, which usually goes under the title of Masters Gentlemen Drivers, will form a 50-minute contest on Saturday. It can be tackled by one or two drivers, but even the soloists have to make a pitstop.

A year ago, Julian Thomas and Calum Lockie won in their Shelby Daytona Cobra but with a winning margin of less than two seconds over James Dodd in his father’s Jaguar E-type. They are back for a rematch, though the rapid Dodd E-type is currently only a reserve.

Stars on track

Soper is among the stars set to be in action this weekend

Soper is among the stars set to be in action this weekend

Photo by: JEP

Peppered throughout the entry for the weekend are star drivers from across the sport, all taking the chance to race period cars at this highest profile of events.

Three former tin-top aces are in for busy weekends, with former World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx signed up to race a Jaguar E-type, an AC Cobra and a Ford Mustang. There is also a Mustang, as well as a BMW M3 E30, for Steve Soper, while Matt Neal will hop into a rare Sunbeam Tiger Le Mans and a Ford Escort, and then share a Lotus Cortina with his son Henry.

Former British Touring Car racer Sam Tordoff is now firmly settled in historic machinery and will be a major contender in his Lotus Elan and Ford Falcon and is likely to be the pacesetter in the Pre-’66 Touring Car contest in the American V8. Darren Turner will be spectacular at the wheel of a ‘Cologne’ Capri RS3100 and fellow former BTCC racer Andy Middlehurst will share a Lotus Elan.

Alex Brundle, meanwhile, is busy alongside Gary Pearson in an E-type and a Lola T70 Mk3B, and then shares his own Ford Mustang with Olympian Sir Chris Hoy.

Priaulx is another successful racer due to pilot a Mustang

Priaulx is another successful racer due to pilot a Mustang

Photo by: JEP

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