Muddy pulls into the pit lane at Silverstone Interactive Museum
This cutting-edge, interactive museum takes pole position for petrol heads, history geeks, budding engineers and designers alike.
Line-up on the starting grid and rev your engines for Northamptonshire’s slickest and shiniest museum. This celebration of Silverstone’s motorsports heritage and vision takes visitors on a rollercoaster journey from the famous circuit’s past life as an abbey, farm and WWII bomber station, through more than 70 years of racing history, innovation and glamour.
Pulling into Silverstone Circuit feels pretty special in itself. There’s an immense feeling of history here but, overridingly, a sense of excitement about future possibilities and a techy buzz, with numerous industry leviathans choosing Silverstone as their base including David Beckham’s super cool electric vehicle brand Lunaz, which converts classic cars (and err, bin lorries) to electric. Rechargeable Aston Martin anyone? Don’t mind if I do.
The building is modern and slinky and as you walk through the doors and look up there’s Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Merc suspended from the ceiling, so you definitely know you’re in the right place. First up, you head to a virtual starting grid for a short film introducing the history of motor racing at Silverstone. It’s quite a sensory overload but genuinely exciting even if, like me, you’re not a massive petrol head but love the glamour of fast cars.
The cleverly designed museum leads you on a journey through the history of the circuit to its latter day incarnation as the home of British motor racing. As someone who has spent much of their life living just a couple of miles from the circuit (I even had a job here as a teenager), it was quite enlightening to discover the meanings behind the names of some of those famous straights and corners, and where they came from. Wellington Straight – named after the RAF bombers stationed here in WWII; Abbey Corner – named for Luffield Priory, which stood here in the Middle Ages… Each curve and landmark has a fascinating story, so if you’re a history geek or you’ve got one in the family, there is plenty to get excited about.
Have a daughter? Please take her here! The gender inclusivity is outstanding, from depictions of female pilots in WWII to contemporary exhibits around women racing drivers, which are seamlessly integrated rather than made a feature of. A driving suit belonging to Desiree Wilson (above), one of only five women to have competed in Formula 1, is on display alongside other contemporary memorabilia. My two girls were completely entranced from start to finish and it’s certainly kicked off an F1 obsession in my youngest (thank goodness they’ve moved into the 21st century and ditched those grid girls).
One of the most thrilling elements of the museum is the sweeping displays of racing cars, motorbikes and other fascinating paraphernalia like helmets and suits, each one with its own story to tell. You can even sit in one of the earliest F1 racing cars, an ERA E-type GP2. It’s genuinely fascinating to see how the design and technology has changed over the decades (not to mention how tiny the drivers have to be to fit in to those suits).
There’s plenty to get revved up about if you’re a budding engineer too, with loads of bits of engines (technical term) and things to marvel at, including parts manufactured by Northampton engineering firm Cosworth. A word of warning though, if you are prone to motion sickness (moi?) be prepared for a rather hairy ride in the cinema on the way out.
The Ultimate Lap is breathtakingly brilliant but completely nuts, I couldn’t walk straight for about 20 minutes afterwards and was in such a state of dizziness (yes, even more than usual) I parted with way more money than I should have done in the shop before I could bring myself to sit down for a well-earned lunch in the fabulous cafe to discuss with daughter number 2 the best tactics for becoming the youngest ever F1 driver. Any tips Lewis?
Silverstone Interactive Museum, Silverstone, Northamptonshire NN12 8TN