Daily Archives: May 10, 2024

Mecca Experience

I know what you’re thinking. “Don’t make me laugh! Jack on a Hajj to Mecca, shuffling off on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem, or better yet, a Greyhound to Utah?” Turns out for yours truly, a life long devotee of all things Formula 1, that would have to be Silverstone Raceway.

Oh, I’ve seen signs for Silverstone while crisscrossing the UK, usually while dicing with death on one of England’s suicidal merry-go-rounds while simultaneously attempting to change lanes and trying to read the route numbers painted on the road, avoiding the annoying little econobox that darted around beside me, downshifting while trying to find the damn turn signal, which after all is on the wrong side. Getting it wrong only adds chattering wiper blades to the chaos, with Marce counting the number of exits to tell me where to get off, all the while contemplating the odds of survival if we have to go around again. There’s no, “Hey hon, that was a sign for Silverstone back there! Maybe what with being so close and all, we should pay a visit.”

As we begin our swan song leaving the UK I said, “This is it, I will not miss at least seeing F1 Mecca.” I wasn’t sure what could actually be seen with an expensive ticket to something called the “Silverstone Experience” but again we were passing close by and it’s a take it or leave it situation. We’ve been burned by so many lame museum “experiences” that I didn’t have much hope for this one which, by rights, ought to be great but, well let’s just say that I had a hinky feeling about this one due to the complex’s well known financial shortages that they may have given short schrift to the exhibits.

We pulled into a massive empty couple of hectares of white lined macadam and it wasn’t hard to find a place for Escape Velocity. Walking up to what I assumed was the museum entrance, I wasn’t sure it was even open until I heard that sound. Once you’ve heard it you’ll never forget it. Screaming, the torture of things being shredded, terrible things emanate from these machines at an indescribable level of decibels that should never be allowed on this earth. It’s glorious and it is happening right now while we have to stop to pay the ticket lady. She’s being awfully nonchalant about how I might see what is going on out behind the museum. “Oh I think that’s Mick Schumacher testing with Mercedes today, “ she mumbles. Oh my lucky stars! Nobody is this fortunate. She says, “Usually nobody’s testing at all.”

The back story is that I’ve tried to book tickets for the British F1 Grand Prix for over two years, only to be met with derisive laughter. Yes, occasionally we are in the area and we have a motor home so we could take advantage of Silverstone’s large camping areas so why not make a weekend out of it? Turns out this is England and apparently two years in advance is the minimum lead time in a slow year and these are not slow times. We never really know where we’ll be tomorrow let alone in two years.

Silverstone held the first official Grand Prix in 1948, built using old WW2 bomber runways, as thick as flies in these parts. I can’t begin to tell you the feeling of walking on what for me is hallowed ground.

Low concrete steps are to my left as we entered the grounds, a grassy knoll follows to the right and I recognize the iconic Brooklands turn leading to Luffield and then Woodcote.

Just saying the legendary names of the corners is like mumbling an F1 rosary; Abby, Wellington, Brooklands, Copse, Maggotts, Beckets.

Suddenly I can hear the scream of the once mighty Mercedes bombing down the Wellington Straight and shockingly quick, it’s passed me.

That’s as it should be but I wasn’t fast enough to get the shot.

The pattern that afternoon would be three fast laps, one cool down lap with five to ten minute breaks in between. After all, they must have their tea.

Marce had to tear me away from trackside to go through the exhibits in the museum.

Full marks for drilling down into the weeds of interactive but arcane suspension and braking theory with safety and engine exhibits.

Some exhibits were worse for wear. The cars on display were, as expected, an odd collection of bits and bobs with a few modern F1 examples but could have been much more.

Finally we succumbed to the siren song of a snack bar, a bit of a sit down, and a chance to reflect on a “Silverstone Experience.”

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