Motorsport event of the summer full of va-va-voom

Fernando Alonso at the British Grand Prix 20011 at Silverstone.

Fernando Alonso at the British Grand Prix 20011 at Silverstone.

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RECORD crowds - and royalty - turned out to Silverstone last weekend to watch the British Grand Prix.

F1 cars on the track were not the only feature for the three day event as a number of VIPs and high profile guests turned up to watch a bit of racing and soak up the atmosphere.

A record 315,000 people came to the circuit over the three days with 22,000 fans staying for the post Grand Prix party.

On the track, the excitement didn’t stop as Ferrari driver, Fernando Alonso took first place in front of last year’s world champion, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Vettel’s teamate, Mark Webber.

Among the VIPs were Prince Harry, who presented the winners’ trophies, the Duke of Kent, actors Hugh Grant and Sir Patrick Stewart, England cricketers Alastair Cook, Stuart Broad, Graham Swann, Jimmy Anderson and Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff, golfer Ian Poulter, musician Goldie and DJ Vernon Kay.

After the race, several drivers took to the stage at the post-race Grand Prix party.

The British Grand Prix gave the circuit the chance to show off its new pit and paddock complex, the Silverstone Wing.

Managing director, Richard Phillips said this year’s event was one of the biggest and the best.

He said: “Record crowds, a great race, a fantastic atmosphere and significant praise for the Silverstone Wing, all contributed to one of the best British Grand Prix in recent memory.

“Early feedback from the fans has been exceptional and the drivers and teams have been full of praise for the new pit and paddock complex. It’s been a fantastic three days and I have to pay tribute to the fans.

“A huge amount of hard work has gone into getting The Wing ready for this event. It’s been a phenomenal effort from the team here at Silverstone. We’ve had one or two teething problems, and we’ll continue to look at areas that can be improved, however, we are all extremely proud of what has been achieved and the fact that we have delivered another fantastic British Grand Prix.”

Tickets for next year’s event have already gone on sale. Visit www.silverstone.co.uk or call 0844 3728300.

Reporter TOBY LOCK left his notepad and pen at home – to enjoy all three days of the Grand Prix as a fan.

This is his first hand experience of petrolhead heaven:

It was cold, wet, windy, hot, sunny and overcast all in the course of three days – only at the unique weather climate that is Silverstone.

Dressing right for the event is becoming increasingly difficult these days, particularly as my alarm is set for 6.15am to get to the circuit early to avoid the rush.

I’m almost positive that the British GP is the most popular among the fans. At no other venue will you find 88,000 people for the first free practice day – you might be lucky to find that on most race days in other countries.

And with that number of people, the buzz of excitement and anticipation is incredible as the cars hit the track for the first time. The rain on Friday did no-one any favours, except those selling umbrellas. After a sudden and heavy downpour, the teams stayed in their garages for almost 45 minutes. We were almost getting bored in the grandstand overlooking Becketts before a car appeared, met with an eruption of cheering.

Free practice results mean nothing, but it still gave our gang of 10 plenty to talk about as we walked around the circuit looking for the nicest looking burger van to eat from.

On Saturday, it was busier than I have ever seen. Even an hour before the session began, stewards were turning people away as their stands were full to capacity. Fans were eager to get the best view of British hopes Hamilton, Button and Di Resta shooting for pole position. And even though it was Australian Mark Webber who set the fastest time, we had three Brits in the top 10 to celebrate.

Come race day though, the nerves build as I approach the village. Double check that I’ve got the tickets, do I need a coat? No, leave it in the car, just get to the track. I hand over my ticket and I’m in. 7am.

Time flies, as the Red Arrows perform over head, but I’m not watching. I’m planning Hamilton’s charge to the front, Ferrari’s downfall and Schumacher’s first corner retirement.

Just 90 minutes after the five red lights went out to start the race, it’s over once again – 90 minutes to define the weekend.

But it didn’t matter that Alonso won it, that Button retired and Di Resta dropped down the order like a stone, because the other 2,000 minutes were simply amazing.