British Racing Greens

The Airfield Circuits of Great Britain & Northern Ireland

Silverstone programme cover 1955

Opportunity Knocks

At the end of World War II, the U.K. had two things which would combine to change the very history of motorsport.

Firstly it had a huge number of young men and women returning to civilian life, after being trained to drive, fly, maintain, and repair a wide range of vehicles, from motor cycles, cars, and lorries, to airplanes and boats.

Secondly it had a huge array of solidly constructed airfields, for which the RAF now had little ongoing use. These decommissioned airfields, with their wide concrete runways, winding perimeter roads, and huge run off areas, would soon be put to another use.

All of that concrete and tarmac, away from the public roads, would of course make ideal racetracks for those returning to "civvy street" with their wealth of engineering and mechanical training.

Race Tracks

The most famous example of the airfield race tracks is of course Silverstone, which held the the very first F1 race and continues to host the British Grand Prix to this day. But there were many, many more. Some were used so briefly as to leave few memories, and little evidence of their use as race circuits. Even their use as airfields is being gradually forgotten as the concrete is ripped up and the buildings decay.

But it's not too difficult to see that sudden burst of enthusiasm and engineering knowledge in the late 1940s and through the 1950s, and the opportunity provided by all of those airfields, as the springboard for what became a sustained and successful attempt to reach the very pinnacle of world motorsport. There may even be a case for these race tracks playing some small part in the success of Scalextric.

So here's a little celebration of those airfield circuits, which helped in some small way to nurture a period of increasing motorsport innovation, excellence, and success in Great Britain.