Wednesday 17 August 2011

Lost Track: Circuits of the Yore I - Aintree - British Grand Prix

The name of 'Aintree' takes its origin meaning ‘one tree’ or ‘Tree standing alone’. This Merseyside village located north of Liverpool city centre has a strong connection with the world of motor sports.

Currently, this venue is more renowned as a race-course where it hosts some of the famous names in the equestrian world. Previously it hosted the prestigious British Grand Prix four times and “Grand Prix d’Europe” once apart from other non-championship races.

Located on the A59 highway, a 30 minute bus ride from the Liverpool city centre, this venue itself is notable with a rich history comprising of unforgettable moments to the British racing public and the drivers. It was a cold windy afternoon when I and couple of other friends (in 2009) decided to have a look at this venue. The reception at the race course was very co-operative providing some inputs about the history and also took some time to show the new grand stands which were previously used as pit garages.

Founded in 1954, the Aintree circuit club has the distinction of being the first track based motor club. The first Formula One event in 1955 at this circuit created ripples across Great Britain. The hero, Stirling Moss, won his first GP at this very venue and thereby became the first Briton driver to win a home grand prix. This was so special at that time that, BBC arranged a special interview with Moss on account of his achievement.

The continuing popularity of the Buckinghamshire based track ‘Silverstone’ gave ‘Aintree’ enough competition, and a deal was struck to host the British GP alternatively to appease both circuit clubs. This trend continued till 1960 and Aintree hosted their last two events in 1961 and 1962. Another track by the name ‘Brands Hatch’ took the onus to share the British GP tacking with ‘Silverstone’.

Apart from hosting British GP, ‘Aintree’ also had the honour of hosting a world championship event under the name “Grand Prix d’Europe”. In 1957, on this occasion, another feather was added to the cap of British motorsports history. British drivers winning a British race in a British car was seen as a landmark event. Something previously the Ferrari’s or the Alfa Romeo’s managed. It was the turn of Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks winning for Vanwall made headlines and Moss became the most sort after driver in his country.

The only driver who participated both in a horse race and in a car race was the legendary Spanish driver ‘Alfonso De Portago’, who took part in the Grand National steeplechase event during his youth years and also participated in a non-championship car race few years later. Due to his untimely death at the 1957 Millie Migila event, he was unable to participate in that year’s Aintree GP.

In addition to the world events, Aintree also hosted non-championship events between 1954 and 1964. Since 1964, very few racing events have take place in spite of the racing club being active.

Currently, Aintree Motorcycle road racing club organizes motorcycle races six times a year and has a good following with excellent attendances. Currently the negotiations are on between the Liverpool city council and the motor club to modify the circuit to re-instate the motor sports activities such as Formula Ford, Formula Renault etc. It remains to be seen whether ‘Aintree’ circuit can come back to action or will it be standing alone.

Lost Track: The Circuits of the Yore - is a series covering the circuits that were once a regular feature in the calendar of formula one racing. The first article is about ‘Aintree’ that hosted British Grand Prix from 1955, 1957, 1959, 1961 and 1962.

No comments:

Post a Comment