The decision to move the British Grand Prix from its customary mid-summer date continued to wreak havoc at Silverstone yesterday. Car parks were turned into mud baths and police were forced to cordon off roads.
Many of the 90,000 fans were caught in a five-hour tailback stretching 15 miles from the race circuit in Northamptonshire. Some were so frustrated they simply abandoned their cars at motorway service stations and set off on foot.
By mid-morning, traffic was nose to tail as far as junction 15A on the M1, and police advised anyone who had not already set off to stay at home and watch the race on television.
Later, police closed all the roads leading into Silverstone and many ticket holders were unable to enter the track. A spokesman for the race said that they would all be offered a refund or tickets for another event.
A Northamptonshire traffic police spokesman said: "It was very chaotic when everyone was arriving because of all the rain over the last few days. The mud was reaching halfway up people's wellies - it was like scenes from Glastonbury two years ago. The tailbacks were caused because a number of cars had to be towed on to the car parks by tractors, which took a long time and led to major delays on the surrounding roads while people waited to get into the track."
Brian Shearsmith, 36, who set off from Hull at 7am, parked his car and walked with his brother. "I'm not paying £160 and not seeing the race. We normally stop overnight on Saturday but we have seats this year so we set off later than usual," he said. "They should have cancelled the race if people couldn't get there. We're going the rest of the way on foot because if we sit in traffic we're not going to get there."
Colin Maguire, 35, who left his home in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, at 4.30am, had paid nearly £800 for tickets for himself and four relatives.
"It was good progress all the way down but we've been stuck for two hours on the A43 so we have no choice [but to walk]," he said, setting off for the five-mile trek to the circuit. "The race is too early in the year. It was lovely and sunny last year and that makes the whole event. It's the FIA's fault but I think there should have been more police to direct traffic and give more advice."
Mark Taylor, 30, from Manchester, left his car and set off on his push bike - until he got a puncture. The Reverend Bridget Smith, who had a busy schedule of Easter services around Silverstone, was forced to abandon her plans to travel between churches by helicopter because of the fog and had to ride pillion on an RAC rider's motorbike.
The early-morning fog also meant the drivers' parade had to be cancelled and the first practice run was delayed by two hours until 10.30am.
Peter Morris, a spokesman for Silverstone, denied there had been "chaos" and said he was unaware of tractors having to tow cars on to the car parks. He would only say: "What we have seen is an extremely large crowd of people seeing a very exciting Grand Prix under blue skies." He admitted there had been "difficulties despite all the efforts that had been made" and said people had been warned to leave home early if they wanted to arrive in time for the race.Reuse content