Silverstone unveils £27m new pit and paddock

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The Independent Online

Silverstone today officially opened its new £27million pit and paddock complex to now guarantee the circuit's place as one of the best in the world.

It was not so long ago that Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone described the Northamptonshire venue as "a world event masquerading as a country fair."

But in the wake of earning a new contract to host the British Grand Prix in December 2009, Silverstone has been transformed.

Last year Prince Andrew was on hand to unveil the first phase of the development which saw a revamp of the circuit and the introduction of the Arena complex.

Twelve months on and Silverstone now boasts the 'Wing' facility that not only includes new pits and paddock, but also media and conference suites, three large halls and an auditorium.

The building is 390m in length and 30m at its highest point, and has spent the last 18 months in construction.

In front of His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent, British Racing Drivers' Club president Damon Hill and a host of motor sport greats including Sir Jackie Stewart, Sir Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Nigel Mansell and John Watson, Silverstone can now claim to be a truly world-class venue.

Hill, also the 1996 world champion and 22-times grand prix winner, said: "It's very important for everyone we've managed to do this.

"We've had people putting up palaces around the world, so it's fantastic we've got this facility now, and it's kept Britain at the forefront of motor sport around the world.

Three-times F1 world champion Stewart said: "The race track was as good then as it is today. It's still the favourite of GP drivers.

"But the facility we are sitting in is extraordinary and it will now the lead the world.

"Formula One can be proud of it. It's amazing we've been able to afford it, but the BRDC has done a great job."

Mansell, the 1992 world champion and three-times British GP winner, said: ""Silverstone is the best circuit I know by a mile. It's the best in the world for me, bar none.

"What the BRDC and the board have done is a fantastic job. Thank you very much to the BRDC."

Derek Warwick, who competed in 147 grands prix, said: "The circuit takes care of itself, but the facility, this gives us the step we need to drive Silverstone forward.

"It is one of the biggest facilities in England, and we're going to make the most of it."

Silverstone, of course, is not just an F1 venue, but also now hosts the British rounds of MotoGP and the World Superbike Championship.

Surtees, the only man to win world titles on two and four wheels, said: "Silverstone had a spell of being in the wilderness in terms of biking, but with these facilities it has now world attention."

Thirteen-times bike GP winner Randy Mamola, with two of those wins at Silverstone, said: "We now have a beautiful home because of the BRDC, and thank God for that."