Silverstone Circuits Limited has confirmed that the final Formula One race to take place at the Northamptonshire venue, for the foreseeable future at least, will remain on the familiar layout, despite plans to make changes being announced today [Wednesday].
Indeed, it is the loss of Formula One to Donington Park, and the arrival of MotoGP from its rival to complement the existing package of two-wheel motorsports already using the venue, including World and British Superbikes, that has prompted to decision to make the latest in a series of revisions to the famous airfield circuit - and potentially the biggest since the earthworks that created the Stowe-Vale and Bridge sections.
The revamp - which diverts the circuit from Abbey back towards the inside of Becketts, where it will enter a new arrowhead-shaped section before joining the existing National circuit - follows the signing of the five-year deal with Dorna that will bring MotoGP to Silverstone in 2010 and, according to the circuit, is designed to 'make the circuit more bike-friendly' after fears that the barriers at Bridge were too close for comfort for bike racers. Additional sections of track will also be laid at Chapel and Club before MotoGP arrives next year.
However, with work taking place after the 2009 racing season has been completed, the Formula One circus will remain on the existing layout, with the track turning left and right at the Abbey chicane before plunging under the vehicle bridge and into the 'stadium complex - an option that will remain viable even after the MotoGP-inspired modifications.
“This year's British Grand Prix will take place on the current Grand Prix circuit and that circuit will continue to be available to us for appropriate events," Richard Phillips, Silverstone Circuits MD, commented, "The new layout will be more suitable for two-wheeled racing, and will be an exciting circuit for both two- and four-wheeled events.
"We are making a significant investment, but it is absolutely worth it. Early feedback from both riders and drivers has been very positive. The [bike racing] chicane at Woodcote is going and changes to other sections of the circuit should result in increased overtaking opportunities.”
The plans form part of a £5m investment by Silverstone, with work set to be carried out between November 2009 and March 2010, and won't be confined to track changes, as improvements to viewing facilities - including moving some of the existing grandstands closer to the track - are also on the agenda.
“The viewing experience for fans is hugely important and we now have an opportunity to make sure it is absolutely right all around the circuit," Phillips continued, "The new layout will also enable fans to circulate around the venue more easily, to watch all the action from different vantage points."
Intriguingly, the new design harks back to one first revealed in 2001, and revisited since, when alterations were proposed to the F1 layout, diverting the track at Abbey into a near-identical left-hand hairpin within a stone's throw of the classic Becketts section. Abbey would have become the first corner on the revised layout - an idea also revisited in recent musings on how Silverstone could be changed in an effort to bring it up to date and retain its place on the Formula One calendar.
Among other Hermann Tilke-inspired changes mooted in 2001 were resiting the pit and paddock to the inside of the track between Club and Abbey, and introducing banking at Club to spice up what would become the final turn. Bernie Ecclestone, then circuit leaseholder Octagon and the British Racing Drivers' Club were reported as footing the estimated £40m bill.