The new-look Silverstone layout has the potential to provide the best racing and most exciting viewing on the MotoGP World Championship calendar – that is the view of popular erstwhile grand prix star Steve Parrish, who is effusive about the improvements being put into place at the Northants circuit.
There was much consternation expressed when the Donington Park F1 débâcle
effectively rendered the Leicestershire venue unusable and handed the British round of MotoGP on a plate to arch-rival Silverstone, with a five-year contract swiftly being concluded to welcome world-class motorcycling back to the former airfield for the first time since 1986.
For all of its superior facilities and access, the cynics opined, the flat, open expanses of Silverstone will never be able to match Donington's charm in terms of raw atmosphere and on-track excitement, unable to compete with a circuit that prior to being turned into a half-finished building site, had lent itself perfectly to motorbike racing through its setting that in parts resembles a natural amphitheatre, much like Brands Hatch. Ex-British 500cc Champion Parrish, however, reckons such judgements are being made rather too hastily.
“I have a close affinity with Silverstone because I used to race around here myself,” the late Barry Sheene's former team-mate told Crash.net Radio
, “and I'm really excited about MotoGP coming back here. It's great that we can get our friends and associates from around the world coming to a track that we're proud to have.
“Donington has always been a firm favourite with a lot of the riders, but it was just a little embarrassing to see the facilities that went with it and the traffic and everything else. Like everyone else, I'd pick up the magazines or newspapers a week later and everyone was bitching about the campsites and the toilets and the queues and this and that, and it was embarrassing.
“Silverstone have put their money where their mouth is, they have the money in the bank and they are doing exactly what they said they would do. I'm sure the weather we've had in the UK recently hasn't helped things, but it looks to me to be all on-schedule and it's all happening.
“We've had lots of conversations, and Richard Phillips, the Silverstone MD, has spoken to lots of people from the motorcycle world. You have to make motorcycle racing slightly more intimate, I feel, than car racing – people want to be nearer [to the action], and hopefully they can put some grassy banks up and have some cheap tickets as well as all the nice grandstand seats, because a lot of people actually prefer to be sat on the grassy bank with their rug and their flask of coffee and everything else, and get as close as they possibly can.
“Clearly, nowadays you need more-and-more run-off areas to fall within the regulations, so put some banks on the inside of corners where people can feel that they're close to it. I've looked at the plans, and it looks to me to be a great circuit, particularly the new [Arena Grand Prix] section that they're building – there look to be some really good opportunities for overtaking, and that's what we want to see.
“I'm very happy with what's going on, and it's great to see so many builders and workers working so hard – if they did the M1 like this, we wouldn't have to sit in queues so often! I'm really pleased that we've now got a circuit with great facilities and that clearly we're going to be very proud to show off, and it should provide some great racing too. It looks like it's going to be a fantastic track – probably the best in the whole of the grand prix season.”