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Silverstone’s past revisited

Silverstone’s past revisited

MotoGP is back at the circuit for the first time since 1986 for the AirAsia British Grand Prix this weekend. Read up on some interesting facts and statistics on the GP history at the track.

This weekend MotoGP returns to Silverstone after a 24-year absence, and for ten years between 1977 and 1986 the World Championship enjoyed some memorable GPs at the Northamptonshire venue.

During that spell many defining moments were witnessed, such as the first ever one-two finish for American riders in GP racing when Pat Hennen and Steve Baker took first and second in the maiden 500cc race held at Silverstone. Additionally, in each of the ten events held between 1977-1986 there were also sidecar races as well as the GPs for solo motorcycles.

Back in the days when timing was clocked to the nearest hundredth of a second, the closest ever finish in the 500cc era was recorded in 1979 at Silverstone when just 0.03 seconds separated Kenny Roberts and Barry Sheene. The first five riders across the line in the 1983 250cc race were covered by just 0.4 seconds – the closest ever top five in the 61-year history of the 250cc class.

In 1979 Honda debuted the NR500 four-stroke challenge to the established 2-stroke machines in the 500cc class. The bikes were ridden by Mick Grant and Takazumi Katayama. Grant crashed at the first corner and Katayama completed a handful of laps before retiring. Freddie Spencer rode an updated version of the NR500 at Silverstone in 1981 and ran as high as fifth place in the race before retiring with mechanical problems.

Riders to have experienced the highest highs at the circuit include Kork Ballington and Angel Nieto, who are the two riders with most GP victories at Silverstone, each having won there on six occasions. Toni Mang’s 1985 win made him the only rider to have won 250cc GP races on machines from three different Japanese manufacturers: Kawasaki, Yamaha and Honda.

For the home British riders Silverstone has also provided a happy hunting ground. Ten Brits have finished on the podium across all the solo classes of Grand Prix racing at Silverstone: Barry Sheene (1978/500cc/3rd, 1979/500cc/2nd), Tom Herron (1978/250cc/2nd, 1978/350cc/2nd), John Williams (1977/350cc/3rd), Steve Manship (1978/500cc/2nd), Mick Grant (1978/350cc/3rd), Clive Horton (1978/125cc/2nd), Keith Huewen (1981/350cc/2nd), Andy Watts (1984/250cc/2nd), Ron Haslam (1984/500cc/3rd) and Ian McConnachie (1986/80cc/1st). Sheene however remains the only British rider to have started from pole position at Silverstone across all solo GP classes, when he took prime place on the grid in the 500cc race in 1977.


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