The Bristol Motor Speedway’s Grand Prix is one of the most popular car races in the world, and it is also one of the longest-running motor sport events. This year’s Grand Prix is set to run from 23rd-26th July.
A 500-mile race that takes place on an oval, the Grand Prix at Bristol is held on the second Tuesday of July each year. Since 1950, the event has been part of the British Grand Prix season, but it was not until 1968 that the Grand Prix at Bristol became a real highlight of the season. Since then, it has only gotten more popular, with the most recent race drawing an audience of around 200 million viewers across Europe and North America.
Over the years, the format of the Grand Prix has remained largely unchanged, with drivers from across Europe and the rest of the world competing for bragging rights and glory in the UK. Teams of drivers swap cars and motorcycles every two weeks before the start of the British Grand Prix, and the longest and most popular Grand Prix of all time was in 2015. The race was extended from 400 to 500 miles due to a series of heavy rain showers that hampered the progress of cars and crews on race day – the track was closed for an hour and a half before the start to let the race organizers clear the track and make it suitable for racing again!
With such rich history, it would be a travesty to not visit the Bristol Motor Speedway while in the UK. A visit to this truly iconic British sporting venue is a must for any sports fan. Whether you are a seasoned automobile enthusiast or you just want to find out more about the world of motorsport, this is the place to be. Here are some top tips on how to make the most of your visit.
Plan Your Visit
Due to its popularity, the Bristol Motor Speedway gets busier and busier every year. If you plan on going during one of the popular racing seasons, it is advisable to arrive early and leave late to avoid the rush. Booking tickets in advance also helps, especially if you want to see a specific driver or team. Since it is not always possible to predict how long the queue will be, arriving at the box office 30 minutes before the gates open is the best bet to ensure you get in without problems. On the other hand, if you are visiting the UK for a different event, there is no need to rush – the track will be just as empty as usual!
Getting to the track is easy enough – it is located near Bristol in the South West of England, so it is only a short drive from most locations across the UK. The bus stop outside the entrance to the track is right next to the famous Abbey Stone Hotel, which dates back to the 18th century and has a well-deserved reputation for its English cuisine. Make sure you treat yourself to a late lunch or early dinner at the hotel – the food is amazing! If you are staying the night before the race, make sure you arrive early and find a good spot in the grandstand. You should be able to get a good view of the cars as they roll in and park. From here you can also make the most of the taster sessions before the start of the main event, which is always a good idea.
Aside from being able to get inside the track and watch racing, a walk around the Bristol Motor Speedway is a good idea for anyone visiting the site for the first time. The layout of the track is actually quite complex and has several features that you may not know about. One of the earliest features of the track is the Woodruff Curve. This is a right-hand turn leading up to Turn 1, which flattens out the lap. Before this turn was built in 1922, the only other turn, a left-hander, led to a lengthy sequence of low-speed corners and very long straights.
The next part of the walk is a short straight leading to the grandstand, where you will find all the information booths and a large screen showing the race in progress. The following two sections of the walk are taken on a loop starting from the grandstand, and they make a good half-hour addition to your visit. You will pass the paddock, which is the area where the cars and motorcycles are garaged and maintained before the race. As you walk around it, you will get a full view of the track from above. If you cross the paddock, you will see both the field and the motorbike riders warming up. This is where the mechanics and support staff prepare the cars and motorcycles for the big race.
The walk ends at the media centre, which is in front of the paddock. Here you will find the start and finish lines, the ambulance station, the medical center, and the administration offices. The track is actually in a valley and there is only one way to get out of it: a long straight into Turn 1. This part of the walk gives you a good look at how the pit lane, garages, and paddock are situated around the track. From here you will get a good view of the famous start/finish straight.
Take A Tour Of The Grounds
If you arrive at the track during the day, take the time to walk around the whole site. The best way to do this is to start at the back and work your way forward. The grounds are sprawling and cover several miles. You may find it tiring, but it’s also a great way to get a sense of the size of the place. The track itself is surrounded by an electrified fence in case of unauthorized personnel near the track. Once you have crossed this fence, you will be in the UK legally (the sign is in English and French – take a gander if you don’t know what it means).
There are several parts of the grounds that you can explore. One of the best things about the Bristol Motor Speedway is that it is a fully functioning racing circuit. This means that you will get to see cars and motorcycles doing laps around the track. You will see both professionals and amateurs at the same time, with participants ranging from schoolkids to senior citizens. The track has something for everyone!
Visit The Museum
After spending an hour or so walking around the grounds, it is time for you to refuel and get back on track to see more racing. If you have the time, it is a good idea to visit the museum, which is located ahead of the grandstand. The museum itself has several parts, the first one being the motor museum. Here you will get a chance to see a massive collection of cars and other vehicles the drivers and teams use during the races. While in the museum, make sure you have a look at the wooden bridge that crosses over the River Avon. This structure was the last link in the Triple-Headers of 1923, 1924, and 1925, when it was used during the South African Grand Prix and the Australian Grand Prix. The museum is one of the largest of its kind in the UK, and it even holds the record for the largest collection of vintage racing cars!
Aside from being able to get a peek at some fantastic classic racing cars, you will also be able to learn more about the sport and its roots in the USA. One of the best parts of the museum is the fact that you can get an idea of how car races were back in the day. Another display has a 3D model of the Indianapolis 500, which is especially impressive when you consider that most people did not have 3D TV’s or screens of any kind in their homes back in the 1950’s! There is also a huge range of trophies and banners dating back to the early days of cars on the track. So, make sure you take the time to visit the museum in Bristol – it’s well worth it!
Eat, Drink, And Be Merry
As previously mentioned, the food in the Abbey Stone Hotel is unbelievably good, and you should definitely try the Sunday Roast Dinner and the Fish Fries served in the bar. For those not wanting to venture too far from the track, there are plenty of pubs and eateries adjacent to it. You will also find many high-end restaurants within a short walk of the site. Since the majority of the attendees at the grand prix are either drivers or members of their entourages, restaurants and bars around the site will be packed with people having post-race celebrations. This means that it is best to avoid these places if you want to eat something healthy – you will struggle to find a menu item that does not come in a chicken or fish finger guise!
Aside from food, there is the Drink Corner and Media Centre, which serve beer, cider, and liquor, and have a great selection of films and TV shows to keep you occupied. If you need to relieve stress from all that walking and want to get some work done, you can even hire one of the laptops or iPad minis to continue your research or to work on that novel you have been putting off for too long!