If you have followed the last few years of motorsport, you will know that Bristol is one of the most famous road racing circuits in the United Kingdom. In the United States, Bristol is most notably known for its role as the longest track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Monster Mile.
It is often cited as one of the biggest and longest street courses in the world. It is famous for its unforgiving surfaces, which favor high-performance cars and their drivers. If you have ever driven or been to Bristol, you know what to expect – this is a tough place to race and a tough place to park.
The Most Famous Bristol Race
The United Kingdom has been a hotbed of motorsport talent for years and the talent overflows into global competitions such as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. A well-known and historic motorsport event that takes place every year is the BRITISH Grand Prix. The event is held at the historic Silverstone track in England and attracts top European and international drivers. This is due in part to the fact that the circuit is located just North of London and is easily accessible from the UK’s secondary capital.
The most recent iteration of the BRITISH Grand Prix is an international event and the most recent winners are Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. The competition is highly regarded as one of the toughest sporting events in the world. Not many places in the world offer such a challenge and prize money to the top male and female drivers.
The race is held over three days and the drivers begin their grueling 270-lap trek around the legendary circuit just a few hours after the conclusion of the previous day’s race. Teams and drivers work flat-out all weekend long to achieve their best times and score some lucrative sponsorship deals along the way.
Bristol is a tough track to master. The combination of high speed corners and long straights makes it a favorite of many top Formula One drivers. Many consider the entire track to be one of the most interesting and challenging venues in all of motorsport. If you have ever been there, you know what to expect – this is a tough place to race and a tough place to park.
Many drivers and teams have gone on to achieve great success at Bristol. In recent years, many top Formula One drivers have called it home, making it one of the most popular and historic circuits in all of motorsport. Max Verstappen would go on to win the 2017 BRITISH Grand Prix, becoming the first Dutchman to ever win a Formula One race. He had previously won the 2016 French Grand Prix, giving him a welcome triple crown.
The Track Has Changed A Lot
Although there are still four distinct grandstands that circle the track, the way motorsport fans and drivers interact with the track has changed a lot in recent years. The transition from being a dusty, cobbled road to a state-of-the-art road racing circuit was a long and arduous process that started way back in the 1990s. It involved the demolition of the old stands and the building of a brand new main grandstand. Today, with the focus firmly on the future and not the past, the only thing left from the old Bristol are the famous floodlights that illuminate the scenic and iconic surroundings during the day and the sound of engines reverberating around the track at night. The new main grandstand is a mixture of traditional and modern styles and houses a 50-meter high video board that broadcasts racing action to every seat in the grandstand – the perfect way to follow every twist and turn of the action.
The Modern-Day Bristol
The most recognizable and iconic structure at Bristol is not the track itself but the surrounding areas; the Tudor buildings interspersed among the majestic trees. These areas, known as Castle Park, were built during the English Industrial Revolution as a place for people to congregate and socialize. It was also the first place to install gas lamps, a necessity since there were no streetlights or electricity at the time.
These days, the Tudor buildings interspersed among the trees are nothing more than a shadow of their former selves. Like many other areas of UK cities, they have been absorbed into the urban sprawl, changing the face of the city forever. The industrial buildings that housed the workshops of the 19th century have been turned into luxury apartments with sweeping views of the park and the track. The streets that radiate out from the main grandstand still bear witness to this transition, with the mix of old and new juxtaposed in an eclectic fashion that is a trademark of British urban design.
However, it is not just the urban design that is at odds with the established order of the day. The history behind the buildings and the events that once took place there are also a thing of the past; this was once a place where royalty and aristocracy congregated to see and be seen, a place where famous faces from literature, film, and music history came to life. Today, apart from the odd historical re-enactment group, there are no signs that this was ever a place of prominence – it is just a place that time forgot.
Floodlights Are The Vitality
Bristol is not just about the track, it is also about the floodlights that illuminate the entire scene and bring it to life at night. Since the 1800s, the city has been famous for its elaborate lighting displays along the waterfront – from the small scale floral displays that line the streets in the summer to the larger-than-life displays in the winter.
However, these days it is not just about the lights, it is also about the technology. Drivers and teams can access real-time weather conditions, track maps, and even a livestream of the track, all from their dashboard. Thanks to quick-loading maps and the magic of LED lights, teams and drivers can see everything that is going on at all times – eliminating any excuses for missing a shift or coming in late.
Technology plays a big part in modern day motorsport, allowing teams and drivers to train and monitor each other, as well as the cars they are working on, from wherever they choose. This is made possible by GPS and data capturing devices that store information about every lap and every turn. The data is then used to build high performance cars that are perfect for the challenging race courses that Bristol is famous for – this is also one of the reasons that the circuit is so appealing to Formula One teams and drivers; they can come to Bristol and simply work their way through the clock, gaining experience and precious racing hours that can be carried over to the next season.
The Growth Of Motorsport
As we have established, Bristol is famous for its historic track and the annual British Grand Prix. The city also played a key role in the development of British motorsport. It was here that Henry Royce, founder of the car company that would later become known as Rolls-Royce, proposed the idea of an organized motor sport event – the forerunner to the modern-day Grand Prix. He was backed by J.K. Walsh and Frederick Morley, with whom he founded the Automobile Club in 1897.
The Automobile Club hosted the first ever post-war ‘Bristol Race’, an informal event that was part of the Sports Car Club of Great Britain – now known as the Aston Martin Vintage Racing Society (AMVORS). The club also ran a successful motor racing team and in 1951 they were crowned champions of England, winning five out of the seven championship events that they entered. The club continues to this day to hold an annual open sports car race that is part of the Intercontinental GT Challenge and is open to all makes and models of car, even those that were not manufactured in the UK. This open race also serves as a showcase for contemporary and classic cars alike and is something of a combination of the original post-war ‘Bristol Race’ and the ‘Grand Prix’ that we know and love today.
In today’s world of professional motorsport, teams and drivers must adhere to strict doping regulations and it is for this reason that many of them flock to ‘offshore’ races, where safety standards are more relaxed and where performances are monitored and calculated more accurately. This is where the money is and this is where the top tier of motorsport is now – as much as we love the historic tracks like Silverstone and tracks like the Nurburgring, the sheer competition at the top level of motorsport has shifted to being based offshore. Luckily for us, the good people at the Automobile Club of Great Britain still hold their annual ‘Bristol Race’, which allows us to get a taste of what was a very different era and a different way to compete.