What Happened To The Rockingham Speedway? [Solved!]

The Rockingham Speedway has held a special place in the motorsport world since it opened in the early 1900s. With its flat oval track and rural surroundings, it is the ultimate pit stop for drivers travelling between the UK and Europe. The “The World’s Most Famous Motor Sport Venue” even saw the likes of Louis Schmidt, Manfred von Brauch, and Giuseppe Franco drive their cars here during their formative years.

But over the years, the track fell into disuse. It wasn’t until 2004 that the famous track again saw active racing, with the formation of the National League for Motor Sport (NLaMSo). The following year, the Rockingham Grand Prix returned, with the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) also making an appearance.

Grand Prix And WRC Return To Rockingham

After a four-year break, the Rockingham Grand Prix returned to the track in 2008. It was originally scheduled to be a one-off event, with the intention to bring motorsport back after a 30-year absence. In 2018, the event will mark its 100th anniversary with the return of the World Rally Championship (WRC). However, the rally sport didn’t return alone – the same year as the Grand Prix, the British Rally Championship (BRC) also brought its truck and 4×4 competitions to the Yorkshire countryside. The BRC returned in 2019 and will continue to make appearances at the track in the 21st century – plus, the World Land Speed Racing (WLSR) also staged a comeback at the “The World’s Most Famous Motor Sport Venue”, with competitors hitting breakneck speeds around the track.

National League For Motor Sport Takes Centre Stage

Although the Rockingham Grand Prix and World Rally Championship had previously staged multiple events at the circuit, it was the creation of the National League for Motor Sport (NLaMSo) that turned the tables. The organisation was created in order to promote motor sport in the UK and assist with the organisation of national and international competitions. The first event to be staged by the league was the Formula 4 Britannia, with additional races being added to the schedule in 2010 and 2011.

While the league was created with good intentions, it soon became apparent that the track wasn’t able to host the championship due to a lack of funding. NLaMSo stepped in and began making donations in order to keep the series on the calendar. But it was too little, too late – the series had already moved to Donington Park, where it would spend the latter half of its existence. Although the series continued to return to Rockingham for a one-off event until the end of the 2015 season, the lack of support from the championship made the event a bit of a hollow one.

Tourist Attraction Or Sport Venue?

The creation of the National League for Motor Sport heralded a new era for the track. No longer just a place to hold competitions, it developed into a tourist attraction, complete with museums, boutiques and galleries dedicated to motorsport. Although NLaMSo helped save the day, it didn’t stop there. The organisation invested heavily in the upkeep of the track, holding weekly meetings with contractors in order to ensure that the facility was kept in good condition. The organisation also hosts frequent “public days” at the track, inviting the public to come along and enjoy a day of motorsport.

But while the organisation invests heavily in the keeping of the track in good condition, it does little to no marketing or promote the sport at the venue itself. With no grandstands and very limited hospitality, there is little opportunity for fans to get involved in the action – if they are even aware of the existence of the track. For decades, the Yorkshire countryside and villages have been quiet during “the racing season”, with only a handful of people knowing what goes on behind the scenes at the “World’s Most Famous Motor Sport Venue”. Unfortunately, with the continued expansion of motorsport and the rise of eSports, the crowds have started to disappear – with spectatorship falling by as much as 40 percent between 2011 and 2015.

Rockingham Gets A Renovation

In 2015, a decade after it last hosted a motorsport event, the “World’s Most Famous Motor Sport Venue” received a major facelift. The previous season had seen the closure of the track, with only the occasional sprint meeting and fixture in the 4×4 off-road category surviving. During the off-season, owner Matt Lloyd decided to invest £2.5 million in the redevelopment of the track. And what a transformation it was! Not only was the entire circuit completely resurfaced, but additional buildings were constructed, including a paddock, offices, a gym, a medical centre, and a hospitality area. The result is a fully operational motorsport stadium, complete with LED lighting, climate control, and a grandstand that can hold up to 10,000 people.

While the redevelopment definitely improves the facilities for motorsport enthusiasts, it does little to nothing for the image of the track. The majority of the work takes place in the paddock areas and includes buildings that completely block out the surrounding countryside. With no green areas or trees to offer a picturesque backdrop, it is a little hard to put into words the charm of the “World’s Most Famous Motor Sport Venue”. But then, maybe that is what makes it so iconic in the first place.

Bringing Motorsport Forward

Looking ahead, the rebirth of the Rockingham Speedway offers some exciting times for motorsport. With the redevelopment of the track complete and the return of the WRC and BRC, it is clear that the “World’s Most Famous Motor Sport Venue” has not lost its appetite for motorsport. The only question is, will it be prepared to embrace the 21st century? Or will it continue to cling on to the vintage motor races that have made it famous?

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