How Silverstone’s Rich History Links World War Two And A Dead Sheep

How Silverstone’s Rich History Links World War Two And A Dead Sheep
11:19, 11 Jul 2019

The most historic race on the F1 calendar returns this weekend as Lewis Hamilton attempts to stretch his lead at the top of the standings and win a record six titles.

This comes in the same week that the future of the British Grand Prix was secured, with Silverstone agreeing to host races until 2024 to the relief of motorsport fans all over the world.

The short-term future looks bright for UK motor racing fans but perhaps the past of this illustrious race is where the most interesting tale lies. During World War Two, RAF Silverstone was used as a Royal Air Force bomber station and it boasted three runways, in a triangle formation. Although the base close when the war had finished, these three runaways are still visible from space today and lie inside the modern day track.

The current track, measuring almost 6km, was a long way off in 1946 when local man Maurice Geoghegan was looking for somewhere to test his new sports car. Due to the tight speed regulations on public roads, he stumbled upon the disused airfield and realised that those three runaways were all connected by slip roads. 

He organised a meet up with his buddies the following year and the twelve of them created their own circuit and had a race. Unfortunately for them, the surrounding fields were full of sheep, several of which wandered onto the racetrack. From the title of this piece, you can probably guess what happened next.

One unlucky sheep was run over and killed by Geoghegan himself and his car was seriously damaged, luckily, he emerged unharmed. ‘The Mutton Grand Prix’ was born but the rumours of a BBQ after the race are pure folklore.

The Royal Automobile Club International Grand Prix was the circuit’s first official race in 1948, but by 1950 the Formula One Championship had begun, and held the very first race at Silverstone. King George VI was in attendance and watched on as Alfa Romeo cleaned up and Giuseppe Farina took the chequered flag on his way to winning the entire championship. 

The track has been modified and now features several more corners and modern safety regulations have meant that the track has slowed significantly but it is now arguably more of a test for the drivers. Nigel Mansell, Michael Schumacher, Sir Stirling Moss, all of the best racing drivers from history have graced this piece of tarmac in Northamptonshire yet few of them will have been aware of the sheep who gave his life to inspire the British Grand Prix.