Silverstone interactive museum Day Out Review Header

“Anything happens in Grand Prix racing, and it usually does.”

– Murray Walker

We had a free day during October Half Term so decided to venture to Silverstone and visit the recently opened ‘Silverstone Interactive Museum’.  Read on to find how we got on…

What is Silverstone Interactive Museum...

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Situated at the entrance to the racetrack, Silverstone spent around 20 million pounds converting an old WW2 hanger into a new purpose built exhibition/museum that opened in 2019.

On opening, Museum CEO Sally Reynolds told reporters that..

“We want to inspire the next generation of engineers and people to work in motorsport. What better way than to show them a world-beating car or motorbike.”

Its part museum, part exhibition and celebrates everything that makes Silverstone the home of British Motorsport.

Our Visit To Silverstone Interactive Museum

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Booking was quick, simple and pain free. Just a case of picking a day, amount of tickets and time of entry.

Upon entering the museum, we could see a shop to our right, a welcome desk to our left and a coffee shop just behind it.  Entrance to the museum was a simple case of presenting e-tickets for scanning.  Once scanned, we were told that the museum starts upstairs, no further guidance was provided, and I was glad I spotted a map to pick up.

At this point its worth mentioning that like many other industries, the racing community has been disrupted hard by Covid, and that sports like F1 have implemented strict guidelines.  I was surprised that the welcome desk did not mention Covid,  Instead, the museum had placed a large quantity of hand sanitisers around the site, cleaning staff were observed around the museum and all the staff wore masks.

Once we had ventured upstairs a staff member greeted us and we were directed into a conference room overlooking the racetrack.  We waited here for a few minutes before being directed to the first of two cinematic experiences, handily called the ‘Starting Grid’ – a long straight a room with grid marks on the floor to indicate a standing position for family groups to gather in. Along each wall are projection panels and a strange red light running along the ceiling.  After a short wait the projection screens sprang into life and an animated introduction started.  It was an animated blast through time, showing years and key drivers/ cars that have appeared at Silverstone. It didn’t really explain what we were watching and weirdly the people looking at the left animation had a different set of images to the people looking at the right.  This meant your attention gets divided between looking at each side of the presentation.  The animation itself looks like it was powered by a PlayStation 3.  In fact, anyone that’s played a F1 game in the last few years is likely to be disappointed with what’s on view.  I would have thought with Silverstone’s resources a more ambitious welcome experience would have been created.

Once the presentation was over a set of doors opened and we were free to walk around the exhibition at our own pace.

The Museum is laid out in sections across two floors.  The upper floor moves through the history of Silverstone, from farmland to World War 2 airbase, to its first use as a racing circuit, to its current form – The home of British motorsport and its future of a centre of technical excellence.

Silverstone has evolved massively over the years and its great to see its heritage so proudly put on display.  The museum is billed as being interactive and this is achieved by various interactive touchscreens and activities dotted around each section, such as trying your hand as a WWII bomber, or sitting in a mock-up air raid gun. People looked like they were enjoying these activities, and they looked very educational. You could even sit in an old racing car and have a photo taken.



Once the top floor was exhausted, we made our way down to the ground floor to carry on the experience.  Here, the focus moved onto the racing and the technology involved.  Various race engines are on display as well as detailed information on aspects of race technology such as gearboxes, tyres and aerodynamics. Lots of interactive panels were on hand to explain things in as much detail as you need.  Carrying on we moved into a section discussing the medical advances in motorsport, a commentating booth that we completely missed, and something called the pit gun challenge.  This was not what I expected as the last time I did a pit gun challenge was at the NEC Birmingham and I got to change the tyre on an actual F1 car.  This challenge was pointing a mock pit gun at some sensors around waist height, whilst a digital timer provided your time, not quite as immersive as it could have been.

The next section we entered consisted of a relatively small exhibition of race cars, bikes, race suits and helmets.  I have been privileged to visit both Williams Private collection and the Donnington Collection (before it closed) both had a vastly superior collection of cars and vehicles compared to the Silverstone offering.

At the end of the museum walkthrough is the last exhibit simply called ‘The Ultimate Lap’.  I won’t spoil what this entails, but I will say the PlayStation 3 graphics make a return.

Once the ‘Ultimate Lap’ is over, you exit near the museum shop and café . All is not over though as we had one more experience left – Silverstone call this the Heritage walk. They let you outside to walk on a disused part of track and observe the actual Silverstone racetrack. An import note here is if you visit on an event day you will need to buy a ticket for the event as well as a museum ticket.  It’s a nice addition to the museum and great way to see the esteemed race track in all its glory.

 

Back inside, the Café is an ample size. Prices are typical for a tourist attraction of this type.  £3 sandwiches, hot drinks and bags of crisps came to around £24 for 3 people. Food on offer ranged from pre-packed sandwiches, hot paninis and basic pizzas.

Toilets were clean and plentiful, and accessibility has been taken well care of.  There is a lift to access the top floor and the Museum offers the hire of wheelchairs if needed (chargeable).

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Silverstone Interactive Museum Overall Thoughts...

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The Museum does a superb job of explaining Silverstone’s heritage and providing a window on behind the scenes, and what it takes to make racing happen. It does all this in a fun interactive way, and families are well catered for.  I would say Sally Reynolds’ mission to inspire the next generation.. is well on track.

People who have more experience in racing, or indeed Silverstone, may feel a little under-served. The Museum offers annual membership but, as it stands, I am not sure how much is to be gained on repeat visits.

The interactive museum is good but not great.  I compare it to somewhere like Mercedes World, based at what’s left of the historic Brooklands circuit.  Here you can see the history of Mercedes cars but there is so much more on offer such as themed events and tuition from racing professionals. Whilst Silverstone offers experiences similar to this separately via its website, it would be great to see these offered as part of the museum experience, after all they have all the racing Heritage, why not showcase it all.  It’s also a shame that Silverstone seem to have removed the minibus track tour as that was quite excellent and definitely has a place complementing the museum experience.

It will be interesting to see if the exhibition changes over the forthcoming years, and to see if they produce seasonal content.

The Silver Hedgehog: Rating

Value For Money - 7
Visit Experience - 8
Attraction Facilities - 10

8.3

Recommended

The Museum does a superb job of explaining Silverstone’s heritage and providing a window on what it takes to make racing happen.

Getting To Silverstone Interactive Museum

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Being the home of British Motorsport has its perks, Silverstone is easy to drive to, the local road network is easy to navigate and ample sign posting towards Silverstone is provided. Silverstone’s large ‘car park 49’ acts as the museums ‘Free’ car park, and is situated just outside the Museum.

https://www.silverstonemuseum.co.uk/plan/visitor-information/directions/

However, you are not very well served if you are arriving by public transport, it seems the Museum’s website does not give you any direction. A rummage around the main Silverstone website suggests buses run frequently and that Milton Keynes or Northampton Train stations are the best bet. Still, this is a bit of a let down that this info does not seem to be available on the Museum’s site.

https://www.silverstone.co.uk/events/formula-1-british-grand-prix/getting-here

Admission Costs

(As of October 21)

Adult (16+) £ 20.00

Child (5-15) 12.00

Child (Under 5)  £ 0.00

Student 16.00

Key Worker £ 16.00

Carer:  Please contact us at [email protected] if you have a query about Carer tickets.

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