LAT Archive: Thruxton, 50 years of Britain’s fastest circuit

AutoClassics and LAT reflect on the wealth of racing disciplines and future world champions that have graced Thruxton’s asphalt since it opened back in 1968

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Flowing, high-speed turns dominate the Thruxton circuit. There’s little in the way of heavy braking zones, and now that Rockingham rarely runs on its full oval, the Hampshire venue can lay claim to being Britain’s fastest track.

While it’s what the British Automobile Racing Club (BARC) now calls home, Thruxton began life, like so many UK circuits, as an RAF airfield. Built in 1942, the World War Two base housed both British and American military, and its outer perimeter formed the basic layout of the track. Notably, Formula 1 world champion Damon Hill set the fastest lap in 1993, with an average speed of 147mph.

This weekend, the circuit celebrates 50 years as a motor sport venue. Ahead of a specially arranged race meeting, and thanks to the LAT Archive, AutoClassics looks back at some of the most famous series and drivers to have raced there.

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British Formula 3

November 15, 1969

A year after Thruxton circuit opens, future double F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi is seen here piloting his Ford-powered Lotus 59 to first position in the British Formula 3 race. He will go on to also win the series title.

European Formula 2

April 12, 1971

Two years later, super Swede Ronnie Peterson, in his March 712M, leads the European Formula 2 field away at the start of the Jochen Rindt Memorial Trophy race. But after the race’s 50 laps, it will instead be Graham Hill who takes the spoils. Five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell winds up third ahead of Francois Cevert.

British Touring Car Championship

April 19, 1976

Tin-top great Gerry Marshall fires his Vauxhall Firenza Magnum 2300 to first in class and fourth overall in the British Touring Car Championship. Baby Bertha is yet to come, but the iconic silver, green and orange livery is already in use.

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British Formula 3

March 13, 1983

The 1983 British F3 season is well known for its rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Martin Brundle – representing West Surrey Racing and Eddie Jordan Racing respectively. Senna wins the first nine races that season, including at Thruxton. He goes on to win a further three, taking his tally to 12 out of 20. The following year both will arrive in F1, with Senna joining Toleman and Brundle, Tyrrell.

British Touring Car Championship

August 30, 1993

For round 14 of the 1993 season, the BTCC heads to Thruxton with the hallowed Super Touring grid. It is the Ecurie Ecosse-run Vauxhall Cavalier of David Leslie that delivers the perfect weekend; he secures pole, the win and the race’s fastest lap. However, the eventual season champion will be BMW’s Joachim Winkelhock.

Formula Ford

August 1998

Over the course of its 51-year history, Formula Ford has housed and shown the brilliance of many future F1, IndyCar and sportscar champions. Here, Jenson Button crosses the line in his Mygale SF98 with his arm aloft, having taken the win.

Renault Spyder Championship

May 2-3, 1999

Due to planning permission constraints, Thruxton is limited to only 12 days of racing per year. But that doesn’t stop organisers from packing in diversity. In 1999, the Renault Spyder Championship visits. Here, eventual three-time World Touring Car champion and Le Mans podium finisher Andy Priaulx leads the pack on the way to securing the title.

British GT Championship

March 25, 2000

Alongside its FIA GT Championship programme, Lister also enters a factory team plus a customer-car entry into the British GT Championship. In 2000, team drivers Dave Warnock and Rob Schirle take the GT2 title. Here they lead the way at Thruxton, fending off a 993-generation Porsche 911.

Images courtesy of LAT Archive

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