Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

On This Day: 28th April 2006 - Damon Hill becomes president of the BRDC // The World Champion takes on a new circuit-based role

Published by Christine

Former F1 world champion Damon Hill was confirmed as the new President of the British Racing Driver's Club on this very day five years ago. He took over the role from Sir Jackie Stewart, who had been in charge of the club for six years previously.

Hill became president of one of the most influential motorsport organisations in the UK, and one with a long history. Inaugurated in 1928, the BRDC had grown from founder J.D. Benjafield's popular dinner parties - where racing drivers, team owners and friends all gathered to discuss the sport they loved. When the club became official, 25 members signed up with an idea of promoting motorsport in Britain, and encourage British drivers abroad.

In 1952, the club took over the lease of the Silverstone circuit, and have looked after the interests of the track ever since. At the time Hill took the reigns, the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was under threat, and it was a difficult time to step into the middle of the battle with Bernie.

At the meeting which confirmed Hill as his successor, in 2006, Jackie Stewart pointed out the problems they faced.

Whilst the Grand Prix is contractually retained through to 2009, the pre-eminence of the British motorsport industry will remain under threat until we have a public/private sector partnership for the long-term future of Silverstone and the defence of the Grand Prix.

- Sir Jackie Stewart

Year after year, the unsettled future of the GP rumbled on, casting a shadow over the event itself until the incident that I simply refer to as "The Donington Moment." If I had been in charge, I probably would have thrown up my hands and given up, but Damon Hill kept on working. The odds were against him, but the heritage meant more than the problems, and a way forward had to be found.

By the end of 2009, Silverstone found itself with a 17 year deal to host the British Grand Prix, plans to develop the track and the pit complex to a new standard, and more importantly, funding to do so.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner was given a tour of the new complex recently, and was impressed with what he saw.

It's quite staggering the scale of what has been built here in a very short space of time, but it gives the circuit a whole new feel and dimension to it and from a facility point of view... I think this investment in the Wing is phenomenal.

It's great for British motorsport and makes Silverstone the world class facility it deserves to be.

- Christian Horner

It's still to be seen how successful this year's Grand Prix will be and whether the changes will affect the atmosphere and the racing at all. However, the future for Silverstone is looking a lot brighter, and that can be attributed to Damon Hill and his BRDC leadership.

Under his management, the club has gone from strength to strength, with more than 800 members now, a recognised name worldwide, and a track they can (almost, when building work is complete) be proud of.