Matt Prior: if you want to build a racing circuit, build it on an old airfield



  • Rockingham speedway

    Rockingham has enjoyed moments of success, but not many

Matt Prior

Most outsiders must have thought Rockingham Motor Speedway an optimistic proposition when it opened in 2001.

I know I was one of them. Oval racing isn’t the UK’s bag and there had been so many problems raising the money in the first place that the project’s originator, Peter Davies, took a digger and started work himself in 1998 so the planning approval didn’t expire.

But I also figured it didn’t matter: once it was up, it was up. Owners sometimes go broke and race circuits change hands. Awful for those involved, but for the race goer or track-day driver, not much changes.

Facilities might even get a bit better when someone new comes along. What these places don’t do is shut up shop completely, right?

Sadly, in Rockingham’s case, wrong. Its new owners have it earmarked as a car de-fleeting, preparation and auction house, and confirmed to the Northants Telegraph that circuit activity “will cease” at the start of next year. That, plus development potential at the Corby site, suggests that any future return to motorsport seems improbable at best.

Driven this week

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    Standard spec is good so paint colour is our car’s only option

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Rockingham has been through various owners and financial strifes, so the decision reflects the realisation of people’s first fears: that it was somewhere about which locals would complain (including some, frustratingly, who’d moved to houses built after the track), that it was costly to run and that it supported a race format spectators weren’t interested in. The wrong place for the wrong track, in other words.

But still a shame. I’ve got a soft spot for Rockingham. I watched one of the two Indy-style CART races it held, we’ve hired it for a few Handling Days and Sideways Challenges, and I’ve been on track days there. Its facilities are strong and the infield circuit – which doesn’t use a single yard of the trademark, flagship oval outer track – is a really good layout, more interesting than the part- banked, part-infield format that races tend to use because pit garage access is via the oval. Besides, it’s hard to dislike a circuit where track facilities are reached via an access road signed the ‘exhaust appreciation tunnel’.

It’s a pity we’ll no longer be able to appreciate it.

Given the cost and noise, it’s hard to imagine a new race track facility being opened now (Circuit of Wales, anyone?), although there is recent precedent. Blyton Park added a good asphalt track to the grasstrack arena that was already there, the Grand Tour on Amazon TV occasionally uses a layout at the former RAF Wroughton and Dyson has unveiled its plans for a proving ground at Hullavington. Bedford Autodrome is likely to become houses (more news coming on that this week) but remarkably it was built and made a success of by Jonathan Palmer’s MSV in the first instance. MSV has since turned its attention to a former airfield in northern France.

Which perhaps tells you something: if you want to make a success of a circuit, build it on an old airfield.

Read more 

The rise and fall of Rockingham Motor Speedway

BTCC 2018: Turkington builds title lead after Sutton exclusion

BTCC 2018: Morgan, Sutton and Smiley share Rockingham wins

Peter Cavellini

Bullet in Foot?

 Rockingham did I think do just that, I mean American style racing?! What a yawn, like Mark suggests, an almost Airfield style is good, it’s not an oval, it might be flat but at least there’ll be corners,plus, other stuff can happen there, trackdays and the like, amenities?, well you can have the usual fast food outlets plus some proper food Restaurants, Rockingham was just boring.

Peter Cavellini.


I wont miss Rockingham….

….. it was a brave idea in a run down area, but it just didnt work – souless as a track utilising the infield (BTCC as an example), and NASCAR only really works in America, with the huge spectator numbers/atmosphere, warm weather and ice cold beer.

On the other hand I despise people who move to a house near a motor racing circuit and then complain about the noise….Goodwood and Brands Hatch spring to mind…Oulton Park too!

Never mind, soon it will be driverless electric milk floats, the crowd will not be allowed to  cheer (just press their LIKE buttons)  and converse with their buddies via social meedya, commentators will be heard via headpsets and the spectators cars will be all electric so you wont hear them coming or going…. ghost town utopia.

Thank God I wont be around to see it!


Or better still, an airport!

Or better still, an airport! 🙂

Cleveland Burke Lakefront Airport was closed down for a week a year to host an Indycar race.

NIMBYs also close smaller ovals, stock car racing in Belfast at Dunmore was stopped because of resident’s complaints. Nutts Corner oval survives as it is in a rural location, on what was a concrete paddock for an airfield.


Prestwick Raceway?

Here in Scotland we have Prestwick airport currently owned by the SNP / Scottish Government.   They’re spending millions keeping it open (our money, not theirs’).   They believe someone will come forward in the future and not only buy the airport off them but also pay off the debts.


Nobody ever accused the SNP of having a grasp of reality.


However, maybe we need to change it to a racing circuit?   Certainly a better idea than the SNP’s of making it a space port for the non-existent space tourism industry.    They really are Space Cadets.



I disagree Matt.  Airfields

I disagree Matt.  Airfields are cold, windy, wet, bland, featureless, joyless places.


Nobody is going to build a circuit now.  Motor racing has lost its soul to car manufacturers with reactive green agendas and is no longer exciting to young people. 


Sport is at its core pointless in all respects except human betterment.  The Olympic 100m has no constructive or commercial point, nor does the Wimbledon final.  That is a good thing. 


Driving round in circles as fast as you can, the age old criticism of motor racing, is totally pointless and utterly joyfull.  But it is the blind pursuit of relevance that is killing it off much faster than those involved realise.


Sign o’ the times

It has been written many times how the youth of today is not interested in driving, so it makes sense they won’t be interested in driving fast as a spectator sport too. None of my kids care two hoots about motor sport and only see driving as a means of transport.

Mikey C

Airfield do suffer from the

Airfield do suffer from the flatness, Brands Hatch for example is a much more interesting circuit due to the gradients it has.


Driven this week

  • Hyundai i30 N

    Standard spec is good so paint colour is our car’s only option

  • Porsche Cayenne Turbo 2018 road test review hero front

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