Being in charge of Britain’s biggest and most historic racing circuit is quite some job but for Stuart Pringle, Managing Director of Silverstone, it’s a real labour of love, as Insidebikes discovered…
Stuart, tell us about your career and how you’ve risen to become MD of Silverstone?
I’m a life-long motorsport obsessed former tank commander and I got a lucky break upon leaving the army in 2000, when I landed a job advertised in Motor Sport magazine for a new Club Secretary of the Vintage Sports-Car Club. Thus opened up a ‘career’ path (the term used advisedly as it has never felt like real work) that has to date included stints at Brands Hatch running motorsport events and operations for the MSV Group circuits (including world superbikes when it was a proper championship), and the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) at Silverstone, before moving across the BRDC’s business, Silverstone Circuits Ltd in 2014. I took the reins at SCL in 2016.
What’s been your career highlight?
Securing the British MotoGP at Silverstone in 2017 and massively exceeding both Dorna and the FIM’s expectations by resurfacing the entire 3.66 mile (and 15m wide) GP circuit for the first time since 1996, in response to the request from the MotoGP paddock. They did not believe that ‘a car circuit owned by F1 obsessed former racing drivers’ would commit millions of pounds that it could barely afford to such an undertaking, but it was entirely the right thing to do, despite the challenging financial backdrop of the previous few years.
We’re guessing that you see Silverstone as greatest circuit in the world?
It genuinely is the greatest circuit in the world too! The reason is simple; there are other circuits that are equally exciting and dramatic, there are other circuits that have hosted epic sporting battles over seven decades too, there are other circuits that host some of the very best racing championships in the world, and there are other circuits that allow you to ride or drive in the wheel tracks of your heroes, but there is no other circuit in the entire world that does all the aforementioned. Quite simply look at the world championships that race at Silverstone – MotoGP, Formula One, World Endurance Championship, World Rallycross. There is a reason they all want to be at Silverstone, and it is not just that the UK is the global centre of motor racing. It’s that Silverstone is a world class circuit, with world class facilities in a world class market with heritage to die for.
So what have been the best bike moments at Silverstone?
Sheene versus Roberts in 1979 may well have been the best ever motorcycle race run at Silverstone, but Marc Marquez qualifying in under two minutes was the best ever motorcycle moment at Silverstone and honestly think it will never be topped. That guy is something else. He pushed so hard in the run up to that lap using his trademark and utterly nutty approach of discovering the limit by repeatedly going over it. Prior to the resurfacing, the grip was inconsistent and there were some bumpy sections which would have concerned a normal human being, but not Marc. He so nearly lost it on that epic lap and Cal Crutchlow was a gnats crotchet from beating him to it too, but the history books now record that Marc Marquez was the first rider to do a lap in the 1.59s. This year I think we might see the Moto2 pole sub two with our new mega grippy asphalt that was put down so skilfully by Aggregate Industries recently.
What was your first bike?
The first bike I actually owned was oddly a mid-seventies CB750F. I wasn’t in the ‘old man’ phase that I am currently occupying, I just couldn’t afford anything more modern bike as a student traveling around the USA. It was memorable for weighing as much as a block of flats and I discovered that chains need adjusting which no-one had explained to me prior to then. I had an epic trip to the former Yugoslavia on a very loaded NTV650 the Summer before that (when they were still fighting – a great way to guarantee empty roads in a lovely former holiday destination) but I hired that bike for the trip.
When did you first start riding bikes, and why?
I love all things mechanical. You can’t be a real petrol head if you listen to your mum and avoid bikes. Mums are great at many things, but the “don’t ride a motorcycle” chip that nature has fitted them all with is unhelpful and results in the world being populated by very poor car drivers. More than ever now, those distracted, texting idiots have a good deal to answer for. My driving licence tells me I passed my bike test on 25th May 1993. Now I have been reminded of that I will make sure I ride to work in a couple of weeks’ time on that date to celebrate a quarter of a century as a card carrying biker.
And bikes will always be in your blood?
They are part of who I am. I love my family more than words, but they are a handbrake on my riding. But for those blighters, I’d go back to only having a bike. I enjoyed living my life that way before I grew up.
The GoPro British MotoGP takes place at Silverstone on the weekend of 26-26 August. http://www.silverstone.co.uk/events/2018-british-grand-prix-motogp/