Racing legend praises crowd

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RACING royalty Sir ‘Jackie’ Stewart praised the spirit the Silverstone crowd for making the British Grand Prix ‘special’ despite a weather affected weekend of action, writes Sam Murley.

Torrential rain over Northampton resulted in fields of mud and hours of delays on the roads surrounding the circuit as up to 30,000 ticket holders were turned away from the British Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday.

Officials were forced to close half of the circuit’s car parks with all remaining available spaces full by 9am.

However, their drastic action was rewarded a day later as a 125,000 capacity crowd converged on the circuit, clambering into the grandstands or perching themselves on the grass verges to create a real buzz of atmosphere, as Red Bull’s Mark Webber clinched his second Silverstone triumph in the basking sunshine.

Speaking to the Free Press, 73-year-old Stewart, who himself enjoyed two British Grand Prix victories during his illustrious career, spoke of the spirit of the dedicated crowd and hailed their efforts that made for a memorable weekend of racing.

“It was an entertaining Grand Prix after such a bad weather situation on Friday and Saturday and it was great to see such a big crowd being so enthusiastic,” he said.

“There was all those issues with people being turned away and yet the spirit of the crowd was absolutely wonderful and made for a real special Grand Prix.

Meanwhile, off the track Marussia test driver Maria de Villota continues to recover from her harrowing accident at Duxford airfield last week.

Following a crash into the rear of a support lorry while testing, the 32-year-old underwent a lengthy operation to repair ‘serious head and facial injuries’ and unfortunately lost her right eye.

However, the most recent updates report she is now conscious and continues on the road to recovery.

Nearly all the drivers paid tribute to her in some way at Silverstone this weekend, with Fernando Alonso dedicating his pole position to her and others sporting her red star logo.

Stewart, who was knighted in 2001, took the opportunity to send his sympathy to De Villota and reflected on the stark reminder of the dangers of motor racing.

“I don’t know the circumstances and haven’t spoken to anyone about it but obviously my sympathies go out to her and her family,” he said. “Motor racing is dangerous, it states exactly that on the back of every ticket but you don’t expect an accident such as that to actually happen.

“However, unfortunately every now and again these terrible things happen and we have to learn how to prevent them in the future.”