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A history of racing at Snetterton

A history of racing at Snetterton - News

Picture the scene: the year is 1951. Winston Churchill has returned as Prime Minister, Dennis the Menace makes his debut in the Beano comic, and Randolph Turpin beat the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson to win the World Middleweight title.

But 1951 is also a significant year in the history of British motorsport, as one of the country's finest examples of post war generation ex-airfield racetracks, Snetterton, opened to the public.

Snetterton has wowed British motorsport fans ever since, so here at TrackDays, we have decided to race back to the very beginning, as we explore the history of this famous circuit.

World War II

Like many race circuits built in this era, Snetterton was formerly a World War II airfield. Indeed, the base was built to provide a home for the US Army Air Force's 96th Bomb Group and its fleet of B-17 Flying Fortresses as they played an important part in Britain's efforts towards the end of the Second World War. Tragically, 900 of the aircrew stationed here lost their lives while flying food aid to Nazi occupied Netherlands.

When the allies claimed victory, the RAF took over for several years before it was finally deemed surplus to requirements in 1948. Sensing the opportunity abandoned runways presented and the country's growing appetite for motorsport, two racing enthusiasts, Oliver Sear and Dudley Corman, persuaded the millionaire who owned much of the land - aptly called Fred Riches - to allow motor racing on the site.


And so, making use of many of the roads situated around the perimeter of the airfield, construction began on a fast 2.71-mile circuit. A defining feature was a mile long stretch which culminated in a tricky hairpin bend, dubbed the Norwich Straight.

In 1951, Snetterton hosted its first race, when the Aston Martin Owners' Club blasted around the track. Other meetings followed closely after, including in 1953 when Snetterton's first motorcycle event was organised.

Such was the popularity of the circuit that by the mid-1960s the first changes to the circuit took place and in 1974 a new short course was built. This enabled more prestigious races to be staged, including the UK's first 24-hour endurance race.

Ownership Changes

Since the 1960s, Snetterton has changed hands multiple times, including when Former F2 Champion Jonathan Palmer purchased all of the former Grovewood circuits in 2004. This ushered in a new period of multi-million pound investment for Snetterton, with new spectator banks, re-profiled turns and a new one mile in-field section.

Palmer also harbours ambitions to attract international racing back to Snetterton by gaining a new FIA Grade 2 licence. This is yet to materialise, but the Norfolk circuit still remains a popular venue for events such as the BTCC and British F3 each year.


But Snetterton isn't the only motorsport landmark in Norfolk, with Lotus F1 currently based close by in Hingham. So, if you decide to book a day out on track at Snetterton circuit, consider making the twenty-minute drive to Lotus to cap off your day of tracking.

To book your driving experience at Snetterton, visit our Snetterton Driving Experiences page. To book an Own Car or Bike Track Day at Snetterton, visit our Snetterton Track Days page.

03 February 2022

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