F1: Duxford gets the go-ahead to continue as a testing venue

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarMonday, March 22nd, 2010

 
 

The chance to see F1 teams testing up close and personal will still be available to fans in the east of England after the Duxford aerodrome was given permission to carry on hosting the events – albeit with conditions imposed.

British-based teams including Renault have used the former World War Two airfield, which is home to an outpost of the Imperial War Museum (IWM), for straight-line testing thanks to the suitability of its runways.

But the full-throated roar of the V8, 19,000-rpm engines used in 2009 (which have since been detuned to 18,000rpm) caused consternation for residents in surrounding villages, leading South Cambridgeshire District Council to investigate.

Tests to determine whether the F1 events constituted a statutory noise nuisance proved negative.

The council has decreed that testing can continue at the venue but has imposed conditions. Now the museum can conduct tests for a maximum of five days annually and on only one day every month on a weekday between 8am and 6pm.

Additionally, there must be a gap of three weeks between such tests.

Teams will be able to conduct a maximum of 180 runs up and down the runway with the museum making “every endeavour” to give at least five weeks notice of each test day required to local parish councils.

The council also says that F1 teams may book a reserve day for the day immediately after a planned test. In the case of bad weather or other problems on the planned day, tests will be carried out on the reserve day instead.

Parishes and local people will be told in advance if a reserve day has been booked, and that testing may be carried out on either day.

Cllr Sue Ellington, SCDC’s environmental health portfolio holder, said: “We’ve worked closely with IWM to reach a balance between their needs and the rights of residents.

“By putting conditions in place, we are aiming to limit any inconvenience to local people, give them plenty of warning about future events and prevent any escalation in noise or frequency. We will continue to monitor testing and will review the conditions if necessary.”

In July last year Duxford played a small but crucial role in the events that led to Renault F1 declining to contest FIA charges of causing a deliberate crash at the inaugural 2008 Singapore Grand Prix in order to secure a win for its driver Fernando Alonso.

In a test held there race driver Nelson Piquet Jr was replaced in the car by reserve driver Romain Grosjean – the first public sign that he and the team were about to experience a parting of the ways.

Losing his race drive caused Piquet Jr to come clean in a highly public fashion about what had happened at the Singapore race, leading team principal Flavio Briatore and chief engineer Pat Symonds to leave the sport in one of F1’s biggest scandals of recent years.

Piquet has since been unable to continue his open-wheel racing career and has found a drive in the leading American tintop NASCAR series.

• South Cambridgeshire District Council adds that local people and businesses can ask to be added to a mailing list for advance notice of future test days by contacting Esther Blaine, IWM Public Relations Manager, on eblaine@iwm.org.uk or by calling (01223) 499320.

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