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A close-up view of the new Silverstone

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Sarah Holt | 10:11 UK time, Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Lewis Hamilton did not mind admitting that when he drove round Silverstone's new 'Arena' circuit in the McLaren simulator for the first time, he missed the new Abbey corner and carried on down the old track.

It just goes to show that there is no substitute for getting in a car and driving when it comes to learning the nuances of a new circuit - even if you are a former British Grand Prix winner like Hamilton.

Luckily, two F1 drivers were on hand - 1996 world champion Damon Hill and Super Aguri driver turned 5 live commentator Anthony Davidson - to chauffeur me in a road car as they ran the rule over Silverstone's new layout.

But before any serious analysis could begin, there was the small matter of adjusting to being driven by a speed specialist.

"If I'm scaring myself, that's not good," Hill said reassuringly, perhaps sensing my nerves. "I'm going to drive within myself so you'll be fine.

"The enjoyment comes when you go into the zone and you're not completely sure what happens next."

Hmm, that's less reassuring.

"Don't worry," said the 49-year-old with another quick smile as we left the pits. "I know my way around here."

The opening sequence of the high-speed Copse and Becketts corners passed in a blur - I focused on getting used to the see-saw lurching and flip-flop in my stomach as Hill got into the rhythm of accelerating, then hitting the brakes late and hard into each corner before riding the kerbs and racing away again.

"It does make your stomach flip and I completely understand that," Hill - a winner of 22 grands prix, including the 1994 race at Silverstone - gamely tried to empathise.

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After a heady hurtle down Hangar Straight, and up through Vale and Club, we were soon upon the complex of curves and corners that has been added to the historic former airfield circuit which staged its first British GP in 1948.

The section was added partly to accommodate the MotoGP riders but is also part of the redevelopment required of Silverstone after it won the rights to stage the British Grand Prix for another 17 years.

The redesign, which has lengthened the track by 0.472 miles to 3.666m, sees the Abbey chicane turned into a fast right-hand kink which leads into a new complex of corners before rejoining the previous track at Brooklands via the Wellington Straight.

"Now we're into the new section," Hill said. "Apart from the MotoGP bikes, no-one has raced here before.

"We turn right into Abbey, then into a long left-hander called Farm and into a corner, which is a tight stop, called Village.

"Village is not challenging, because it's not very fast, but it's quite easy to muck up and lose time.

"Into The Loop and then it's important to get Aintree right for a fast entry into the new straight which links the two circuits.

"I was doing 120mph along there but the F1 cars are doing 160-170mph coming into Brooklands - and now we're back on the circuit we've seen before.

"Silverstone has been changing since 1948 and it continues to evolve. It'll be interesting to see what the F1 drivers make of it."

They will have to wait until first practice on Friday to sample Silverstone's new curves but Davidson was able to offer his opinion after several fast and furious laps.

"It definitely throws up more of a challenge for the drivers," said Davidson, who lost his F1 seat in 2008 when Super Aguri quit and now races Le Mans sportscars.

"Silverstone was always known and loved for being a ballsy high-speed track; one corner after another followed each other at high speed.

"It is fast and flowing but now it all slows down for the Arena section and that's what I always felt was missing from Silverstone.

"There will be people that like that and people that don't.

"As driver you now have to compromise your set-up and your driving style; you can't just be a good high-speed corner driver and you can't get away with being a good technical driver, it's a mix of everything."

Hill may have been driving the circuit as a former world champion but he also views the modified circuit from his perspective as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns the circuit and funds the grand prix.

So far, £15m has been spent on the redevelopment - the next stage of which is a new, relocated pits and paddock for 2011 and better facilities for fans - since last December and Hill is pleased with the progress.

"We don't have unlimited space so we've had to compromise," he added.

"But I don't think we've lost anything; we've gained something.

"We've gained some more interesting technical aspects to the circuit and we've improved the spectator facilities of the circuit which is very, very important.

"If we had a licence to do whatever we wanted to, we could incorporate some more fantastic corners but we'd have to give up somewhere else.

"As a racing driver I always wants the best of everything but the main feature of this circuit hasn't been changed - it's retained its high-speed nature.

"I think what will happen in that the first lap of the race on Sunday will be very interesting."

With that teaser our two laps are complete and the new-look Silverstone awaits the judgement of the 120,000 fans expected for race day and the opinions of 24 F1 drivers.


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  • 1. At 11:13am on 07 Jul 2010, TheNobleOne wrote:

    Really looking forward to seeing the new lay-out properly (as I missed the MotoGP)! I hope the drivers enjoy it and it doesn't become one of those weekends where all we hear is moaning about the circuit, but is a weekend of exciting talk about the racing!

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  • 2. At 11:22am on 07 Jul 2010, Laszlo Panaflex - Save 606 wrote:

    I like Sarah

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  • 3. At 11:36am on 07 Jul 2010, LittleHhead wrote:

    So Damon if no one has raced they new Arena circuit before could you explain what I was watching in May when I saw GT1, GT3, GT4 and F3 using it?
    And Anthony, your comment stating Silverstone missed a slow section: yeah, because the complex was so quick right?!
    You'd have been better taking yourself round Sarah, you're the only one talking sense here.

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  • 4. At 11:42am on 07 Jul 2010, Leo wrote:

    Sarah Holt is hating it! I guess whatever pays the rent...

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  • 5. At 11:51am on 07 Jul 2010, Simon wrote:

    Sarah's face in the video is a picture. I would imagine her thoughts are not printable on the BBC

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  • 6. At 12:00pm on 07 Jul 2010, Bart_E_Slartfast wrote:

    You probably ought to change the link on the ticker here

    from Anthony Hamilton to Anthony Davidson

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  • 7. At 12:19pm on 07 Jul 2010, Clotted Cottage Cream wrote:

    Can't you find someone to do the job who may actually want to do it.

    Sarah Holt looked like she wanted to be anywhere other than where she was and that is a real shame given the experience she was given.

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  • 8. At 12:31pm on 07 Jul 2010, naildeath wrote:

    Sarah really looks like she didn't enjoy that lol

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  • 9. At 12:56pm on 07 Jul 2010, Salvador_Limones wrote:

    You did look a bit scared there Sarah, or was it just the helmut?

    Mind you, I wouldn't want to be in the passager seat. I'd much rather be driving. I don't know how rally navigators read a map while they're in the thick of it!

    Great content!

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  • 10. At 1:04pm on 07 Jul 2010, David wrote:

    i have never seen such a distressed interviewer

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  • 11. At 1:07pm on 07 Jul 2010, NickOhio wrote:

    Bravo, Sarah!! You endured the "leisurely" drive around an incredible circuit. That Benz was quite the car to use, as well.

    I know my wife would be just as nervous as you appeared.

    Driving a course like that with someone who has F1 experience must be quite exciting. Doing it yourself is another matter. At that speed, most of us would be off in the weeds (so to speak) or doing donuts and maybe shunting the car on a wall or tire barrier. I would someday love to put a car through its paces on a course such as Silverstone... AFTER gaining lots of experience through training and acquiring a healthy dose of confidence. It takes skill to stay within your level of skill, as one can usually assume the car's abilities to be greater than yours.

    I've driven a 1969 Z/28 Camaro (I had it in top shape) on a local road where I was the only car, at speeds of about 140mph. Scary? Yep. That was in 1972, when I was stupid and without fear. It had more, but I was already waaay over the threshold of my skill. At that speed, light poles go by very quickly and you are traveling at many feet per second, so a steady hand on the wheel is necessary.

    I only mention this, not to encourage others to do the same (it's stupid and you must use a closed course with helmet, proper training and insurance), but to mention that I cannot comprehend the calmness of those F1 drivers at such a high speed or more. When you hear them speaking on their radios whilst approaching a 50mph turn after a 200mph run on a straight, and realize their calm demeanor, you just have to respect their level of skill. Even the lowliest driver in F1 (please, no names) is so calm and quick when compared to us normal road car drivers, that it just boggles the mind when comprehending their performance and then putting ourselves in the cockpit.

    I look forward to more runs with famous drivers behind the wheel of a top road car, like the Benz used in your run.

    Thanks, Sarah!!

    Maybe, you get "The Stig" to give a test drive at the next race, disguising their voice. :>)

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  • 12. At 1:12pm on 07 Jul 2010, endofcity wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 13. At 1:40pm on 07 Jul 2010, rickydoncaster wrote:

    What we have to remember guys is Sarah is not an F1 driver and never has been, the reason she is employed is precisely because she doesnt have the F1 background of the likes of Brundle Coulthard and Jordan, but that she still has the enthusiasm and interest of the lay fan of F1, not having ever been in any type of race car i for one thought it was actually amusing and intriguing to see her reactions. It was a little enlightening, normally we see the calm collected faces of people who are used to driving in excess of 100mph and make it look so easy at the same time, Sarah's ride and reaction was a reminder to everyone, that it isnt that easy and if your not used to it, its bloody scary too.

    Well Done Sarah and take no notice of any of the criticisms!

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  • 14. At 1:58pm on 07 Jul 2010, SupaSix-1 wrote:

    Wheres the passion? Wheres the enthusiasm?
    Some people just dont know how lucky they are.

    -Such a shame... seems like a waste of a job.

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  • 15. At 2:09pm on 07 Jul 2010, gibson1972 wrote:

    Enjoyed your video around the Silverstone circuit.

    You looked as if you holding the door for your dear life at one moment.

    Hope the changes at the track don't detract from the race - loved watching races from Silverstone - it can be a very attacking racetrack - lots of overtaking.

    Keep up the good work - look forward to seeing you go around Spa - hopefully in a even more powerful vehicle.

    PS: You look better in the video than you do in the photo in the top right corner - sack the photographer.

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  • 16. At 3:06pm on 07 Jul 2010, physical_graffiti wrote:


    And you call yourself a fan!

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  • 17. At 3:53pm on 07 Jul 2010, OutsideLookingIn wrote:

    meerkat = cute + big eared + mousy + sarah holt

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  • 18. At 4:10pm on 07 Jul 2010, Dave wrote:

    Anyone doubting SH's enthusiasm or passion should subscribe to her Tweets. I'd imagine the video shows a mixture of concentration and genuine apprehension. If you'd rather have a whooping grinning kid instead of a professional journalist than good luck to you.

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  • 19. At 4:49pm on 07 Jul 2010, barrooo wrote:

    I didn't know those cars came with booster cushions

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  • 20. At 5:56pm on 07 Jul 2010, Nickynak wrote:

    Im a male F1 fan and readily admit I would not enjoy going at high-speed myself, well done to Sarah Holt and keep up the good work, tweets and blogs!

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  • 21. At 6:56pm on 07 Jul 2010, Spitfire_F1 wrote:

    Having watched Anthony Davidson at Le Mans, I think Sarah had every right to feel a little bit scared!

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  • 22. At 8:01pm on 07 Jul 2010, deejaybee wrote:

    you looked like you were about to weep with sheer terror Sarah!!

    never mind, i'd happily comfort you after your scary ordeal :)

    there are plenty of macho blokes writing comments on here who no doubt think they wouldnt be at all edgy when a professional racing driver is driving quite fast around a racing track. thats because blokes are arrogant enough to think they could probably drive faster themselves

    it does, however, raise the pertinent point about whether women could compete in F1, or any other type of racing, along side men. the answer is no. thats because men are born with a part of their brain which is calibrated differently to a woman's brain. its the bit that assesses what is an acceptable level of risk - men have a different tolerance level when it comes to risk taking

    so dont be too hard on poor little Sarah. she's wired up differently to us blokes....

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  • 23. At 8:28pm on 07 Jul 2010, matthewbcfcwilkinson wrote:

    deejaybee- women can and do compete in racing, im thinking danica patrick, and about 3 others in the indycar series, im also thinking of ginetta juniors, couple of girls in there who do a great job and arnt afraid to fight with the boys, cant remember the lass' name but shes won a few races. so stop being sexist its no wonder women dont feel like there up to it with people like you been chauvinistic gits. we have women lorry drivers women sports presenters, referees, even womens footbal;l teams who seem to do a much better job than the papmered prats of the premier league. and less of your condescending "poor little sarah" comments. rant over!

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  • 24. At 9:15pm on 07 Jul 2010, Spitfire_F1 wrote:


    I wouldn't bring up Indycar to argue the case for women, Milka Duno races in that series. Her atrocious performances back up deejaybee's argument!!

    But yes in Ginetta Juniors Sarah Moore won the championship last season and Louise Richardson is also a front runner.

    And for the record I think Sarah Holt does a great job and don't doubt for a second her passion for F1.

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  • 25. At 9:34pm on 07 Jul 2010, Gareth wrote:

    Oh Sarah! From the look on your face you would have thought you'd just got into the car with Hannibal the Cannibal not Anthony Davidson.

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  • 26. At 9:46pm on 07 Jul 2010, FormulaOneFan wrote:

    Not a good video to watch at all. Very disappointed. Please remove it.

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  • 27. At 10:30pm on 07 Jul 2010, matthewbcfcwilkinson wrote:

    spitfire- fair enough, he said women couldnt compete in f1 or any other kind of racing, just pointing out a few race in indycar, never said they were good lol, last time i switched it on even takuma sato was beating danica

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  • 28. At 11:16pm on 07 Jul 2010, dbfinch wrote:

    Bit harsh to judge Sarah's enthusiasm towards the sport based on one video. I myself am a massive Ice Hockey fan, but I doubt I would particularly enjoy being send sprawling to the ice after a huge hit, or smashed into the boards in the manner the players are! Not everybody who likes F1 has to enjoy being driven around in such a manner...

    Anyway, back on the subject of the new Silverstone layout, I have seen numerous videos of it and I am yet to be particularly won over. I will reserve forming a complete opinion until an entire race has been run (and even then, that may change in 12 months time when the renovations have been fully completed) but it feels like the cars may well end up following each other through the new section. Which would be a shame, especially considering they removed an overtaking opportunity in the redesign.

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  • 29. At 11:36pm on 07 Jul 2010, TheBraveDoNotFearTheGrav3 wrote:

    Nice one Sarah you lucky devil ^^

    I like many others would give alot to be driven around silverstone by Ant and Damon. I hope you found the time to enjoy it between the moments of sheer terror!

    Love your blogs by the way you're always up to something cool!

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  • 30. At 11:38pm on 07 Jul 2010, TheBraveDoNotFearTheGrav3 wrote:

    Ignore the rude people they're all completely jealous and want your job!

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  • 31. At 00:27am on 08 Jul 2010, Peter Jones wrote:

    Good blog as usual, hope you haven't been put off doing more videos.
    The new layout does look exciting, I hope it can still provide an interesting F1 race.

    And some of the other commenters should stop being pathetic. I'm a healthy male F1 fan and I'm quite sure I'd be making the same set of expressions in that situation - in between bouts of spontaneous vomiting of course. There's nothing wrong with enjoying people doing stuff you'd never want to do (or be able to do) in a million years.

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  • 32. At 01:32am on 08 Jul 2010, MX5hawaii wrote:

    Not really fun to watch. Neither Sarah's discomfiture lapping nor the whole of BBC's F1 coverage. We'd hope for enthusiasm, settle for some interest? A little Gonzo Journalism, where the writer's experience becomes the story? Or separate the track run from the personality of Sarah and AD. I'm sorry, but the Twitter generation is not F1's natural audience nor where the journalists should be sourced from. Sarah is a fine interviewer and journalist. F1 is reputed to be the supreme level of motorsports along with WRC and MotoGP. The people covering it should not be 'developing talents' nor company ingenues stamping their dance card. Not picking on Sarah, the whole BBC team underwhelms. If no one is offended, no one is informed, or INTERESTED.
    Having grown up on Henry N. Manney III's unparalleled F1 coverage in Road and Track, I don't expect to see that level of journalism again, but the powers that be Should be aspiring to attain it. The web page and features BBC presents are disrespectful to F1. Given what Ferrari and 'the current commercial rights holder' do to F1's prestige and image, BBC is a small player in the destruction. But, come ON! Current lap times as practice and the race unfold is Standard in all other forms of media race coverage.
    So we get blogs on what color pants an ex-race team owner wears? Why does F1 media coverage remind of overhearing chat at a cocktail party?
    How about returning an actually functional and CROSS-PLATFORM circuit guide and 'fly-through'? Budget issues?
    If BBC is international and F1 claims to be world wide, let's fix the irritation of 'not in your area' video presentations. World Wide viewing or figure out how. No text as a substitute for the unavailable video-only coverage is disrespect for F1, the fans and the standards of BBC over it's history.

    Sarah, get a helmet that fits. It could matter. Some F1 helmet supplier would be Thrilled to get you a personalized fit. With logos.
    Get some clip-on wireless mikes and ear plugs, or at least some Gaffer's tape, so you can participate in the experience of the course and of high performance automobiles without the distraction of getting adequate audio. Which happened. Who is tech editor on these shoots?? And give Sarah some Dramamine an hour before these shoots!
    A serious car with actual race belts (BBC does know abut GT3s?) couldn't hurt to give the BBC team, and viewers, some feel for what the sport really is about. And some Race tires? (Did I really hear tire squeal?) AD was smooth, I wonder how many seconds he was below the car's capabilities?

    AD's diplomacy and reticence to open the subject says all I care to hear about the 'improvement' of Silverstone. Despite my long admiration of Damon Hill, I think he's been disingenuous about the track modifications. NO improvement to a F1 track even approaches the importance of providing overtaking opportunities for driving talent to shine over technical team prowess or bad racing luck. We'd all watch the sport done on driving simulators if the tracks got much more boring for the enthusiasts whose interest and dollars make the sport possible.

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  • 33. At 01:56am on 08 Jul 2010, thefrogstar wrote:

    A bit disappointing, I thought, though I don't really see why gender should have anything to do with it.

    I've often wondered what it would be like to be scared witless while being driven by an RAC-rally driver (comfortably within the range of their ability!).

    Unfortunately this does not even seem to attempt anything close (maybe I just got too used to being driven around Northamptonshire by my brother).

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  • 34. At 08:05am on 08 Jul 2010, deejaybee wrote:

    re post number 23 - matthewbcfcwilkinson

    "so stop being sexist its no wonder women dont feel like there up to it with people like you been chauvinistic gits"

    your grammar is appalling. it's 'they're' not 'there' and it's 'being' not 'been'. go back to school

    also, i'm not being chauvinistic, i'm actually trying to defend her and women in general. you can rock on about indy cars all you like but at the very elite world level (ie F1) no women compete in it. i think they can develop the required neck and arm muscles but they just dont have that required level of risk tolerance, and thats genetic fact, not somebody being a male chauvinist

    there are rare exceptions to every general rule of course - that german woman at the Nurburgring is pretty good, though it cant ever be proved that she'd be faster than lewis hamilton et al

    so you have completely missed the point of my post, which was to defend Sarah and women in general because mother nature has slightly disavantaged them in this respect

    also, i dont know how i've been condescending - at what point am i trying to patronise her or show some sort of superiority because i'm male? i would probably look exactly the same if i was sat where she was

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  • 35. At 08:09am on 08 Jul 2010, Rich wrote:

    Sarah looked a bit queasy at one point there...Lol

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  • 36. At 08:57am on 08 Jul 2010, Sean S wrote:

    Great blog, Sarah! No offence or anything, but you looked absolutely terrified. Still, the new circuit looks terrific. Roll on the weekend!

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  • 37. At 11:49am on 08 Jul 2010, Tim wrote:

    A lot of negative comments here but I think it makes a nice change to see an honest, warts 'n all interview which has not been re shot over and over again or heavily edited until it was perfectly fake!

    I think Sarah did a reasonable job considering she is not normally in front of a camera and I doubt many of those commenting here have any idea what was like for her to do that so early in her career with a driver like AD.

    I bet both Lee and Jake would have put in similar performances if they had done that interview while still TV newbies.

    Congratulations Sarah for posting another great Blog and I am sure that in just a few years time you'll be up there with the best of them.

    Please ignore all the negative comments on here, it's 99% jealousy anyway!

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  • 38. At 12:07pm on 08 Jul 2010, CesserSellar wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules.

  • 39. At 1:06pm on 08 Jul 2010, CesserSellar wrote:

    Ok then! was hoping to see the new layout of the race track, forward facing! afterall the title is "A close-up view of the new Silverstone" i feel deceived!?

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  • 40. At 2:32pm on 08 Jul 2010, quicksesh wrote:

    Sarah ... can I suggest a full face helmet for your next track sojourn; it will hide the look of terror better.

    Anyway am really looking foward to the race as Silverstone can now call itself a proper circuit rather than a 'who's got the biggest cojones' type of track.

    The new section should add the technical element that has been missing before.

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  • 41. At 3:43pm on 08 Jul 2010, MikeyK1985 wrote:

    I really wish and hope Sarah moves onto the tv side of things, shes very knowledgeable and also a complete B-A-B-E, lol

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  • 42. At 6:46pm on 08 Jul 2010, matthewbcfcwilkinson wrote:

    re post 34. grammar has nothing to do with my comment does it occur to you i may have difficulties with some spelling and puntuation, thik before you speak bud

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  • 43. At 8:33pm on 08 Jul 2010, deejaybee wrote:

    "thik before you speak bud"

    couldnt have put it better myself

    by the way, your comment in post number 27 - "never said they were any good" - that was exactly the point i was trying to make. you inadvertently agreed with my point of view there

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  • 44. At 00:29am on 09 Jul 2010, Kenewars wrote:

    Great job Sarah!

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  • 45. At 10:25pm on 12 Jul 2010, Flyem wrote:

    It would be good if the BBC follow the developments of the Silversone complex between now and the next GP in 2011, keeping the fans updated of the progress and how designers and engineers develop the circuit, it could be a special feature building up to next year's GP.


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