The Month of May has arrived – at Silverstone

It’s May, and we all know what that means. But 4,000 miles away at Silverstone, it also means the opening of a new exhibit celebrating IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500.

Throughout the Month of May and onwards until the end of September, Silverstone Museum is hosting “The Indy 500: A British Success Story,” telling the story of the UK’s strong relationship with the Brickyard and American open-wheel racing.

The world’s first permanent racetrack was, of course, an oval in Britain. Brooklands opened in 1907, two years before Indianapolis. Brooklands was shuttered in 1939 as the Second World War loomed, and Silverstone — an airbase during the conflict — took over the mantle as the home of British motorsport.

Nowadays it’s best known as the home of the British Grand Prix, but Silverstone did host an IndyCar race 46 years ago — and in typical British fashion, the weather had the last laugh.

Sixteen of American open-wheel racing’s biggest stars crossed the pond in October 1978 for a brace of races at Silverstone and Brands Hatch.

The Silverstone race, the Daily Express Indy Silverstone, was set to take place on Saturday, Sept. 30, but heavy rain delayed it until Sunday. Oct. 1. Prior to that, the cars impressed, with polesitter Danny Ongais clocking 203mph down Hangar straight. That was a record not matched by Formula 1 cars at the track until Fernando Alonso also hit 203mph in qualifying for last year’s British Grand Prix.

Douglas Hawkes’s Bentley and the Lotus 56 missed each other at the Speedway by well over four decades, but they share the spotlight as examples of British innovation at Indy in Silverstone’s new exhibit.

Once Silverstone’s Indy race did get going, it was halted after 30 laps. A.J. Foyt was the winner on the day after passing Rick Mears, who went onto win a more straightforward event at Brands Hatch a week later.

Indy cars haven’t raced at Silverstone since, and two CART races in 2001 and 2002 at the now-defunct Rockingham Motor Speedway 40 miles away, plus another race at Brands Hatch in 2003, represent the most recent American open-wheel races in the UK. But thanks to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, a handful have found their way to Silverstone’s museum, which first opened in 2020.

Among those is Foyt’s winning car from the ’78 race. The Coyote-Ford took Foyt to two victories that year, including the 16th round of the 18-race season, and forms the centerpiece of the exhibit.

Also on show are two examples of British innovation at the Brickyard. In 1922 Bentley entered the Indy 500 for the first time with a modified 3 Litre driven by Douglas Hawkes, who added streamlined bodywork and a larger fuel tank to the car, as well as a steel steering wheel to replace the customary wooden one, as mandated by the regulations of the time. Hawkes completed all 500 miles, albeit an hour and a half after the winning Duesenberg of Jimmy Murphy.

Forty-six years later, Lotus took the famed 56 gas turbine car to the Brickyard. All three entered in the race retired, but they left an indelible mark, and the car continued to be raced on occasion in Formula 1. Art Pollard’s car is the one on display, the second of the three to retire on May 30, 1968.

But it’s not just British IndyCar engineering that’s celebrated. While March has the sixth-most wins of any chassis manufacturer at Indy, and Cosworth (without Ford) is fifth on the all-time wins list for engine builders, the UK ties with Brazil in having produced more Indy 500 winning drivers (eight) than any other nation besides the United States.

For the first time ever, Nigel Mansell’s 1992 F1 championship-winning Williams FW14B sits shoulder to shoulder with the Newman/Haas Lola T93/00 that carried him to the CART title a year later.

Of course, not on that list is Nigel Mansell, who made Silverstone his own in the 1980s and ’90s but famously missed out on the Indy 500 win in 1993 following a poor late-race restart after heading Stateside off the back his Formula 1 championship triumph the previous year.

Over three decades later, he remains the only driver to have won both the Formula 1 and IndyCar titles back-to-back, and Silverstone has — in another first — brought together his 1992 Williams FW14B (a permanent exhibit at the museum) as well as his 1993 Newman/Haas Lola T93/00 (in oval spec, no less).

The FW14B was a nine-time winner in the hands of Mansell in what was a truly crushing campaign, while his ability to dominate continued in the Ford-powered Lola, with him winning five times in the 1993 CART season.

The four Indy cars have trickled into Silverstone Museum over the last few weeks, arriving by ship direct from the Indianapolis museum, which has loaned them for the duration of the exhibit. They are showcased alongside programs, posters, and other memorabilia from IndyCar’s history, as well as boards detailing Britain’s lasting success at Indy.

Aside from the temporary Indy exhibit, Silverstone Museum also houses a number of artifacts and cars from its 75-year history, including Damon Hill’s championship-winning Williams FW18 from 1996, David Coulthard’s 2000 British Grand Prix-winning McLaren MP4/15 and one of three Brawn GP BGP001s, the sole car retained by what it now Mercedes GP, previously driven by Rubens Barrichello.

Story originally appeared on Racer