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THE 1980S

The 1980s

1983 saw Alain Prost and the Renault team achieve the first win with a turbo-charged car in British GP – a fitting result as it had been at Silverstone six years earlier that the pioneering French manufacturer had made its F1 using turbo power, a technology that back then many had said would never work... Finishing fourth, also using Renault turbo power, was the Lotus of future British hero Nigel Mansell.

In 1985, the turbo era had reached its zenith and in qualifying the crowds watched in astonishment as F1's first ever 160mph lap was achieved by Keke Rosberg in a Williams-Honda – amazingly with a slow puncture! Three other drivers recorded laps at more than 159mph and the cars were now going faster through Woodcote with the chicane than when it wasn't there!

Rosberg's 160mph lap obviously set a few pulses racing and some drastic changes were deemed necessary before the 1987 event to cut speeds. The early months of 1987 witnessed the first substantial change of the circuit's layout since 1949 and, once again, Woodcote was singled out for attention. The S-bend chicane was removed and replaced by a new sharp left-right bend on the approach to Woodcote. In addition, more than £1 million was spent that winter, replacing the 1975 pits with 40 much larger garages, topped by an all-new Press Centre that would be completed by the 1988 Grand Prix.

1987 will always be remembered by F1 fans as the year that Nigel Mansell beat Williams team-mate Nelson Piquet to win arguably the most exciting British Grand Prix in history. Mansell by now was an established British motorsport hero and the inter-team rivalry between him and Piquet was intense. Piquet started the race from pole position led the race from the off with Mansell following closely behind. But on lap 35 Mansell dived into the pit lane for a tyre change in a bid to cure a worrying vibration in his car.

Mansell assumed Piquet would also have to pit, but the Brazilian had other ideas and decided to stay out and try to conserve his tyres and lead now was sizeable. Mansell had no option but to charge like never before… With 17 laps to go 16.8 seconds separated the two Williams-Hondas, but Mansell proceeded to take large chunks out of Piquet's lead – more than a second per lap – until with five laps remaining the gap was only 1.6 seconds.

The crowd went wild as Mansell, slipstreaming Piquet down Hangar Straight with two laps to go, jinked left and then dived right to pass Piquet into Stowe Corner. To a tumultuous reception, Mansell went on to win the race by 1.9 seconds and then ran out of fuel on his slowing down lap, setting off a massive track invasion by delirious British fans.

1988 will be remembered for the monsoon-like conditions that enabled Ayrton Senna, in his first Championship year, the opportunity to show his extraordinary skills in such appalling conditions. He dominated to win the race, while Mansell again caused considerable excitement with his drive to second in his now normally-aspirated Williams.

1989 saw Prost for McLaren after team-mate Senna span out with a gearbox problem at Becketts. Mansell – now driving for Ferrari – chased home in second after pitting to replace a punctured tyre.

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