Silverstone was built on the site of a World War II bomber base used by the Royal Air Force. The first few races were held on the runways themselves with long straight sections separated by slow hairpin turns. In 1949, races were held on the perimeter roads linking the runways, creating a faster circuit. The circuit has followed this basic shape since then, but many alterations have been made to lengthen the circuit and slow the speed of cars going into sections that were considered dangerous.
Two differing chicanes were used near the final corner, Woodcote, between 1975 and 1990. 1991 brought the most drastic change in the circuit's shape, with the most noticeable difference being an entirely new complex of corners to replace the chicane near Woodcote. The circuit has basically stayed in this configuration since, with most changes amounting to small reprofiling of corners, and one chicane being added to replace the flat-out Abbey kink.
Silverstone is most famous as the host of the Formula One British Grand Prix, which was shared between Aintree, Brands Hatch, and itself for 30 years before being permanently located at Silverstone. However, the circuit has lost the race after 2009, to the completely redesigned Donington Park. MotoGP, the world championship for prototype motorcycle racing, will now move their British race to Silverstone on a new layout.
Other championships that use Silverstone Circuit include the FIA GT Championship, British Superbikes, the European Drift Championship, and the Britcar 24, which is the UK's only 24-hour endurance race.