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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Want Prosciutto? Italy Formula 1? Silverstone

What is the world's busiest airport? Where are more aircraft coming and going in a single day than anywhere else? Heathrow? Frankfurt? JFK? Well, actually, it is Silverstone, a small place in Northamptonshire, England where, on one day a year, there are more than 3,000 takeoffs and landings, a world record. And this Sunday is that day. The passengers of those aircraft will be drawn to what is arguably one of the world's largest sporting fixtures, the British Grand Prix.


The event attracts more than 200,000 spectators for three days of practice and racing. To cope with them there is parking for 40,000 cars, a staff on the day of 5,000 people, the provision of 150,000 gallons of water, 10,000 toilet rolls and a round-the-clock police station at the circuit. Such security pays off. Last year, out of all the covetable cars filling Silverstone's 23 car parks, only one was stolen.


If one goes missing this year, some home fans will hope it is the Benetton-Renault of Michael Schumacher. The rivalry between him and Britain's Damon Hill is real enough, but has been hyped by British and German tabloids to the point where simpler minds might think the pair are on the verge of tampering with each other's brakes.


But even if the actual race was a curb-crawling contest between Hugh Grant and the Los Angeles Police Department, the British Grand Prix would still be the sport's premier event.


Without question, this part of central southern England is the world capital of motor racing. Here is made every car that stands a chance of winning on Sunday, and that is something that has been true for a long time. Since 1980, every world championship-winning car has been made in Britain.


Within 75 kilometers of the city of Oxford are the headquarters of the following teams: Benetton, Williams, Jordan, Arrows, Tyrrell, McLaren, and Pacific Lotus. Here also are Judd, which develops the Yamaha engine for Tyrrell; Cosworth, which powers the Pacific and the Italian-based teams of Forti and Minardi; and Ilmor which develops the Mercedes engines for McLaren.


Even the Ferraris of Gerhard Berger and Jean Alesi are largely British. This year's ferociously-fast 412T2 is designed and engineered in Surrey and almost 80 per cent of it is made in England before being shipped to the team's Maranello headquarters for the blood-red bodywork to be fitted and the legendary yellow prancing-horse logo added.


As Flavio Briatore, the Italian manager of the Benetton team (based, of course, in London) says, "If you want prosciutto, go to Italy; it you want champagne, go to France. For Formula One, you come to England. Here is the best engineering in the world."


And not just for Formula One. There are 55 cars competing in Indy racing this year and 53 of them were made in a part of the world most Americans would associate more with thatched cottages and warm beer. No fewer than 28 of them are Lolas, made just north of Cambridge and selling for $1 million a chassis (you buy the engine and gears elsewhere). Twenty are Reynards from Oxfordshire and five are Penskes produced in a little factory near the picture-postcard town of Poole in Dorset.


Yet one of the delights of Formula One is that it is one of the few sports where nationalism has no place. Britain may have the best engineering, but the other ingredients for success have to come from elsewhere. Take Benetton: Italian finance and management, French engine, British know-how and a German driver.


People often lament the influence of money on sport, but here is one where the power of cash and the desire to win means that the best is hired, regardless of nationality. Whoever sprays champagne from the podium on Sunday will represent more international co-operation than you would find in a month of UN Sundays.