BRDC revs up access control at Silverstone


The British Racing Drivers’ Club turned to proximity technology for access control to its prestigious Silverstone race track. Several years on, the issues of this case study are still relevant.

The British Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious motor racing events worldwide, takes place once a year. Racing greats like Michael Shumacher, Eddie Irvine and Mika Hakkinen battle for pole position to win the coveted Championship title. Tens of thousands of people attend every year and managing such levels of visitors takes careful organisation.

For the 2001 Grand Prix, held at the Silverstone race track in Northants, a new system was installed to facilitate access to the grounds, while enhancing security. This was a card-based entry system using proximity technology, provided by identification specialist Databac Group.

A magnetic stripe card entry system had been used before. However, organisers the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) had repeatedly experienced read failures during the main events. BRDC club secretary Rear Admiral Roger Lane-Nott said: “The cards were not reading properly. We physically had to open the gates ourselves to let visitors in which defeats the object of having an access control system.”

Championship events

The BRDC counts over 1,000 members, including racing veterans like Stirling Moss, and is presided by Sir Jackie Stewart OBE, with HRH the Duke of Kent KG acting as president-in-chief. The BRDC organises almost all of the 37 race meetings held annually at Silverstone, including four World Championship events (Formula One, Formula 3000, GT and World Sports Cars), as well as six race meetings at other circuits. The BRDC now promotes 11 Championships, including Formula Three, National Saloon, Historic Sports Cars and what is now one of the most prestigious, the Privilege Insurance British GT championship for Le Mans style GT cars.

Each BRDC member is permitted to invite up to four guests to each event. With 5,000 potential visitors to each event, access control had to function more effectively. A decision was taken to replace the system entirely, in time for the next British Grand Prix in July 2001. This would enable the BRDC to add functionality. “In many cases, guests were arriving before the member and managed to get onto the grounds without their host,” said Lane-Nott. “This made it difficult to track visitors. We wanted to prevent this from happening and generally make the system more stable, more reliable, faster and easier to use.”

The BRDC was already acquainted with Data-bac, who recommended a system based on proximity technology. With no swiping required – cards merely need to be held in front of the reader – attendees would be able to enter and leave quickly and easily. The BRDC agreed and Databac prepared to configure the system. This included two tripod-syle turnstiles, fitted with proximity card readers and red/green traffic lights, chosen for their steady, all-weather performance.

Climarque’s KeyMaster Pro access control software was customised to cater for the BRDC’s requirements. The Windows NT-based system was programmed with anti-passback functionality only to allow access to members ahead of their guests. In addition, it would prevent cards being passed back through the gates to be used again. The system keeps track of who is on the grounds and no-one can ‘enter’ twice. Tailored reporting would allow the BRDC to analyse attendance after the events.

Next, Databac concentrated on the cards themselves. HID ProxCard II proximity cards were selected for stability and reliability. Each card then had to be printed and personalised for each member and his or her guests. The design had to be something special. BRDC cards are no ordinary cards; they are collectors’ items which are treasured by racing fans around the world. Databac preprinted the cards on both sides with 12 striking designs for different categories of attendees, featuring images of late veteran racing drivers, including James Hunt and Piers Courage. Finally, the cards were programmed and tested in Databac’s secure production facility, for use with the HID proximity readers on the Silverstone grounds.

The BRDC sends its cards to its members in style. For this purpose, Databac produced luxury presentation boxes, to be preserved as collectable pieces. The packs each contained cards for the members and their three chosen guests, an information booklet, card holders with matching lanyards and branded vehicle permits and holders, all printed and manufactured by Databac.

The system was tested and ready three weeks before the 2001 British Grand Prix. The races were held on 15-16 July and Databac support staff attended the races infor the likely event that additional cards had to be printed and added to the system for unexpected guests authorised by the BRDC. The grounds were full to capacity and members and guests entered the facility easily and smoothly. No read failures occurred and access was fast, hampered only by bulk arrivals waiting to enter the turnstiles.

Commenting on the cards themselves, Lane-Nott said: “We are very happy with the performance of the Databac proximity cards at Silverstone. Apart from the ease of use and application, the design of the cards makes them an attractive and collectable item.” The cards were also used on the following bank holiday weekend for the Historic Festival and, there again, access control was fast and efficient.

Looking to the future

In fact, the system has been so successful, it is still in use several championships later. Looking ahead, the BRDC is considering further software development to enable on-the-fly reporting, so security staff can accurately determine the exact number and identity of attendees at any time while the events are in progress. Other plans under consideration are asset tagging of all memorabilia at the Silverstone Library and access control to the laundry and shower facilities at the members’ campsite on the grounds. For the foreseeable future, though, Lane-Nott is more than happy. He said: “We will continue to use Databac products, which provide us with the quality and functionality we require to run the largest outdoor motor racing event in the United Kingdom.”

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