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SEPTEMBER 27, 1999

Is Estoril Fouston's target?

NICOLA FOULSTON, the boss of Brands Hatch Leisure plc, said the other day the company is no longer interested in acquiring the Silverstone race track and is looking at buying a foreign facility. Not surprisingly this has led to considerable speculation about what Foulston may be up to. Such a move only really makes sense if Foulston is aiming to buy another Grand Prix circuit. This will considerably strengthen her negotiating position with Formula 1 and would mean that Silverstone would be a less powerful influence than is currently the case.

There has been much speculation about which venues she might be looking at buying with the obvious ones being Zandvoort, Estoril and Kyalami. Zandvoort is owned by the local council of the town but is leased for 15 years to a company called Circuit park Zandvoort BV, which is controlled by circuit manager Hans Ernst. He might be willing to sell the lease if it means that a Grand Prix could return to the Dutch track.

At the same time the Estoril track seems the more likely purchase. It is privately owned although all the recent upgrading work has been carried out with local government money. The local authorities were happy to invest to improve the facility in the hope of getting a race but they do not want to buy the track and have to fund the upkeep of the facility, BHL might be the perfect company to do that.

Kyalami is a long shot because speculating in South African property is a risky business and probably not something which BHL would consider, given that everything has to be justified to shareholders.

It is interesting that rumors at the Nurburgring suggested that Estoril will be given a date on the F1 calendar next year, replacing the Nurburgring race which is currently scheduled for May 21, and that the European GP would be held at the end of August on the traditional Spa date. We also hear that the British and Austrian Grands Prix will be swapped.