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SEPTEMBER 25, 2000

Silverstone unveils future plans

THE management of Silverstone has now revealed details of its plans to spend $12m to upgrade the circuit so that it can continue to host the British Grand Prix in the years ahead. Silverstone's managing director Denys Rohan says that the intention is to build a completely new pit facility for Formula 1 - as we revealed recently.

"The garages will be allocated to teams, and they will be able to fit them out however they like," said Rohan. "They could even be used as permanent test facilities."

FIA President Max Mosley visited Silverstone last week to be shown the plans for the track but when he arrived in Indianapolis for the United States GP, Mosley remain scathing in his criticism of Silverstone.

"The future of the British Grand Prix as a round of the World Championship must be in serious doubt," Mosley said. "The worst thing is that people cannot get in or out. When people ask me about Silverstone I feel like cringing with embarrassment. I just hope we can get the place up to scratch very quickly."

This curious behavior suggests that there is a lot more going on than meets the eye. Threatening the British GP serves two purposes: it encourages Silverstone to get on and do its planned modifications; and it gives the British government an incentive to help because of the potential embarrassment of losing the Grand Prix.

The current government might not seem very keen to help Formula 1 given the problems between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Bernie Ecclestone over his $1.6m donation to the Labour Party. The affair has dogged Blair ever since his government decided to block European anti-tobacco legislation and it was revived again last week with the publication of a new book by political writer Andrew Rawnsley who is claiming that Blair and Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, lied about the donation. The British newspapers said that no more serious allegation had been made against a sitting Prime Minister in modern times and the opposition Conservative Party again demanded an inquiry.

According to Rawnsley, Blair told a friend at the time of the crisis: "This is the end ... they'll get me for this." Rawnsley also alleges that Brown admitted privately that he had lied, saying: "If this gets out, I'll be destroyed."

Blair last week announced that the British government has changed its position on tobacco advertising in Europe and this could mean that the exemption granted to Grand Prix racing could be overturned. This will cause considerable political grief from the motor racing industry and could result in the government making a consession to the sport by agreeing to fund some of the work at Silverstone. Money is really not the issue because the National Lottery always has cash available.