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DECEMBER 3, 2000

Rebuilding Silverstone

THE most significant part of the announcement on Saturday that Silverstone has secured the British GP for the next 15 years was the fact that Silverstone is to be completely rebuilt. Given that the race will have to be held each year this will have to be a gradual process rather than a total rebuild.

In recent months Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has made it very clear that in its current form Silverstone cannot survive on the Formula 1 calendar.

"It is not a case of a repaint job," he said. "It needs pulling down and rebuilding."

The British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns the facility, has been under new management since June and has been quietly putting together its plans for the future. These involve a complete restructuring of the access roads which will result from the building of the long-awaited Silverstone village by-pass.

At the same time the club has been preparing plans for a vast new Formula 1 pit complex on the inside of what is currently Hangar Straight. This would help create permanent seating along Hangar Straight and with better access the event could be opened up to more spectators as at the moment it sells only 90,000 tickets because it cannot handle any more people. One of the reasons this has not been done before is because of the rates which would have to be paid on permanent grandstands. At the moment these duties are avoided by the fact that many of the Silverstone grandstands are temporary structures and so escape the extra charges. A deal with the government over the rates would be one way in which Silverstone could receive government help. But this would almost certainly involve the need for the local authorities (which collect the rates) to be compensated from government funds.

It is significant that the financing already in place takes the form of "a partnership" between the BRDC, Octagon (the owners of Brands Hatch) and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. One must assume that the BRDC remains the controlling interest in this partnership but that profits from the races in the future will be split.

BRDC chairman Jackie Stewart said at the announcement of the deal that the British motor racing industry would like to see the government match the money that is being invested in the project by the three partners. As the rebuilding work is going to cost "tens of millions" of pounds it is only fair to suggest that the British government is going to be asked for at least $15m in cash - and probably a lot more.