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DECEMBER 19, 2000

BRDC clinches the F1 deal of the new millennium

WHICHEVER way you slice it, the British Racing Drivers' Club has pulled off the F1 deal of the new millennium in granting Octagon, the company which owns Brands Hatch Leisure, a lease on their circuit in order to stage the British Grand Prix for what both parties hope is the next 15 years.

In a nutshell, Silverstone will be maintained, updated and the race funded by Octagon for the period of the lease - and at the end it all reverts to the control of the BRDC. The club is also separately retaining 100 acres of the site which should get the final green light within a couple of weeks for the construction of Jaguar Racing's lavish new technical center.

Add to that the fact that Octagon has covenanted that the site can only be used for motor racing - no truck racing, however, because it is too wearing to the track surface - the name "Silverstone" must remain in the venue's title and any BRDC identification must not be used without the club's permission, and there is little doubt that this looks like Britain's motorsporting deal of all time.

So what is it all costing Octagon? No word from that, I'm afraid, because both they and the BRDC have been obliged to sign confidentiality clauses as a condition of the negotiations. However it is estimated that between 120 and 150 million pounds will be spent on Silverstone over the period of the lease.

There are, however, two significant potential "break clauses" in the agreement. The first comes in 2007 when the current Concorde Agreement runs out. Nobody doubts it will be renewed, but there is sure to be some hard bargaining between the F1 teams and Bernie Ecclestone's F1 Administration empire before it is, as the former believes that the latter is keeping too big a share of the television revenue. "As things stand, the circus act is no longer bound to the circus as of that time," said BRDC Chairman Martin Brundle.

Another potential break point comes in 2010 when the European Union anti-competitive laws threaten to impact on the way F1 racing is administered. That, too, is outside the control of either party.

In the meantime, BRDC president Jackie Stewart is on course for a meeting with British prime minister Tony Blair's senior aides on the matter of possible government funding for what he hopes will be a showcase circuit within a few years.

"We don't want them to bankroll the whole operation," said Stewart. "We are just asking them to match what private enterprise is putting up."