MAY 17, 2001
Silverstone makeover to be confirmed next month
THE British Grand Prix will be held on the best circuit in the world within the next five years thanks to a planned $65 million upgrade to Silverstone which will be announced next month.
The former wartime aerodrome has already seen an investment of around $350,000 on its car parks in a bid to avoid a repeat of last year's water-logged fiasco and a new circuit design, masterminded by German track designer Hermann Tilke, will be unveiled as part of the package originally agreed last December.
Tilke designed the splendid Sepang circuit in Kuala Lumpur, home of the Malaysian grand prix since 1999, and has also been commissioned to oversee the planned Russian grand prix track in Moscow which should be built by 2003.
"We hope to announce our medium-term vision for Silverstone for the next five years next month," said Rob Bain, chief executive officer of Octagon motor sports, the company which owns the rights to stage the British grand prix at the Northampto2nshire track.
"The 45 million pounds ($65 million) is for phases one and two which will create a substantial improvement in the layout and the facilities at the circuit."
It is expected that the plans will include changes to the layout of the track and improvements to the run-off areas in the interests of improved safety.
The program will be funded jointly by Octagon and the British Racing Drivers' Club, the owners of the circuit, and Bernie Ecclestone's F1 management group which originally agreed to the deal in an effort to prevent the race's future inclusion on the formula one calendar being seriously jeopardized.
Octagon had originally planned to upgrade the famous Brands Hatch circuit in Kent after securing the contract to stage the British grand prix. Unfortunately they were not able to obtain the necessary planning permission to realize these ambitions and the only way of fulfilling the terms of their contract with Ecclestone, formula one's commercial rights holder, was to negotiate a lease with Silverstone.
Bain also hopes for government funding, but realizes no decision on this can be taken after the forthcoming general election. "If we can get government funding then the circuit would be head and shoulders above the rest of the world," he said.
"If we don't get government funding them we will still be in the top five."
Bain also explained that Ecclestone had become involved in the project to help transform Silverstone into a world-class showcase for the UK motor racing industry which is worth an estimated $7 billion annually.
The only fly in the ointment is the decision of the Office of Fair Trading to refer Octagon's deal with the BRDC to the Competition Commission for more detailed scrutiny. The Commission is not expected to make a decision on the issue before August, but should the deal have to be unraveled then the prospects for the British grand prix and Silverstone's program of improvement could be thrown into serious jeopardy.
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