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JULY 23, 2001

Octagon to sacrifice Cadwell Park for Grand Prix?

THE results of the enquiry into the business affairs of Octagon Motorsports by the British government's Office of Fair Trading is some days away from publication, but already it seems that the American giant is preparing to adjust itself to the most likely criteria to be set.

Octagon, with control of five circuits in Britain, is the driving force of the British Motorsport Promoters cartel. BMP is in charge of all the promoted circuit-based motor sport events in Britain, including the British Touring Car, British GT, British Formula 3 and British Superbike championships together with the British Grand Prix.

Having taken out a 15-year lease of Silverstone from its owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, Octagon has cut away or replaced a large number of Silverstone personnel and integrated the circuit into its empire to join the Brands Hatch, Cadwell Park, Oulton Park and Snetterton circuits. This effectively leaves only SFX International - another American-based group - as co-member of BMP with its ownership of Donington Park, the two US corporations being in sole charge of promoted motor sport in Britain.

This situation, and Octagon's overpowering dominance within BMP, are thought to be key issues on the agenda for the government investigation, and insiders point to the likelihood of Octagon being forced to part with one of its circuits to 'even up' the distribution of power within BMP.

Should this be the case it is Cadwell Park in Leicestershire which will most likely face the axe from Octagon's portfolio, the 2.2-mile parkland circuit being too enclosed for expansion and thereby limiting it to low-key motorcycle and car race meetings. The circuit, which has been open since the 1930s, is understood to be attractive to SFX International as a purely motorcycle-based venue in the future, and would double its stake in BMP even without any promoted championships visiting the circuit.

There is a growing movement of dissent within the BRDC at the direction that it and Silverstone are being taken by Octagon and its own two leading lights, club president Sir Jackie Stewart and chairman Martin Brundle. It seems that moves are afoot to have listed building status placed over the farmhouse and its outbuildings - including the World War 2 air traffic control tower - within the circuit infield at Abbey curve.

Should the buildings be granted preservation status the projected development of the 'Silverstone Vision' including its 'developed campus area' and 'driving academy' would have to be dropped. Hopes are not high, however, and one insider firmly expected the building s to be 'rubble' within two years.