Better access promised for Silverstone Grand Prix

THE promoters of the British grand prix yesterday played what they hope will be their trump card in a bid to head off a possible downgrading of next year's race to non world championship status, a move which has been threatened unless they can resolve the lingering access problems which have plagued the race in recent years.

Octagon Motorsports, who have a 15 year contract to run the race, announced an additional $15.2m program of road and parking improvements which they hope will satisfy the FIA world motorsport council when it meets in Monte Carlo on Friday.

These changes, which include doubling the existing two lane road which will link the new A43 Silverstone bypass, which is still under construction, to the entrance of the circuit are expected to be ready for next year's race which is scheduled for 5 July.

Rob Bain, Chief Executive of Octagon Motorsports, said; "The 10.6m investment is already well under way and we have always placed emphasis on improving facilities for public access to Silverstone. Since we announced our plans ahead of this year's Grand Prix, all parties have agreed to revise the masterplan, so as to give greater emphasis to the substantial improvements relating to both access and parking. We are determined to ensure that the investment pledged by all parties will secure Silverstone's future within international motorsport."

It had been felt in some quarters than a degree of government funding or assistance would clearly seem to be a convenient way out of Silverstone's dilemma, although given Tony Blair's embarrassment over the $1.6m donation from Ecclestone in 1997 the government may be sceptical about helping a sport which seems awash with cash and private jets.

FIA president Max Mosley takes the point. "I wouldn't feel at all comfortable asking for public money for work on the circuit itself, or its infrastructure," he said.

"What we feel what the government could do is to make sure the Silverstone bypass is completed in time for next year's British grand prix, give the necessary consents to enable Octagon to build the spur road leading to the track entrance and to have traffic plans in place that take full advantage and benefit of the new road layout."

Now Octagon seem to have delivered the necessary assurances, insiders believe that the British GP will get the green light for 2003 from the world council.

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