JULY 7, 2004
Racing on the streets of London
Westminster City Counsellor Ian Wilder makes no bones about it: London wants to host a Grand Prix. It is four years since Wilder found himself sitting next to Bernie Ecclestone at a charity dinner and in conversation asked him if he would like to bring F1 to the streets of London.
Wilder and event promoter Harvey Goldsmith worked out how to do it and together with the Crown Estate and the Regent Street Association put the event together while Ecclestone encouraged the teams to attend.
"Of course the plan is to have a Grand Prix here," Wilder says. "There are three factors: money, which is less of a problem; congestion and safety. This is what my job as ward councillor is all about. It's to put bread on the tables of all the people who live and work in the West End. We have 75% of all the five-star hotel bedrooms in the UK here, and together with Harrods in Knightsbridge ward we account for 80% by value of all the tourist shopping. But we need to look 25 years ahead. We already have the Quadrant under development, with the world's first six-star hotel, and we want to build this area to the point where tourists come and spend like demons. If we get a Grand Prix here, you can add far north of £1bn of revenue for the West End. We have the potential to make the biggest city centre sporting event in the world."
A tentative circuit has already been proposed, running through Trafalgar Square then down The Mall to Buckingham Palace then back into Pall Mall before following up the Regent Street, Great Marlborough Street and Argyll Street route of yesterday's demonstration runs.
Simon Milton, leader of Westminster Council, says that the council "would love to put a Grand Prix on in London. Today is a taster but we are keen to enter into discussions to bring a Grand Prix to the centre of London."
Although it might be easier to solve the problems of running a Grand Prix by using Hyde Park, Wilder says that this is not the idea at all.
"Why would we bother with that?" he said. "It could be anywhere. The whole point would be to run the race on London streets, with recognizable London landmarks."
If the initial event is anything to go by a race on the streets of London would be a huge success.
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