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APRIL 5, 2006

The BRDC turns to Damon

Damon Hill has been nominated as a potential new President for the British Racing Drivers' Club. The election will take place on April 28 and has become necessary because of the decision of Sir Jackie Stewart not to seek re-election. It remains to be seen if there will be any other candidates but Hill has been nominated by board members Jackie Oliver and Mike Knight, and his selection has been unanimously supported by the board so he is an establishment candidate. The board has considerable opposition in the club from members who are unhappy about the plans put forward to lease the circuit to St Modwen and develop the track in an effort to ensure that the British Grand Prix continues in the long-term. The club is committed to making improvements to the facility but cannot do that unless money can be found. If those improvements are not made, the Grand Prix could leave Britain, despite the fact that the F1 teams want and need the race in their home country. There is also supposed to be a clause in the contract between the FIA and Formula One Management that certain Grands Prix will have protected status. Britain is one of these but it is not clear how the FIA could enforce such a clause or indeed if it would do so if Silverstone was under threat. The option is to find a different promoter for the event but this is highly unlikely given the costs of a modern F1 race and the fact that the British government is not willing to be seen to be helping the sport too much because of past links which caused political upheaval. That said, Britain has an important motorsport cluster and supports a huge motorsport industry - one of the few industries in which Britain still holds the lead in the world - and it would be stupid if the politicians allowed that to be damaged.

The BRDC President is, in the eyes of the board, an ambassador for UK Motorsport and Hill has the international profile for that. His appointment would also signal a switch to a young generation which would be a good idea as the BRDC is too often seen as a lot of old racing drivers who are not entirely in touch with the realities of modern motorsport.

The St Modwen proposal seems to have been shelved for the moment because of lack of support in the club and while this may be seen as a victory for the rebels, it does nothing to solve the ultimate problem of what the BRDC is going to do to safeguard the British Grand Prix.