SEPTEMBER 5, 2000
Donington wins the Battle of Britain
The home of the British Grand Prix from 2002 to 2009 will soon be announced as Donington Park, following a protracted campaign by rights holders Brands Hatch Leisure to wrest the blue riband event from the auspices of the British Racing Drivers' Club at Silverstone.
BHL had initially proposed its home venue, Brands Hatch, as a replacement for Silverstone on the F1 calendar once it became clear that the purchase of Silverstone would be repelled by the board and members of the BRDC. The two circuits originally alternated the hosting of Britain's Grand Prix from 1964 to 1986, when the tight, undulating Kentish venue was declared incompatible with safety regulations. Since then Brands Hatch has remained largely unchanged and only recently have alterations been proposed to put the circuit back in the frame.
The dramatic changes required to the track layout, infrastructure and access routes in order to make Brands a viable proposition had to find approval from both local and central government, and given the large number of protected trees which would need to have been felled together vociferous opposition from local residents it is thought that this option was abandoned.
The traditional time-consuming squeeze into and out of the circuit for the F1 circus and the 90,000 paying spectators has long been the bain of Silverstone's tenure, and when the race was held in the wettest April on record the circuit's poor acess, insufficient drainage and grass parking areas conspired to cause many to miss the entire event in the ensuing gridlock. Silverstone was publicly drubbed by FIA president Max Moseley for its shortcomings, despite the argument of much of the British racing establishment, including Sir Frank Williams, Ron Dennis and Jackie Stewart, now Chairman of the BRDC.
Donington though has been in negotiation with BHL for four months to act as host, with an end-of-August deadline to confirm its status. The Leicestershire venue last hosted a Grand Prix in 1993 but the circuit is already under a programme of regeneration to its access roads and facilities prior to the construction of a state-of-the-art pits and paddock facility and a reshaping of the circuit to ensure compliance with current safety regulations. It is also believed to be in negotiations with Stagecoach, the transport company that owns the adjacent East Midlands Airport, to facilitate even better parking and a tie-in with its forthcoming rail link.