Donington out of action for five weeks over safety issues

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, April 16th, 2009

 
 

Talks with British motorsport regulators have so far failed to provide a resolution to safety issues at the Donington Park racetrack following work to upgrade its facilities to F1 standards.

Events planned for the next five weeks are affected after work to dig a tunnel under the track, to allow construction access plus entry to an eventual new pit and paddock complex, left an important straight between the McLeans and Copse corners with insufficient run-off.

An emergency licence issued by the Motor Sports Association, the British branch of the FIA, to cover last weekend’s classic racing events left the area extensively yellow-flagged and put a serious damper on the racing.

The track was due to be re-inspected by the MSA earlier this week. It is unclear whether the inspection took place but talks are ongoing according to the track management.

The problem has led to the cancellation and postponement of racing activities including this weekend’s opening rounds of Formula Palmer Audi.

MotorSportVision chief executive Jonathan Palmer said: “It’s extremely disappointing that this remarkable situation has occurred, and that we have been forced to cancel our event at Donington Park due to the lack of a valid track licence.

“This has caused significant disruption to all of MSVR’s competitors and series, including Formula Palmer Audi, that were due to race next weekend.

“It is quite unsatisfactory and particularly unacceptable that we have received no communication from the circuit on the matter.

“We are currently in discussions with all our series and championship co-ordinators to arrange alternative dates and venues, and these will be confirmed at the earliest opportunity.”

The British F3 championship, due to race at Donington on the last weekend in April, has postponed its appearance until the summer.

SRO Motorsports Group General Manager Bernadette Fitzsimons said: “The issues surrounding the problems at Donington are well-known.

“We have worked hard with Donington’s management to find a solution, with discussions between us, Donington, the FIA and the MSA not yet concluded, we must move to end the uncertainty.

“We are confident Donington will resolve its problems soon, and we look forward as always to visiting what is one of the country’s top circuits and to putting on a great show there.”

A spokesman for the track told the Derby Evening Telegraph: “Staff at Donington Park are continuing to liaise with all relevant parties to ensure that there is no further disruption to the 2009 calendar and to try to agree solutions for re-scheduled events.

“Plans to address the run off areas surrounding the track above the tunnel have already been submitted to the FIA and feedback is expected later this week.”

The Britcar championship, a sportscar series, has also decided to switch its Donington round to another venue and the race will now take place at Rockingham early in May.

The next events potentially affected will be the British F3/GT double-header on the weekend of April 25 and British Touring Car Championship event on the weekend of May 16. Neither organiser has yet taken the decision to move elsewhere.

Simon Gillett, Chief Executive, added his own “wholehearted apology” to anyone affected by the cancellations and postponements.

He said: “As a motorsport enthusiast myself, I understand how disappointing it is to miss out on an event that you’ve been looking forward to for months. I also understand the level of work and financial commitment from organisers.

“I am working extremely hard with my team to minimise any disruption to this year’s calendar and to provide solutions where possible.”

* However, one thing Mr Gillett still hasn’t mentioned is the detail of the debenture scheme that is set to fund the track’s multi-million pound upgrade to F1 capability.

He originally promised that the fine print, including the cost of buying into the scheme, would be revealed by the end of the 2008/09 financial year, which ended on April 4.

In an interview with Autosport, regarding the track’s licensing issues that was published on April 9, he promised it would be announced “in the next few days”.

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