Will Middle Eastern money secure Silverstone’s F1 future?

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarMonday, August 17th, 2009

 
 

Calling in Middle Eastern financiers is likely to be the only way the Silverstone circuit will ever be able to afford to bring its facilities up to the standards required by Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone, reports suggest.

The day before beleagured Donington Park pointed out that it would have nothing to say publicly about its construction and fundraising progress until September, it has been reported that the Silverstone management is considering a long lease to an Arab wealth fund.

It brings into question once again how the financial demands being made on European venues wishing to host Formula One events can ever reasonably be met.

On August 25 Silverstone’s future is due to be discussed at a meeting of the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), the organisation that owns the circuit. Reportedly on the table is a resolution to allow its company directors to enter into negotiations into its future.

Pitpass business editor Chris Sylt is reporting that a deal is already in place with a Middle Eastern investment fund should that permission be granted, and that Arrows founder and former F1 driver Jackie Oliver is involved in pushing it forward.

Oliver is reported as saying that the only organisation that will ever have the money to undertake the necessary redevelopment is “a sovereign wealth fund.”

But the plan has not found universal favour among BRDC members, some of whom reportedly feel the club may be handing over its biggest asset without sufficient reward and are determined to halt the scheme.

BRDC president Damon Hill was interviewed for Sylt’s article and said that the circuit needed to find an investor capable of taking on such a “high-risk, high-reward” project.

This year France is missing from the Grand Prix calendar after a row about cash, Germany is the latest country to see its race come under threat due to cost concerns and the future of the British race is far from secure with Silverstone chief executive Richard Phillips saying that the circuit needs urgent confirmation of whether it will be needed in 2010.

In 2008 the iconic Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium was missing from the F1 calendar in 2003 and 2006 after rows about funds from tobacco advertising and the bankruptcy of its promoter, after which the regional government stepped in to bail the race out.

Hill added: “In this country currently we only have one venue capable of hosting a Grand Prix and Silverstone is it and the BRDC own it. We have to move forward with the development of this prime asset for motorsport in this country. If we don’t move forward I don’t think we are doing a proper service to the members.”

Read Sylt’s full piece here >>

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