A hopeful future for Donington despite its F1 defeat

By Andy Darley

CalendarTuesday, December 8th, 2009


Donington Park could see its status as one of the country’s leading national and club venues safeguarded as soon as the end of this week, according to administrators who are working to sell the lease.

Donington - saved as a club circuit?

Donington - saved as a club circuit?

The historic circuit is currently not capable of staging races after redevelopment work aimed at staging the Formula One British Grand Prix started and stopped, leaving the track torn up and unusable.

Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, the company of its promoter Simon Gillett, collapsed when it failed in its bid to raise the money needed to stage the race, which has now been awarded to Silverstone for at least the next decade.

Combined with the death of Tom Wheatcroft, the entrepreneur who restored Donington to its pre-war glory, the failed F1 bid created a sense of gloom in which fans feared the circuit would be lost for good – buried under a housing estate or an extension to the nearby East Midlands airport.

But administrator Nigel Price, whose role at business recovery specialists Begbies Traynor sees him trying to find a buyer the 150-year lease that Gillett acquired from the Wheatcrofts in 2007, was positive about the prospects for the circuit.

He said the potential buyers that he is in negotiations with are all interested in continuing to run the venue as a race track, even without Formula One.

“Obviously we are disappointed at the news from Silverstone,” he told local newspapers the Derby Telegraph and Leicester Mercury. “There is a break clause on either side of 10 years, so that closes the door on Formula One at Donington in that timescale.

“However, we are still in negotiations with three parties with a view to Donington continuing to operate as a national and club circuit. We are hopeful a deal can be done by the end of this week.”

Whoever takes on the lease will face a battle to re-establish the circuit’s reputation and re-build its calendar. Not only has the chance to stage F1 gone, but its flagship Moto GP race has also been lost to Silverstone for the next decade.

The revived Formula Two championship, which held its first stand-alone meeting at Donington this year, will not return in 2010, and an accidentally-released calendar for Superleague Formula, which launched at the circuit in 2008 and raced there again this year, shows it, too, will not be back.

The circuit also needs to mend some fences with drivers in Formula Ford, many of whom lost out financially after two attempts to schedule their race there this year were both cancelled because of weather damage to the track.

One response to “A hopeful future for Donington despite its F1 defeat”:

  1. Martin Galpin Says:

    December 8th, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    Thanks for the pingback.

    Considering this is the second Gillett-lead motorsport venture to end in administration (following the Welsh Local Motorsport Centre of Excellence, see http://www.number66.net/the-death-of-the-2010-british-grand-prix/, liquidated whilst owing 200,000GBP to creditors) with considerable losses to creditors – we, the British motorsport community must strive to make sure Gillett has no further involvement in our sport and our industry.

    The most likely outcome? Jonathan Palmer buys the circuit lease and Motorsport Vision gains another circuit. And if he brings it anywhere near the standard of Brands Hatch, Snetterton or Oulton Park, maybe some good will come out of this whole debacle after all.

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