Donington Park has until the end of September – that’s just 28 working days – to provide Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone with a bank guarantee showing the funds are available to redevelop the circuit to F1 standards.
If that does not happen it has unequivocally lost the right to stage the British Grand Prix, which is set to return to its traditional home of Silverstone.
The news comes in the midst of a resounding silence from the circuit itself on the substantive details of the redevelopment and its funding. Its management has repeatedly refused to talk about the plans, giving successive deadlines for detailed news ever since July 2008, each of which has been broken.
It has always been known that its contract contained a clause allowing Ecclestone to break off the 17-year deal around this time should he not be happy with progress.
And this weekend at Valencia he told Pitpass business editor Chris Sylt, writing for the Sunday Express: “They have got until the end of September to produce a bank guarantee and their contract depends on that. If they don’t it’s adios amigos.
“I’m hoping Donington… do all the things they must do. And if they can’t we will come back to Silverstone.”
And Donington’s response? “We are unable to disclose any information about funding.”
Sylt suggests in his article that a bank guarantee would cover an annual fee of about £15 million for the right to host the race while Donington hopes to raise the rest of the money by selling debentures.
The amount required has been pegged as low as £30 million for essential work to £100 million for a full-scale five-year redevelopment. But a popular figure is £80 million.
Motorsports bible Autosport, reporting on Sylt’s story, says the following: “A Donington spokesperson told Autosport last week that the circuit was ‘100 per cent confident of its ability to host next year’s British GP.
“‘All of the plans for this will be delivered on time, will be revealed when we are ready to do so, and tickets will not go on sale to the public until after that point.
“‘We have already stated the need to defer the race until 2011 and have also made it clear that the original debenture scheme had to be put on hold in spring this year as a result of the global recession.
“However, new plans are currently being finalised and details will be announced as soon as we are ready to discuss them publicly.’”
We can only assume that there was some kind of miscommunication here between Donington and Autosport or an error in the original statement, since the circuit has certainly not “stated the need to defer the race” – in fact it is said by Silverstone chief executive Richard Phillips to have rebuffed any idea of a one-year collaboration.
Phillips recently described Donington’s own attitude towards its prospects as “bullish”.
Sylt has reported recently that Silverstone, which is owned by the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC), is contemplating leasing the circuit or selling management rights to a Middle Eastern wealth fund.
If this comes to pass – and some of the BRDC’s membership is reportedly very hostile – then the outcome from this whole year-long mess could prove to be exactly what Ecclestone hoped to achieve.
Silverstone will have put in place a new, commercially-minded management team and overseas investment to raise the money to improve its arguably outdated facilities.
Donington, by contrast, will have been used as a bargaining chip with a historic and much-loved circuit having its reputation and even its infrastructure dreadfully damaged in the process.
Food for thought, isn’t it?