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Stewart opens his final AGM as president

After six turbulent years, Sir Jackie Stewart will step down this afternoon from his position as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club.

The former world champion has opened the club's Annual General Meeting with a statement that looked at the achievements of the BRDC during his tenure, but also calls out to the British government to invest more in the Silverstone circuit.

"It is with sadness and regret that we and I have failed to obtain significant Government support for Silverstone as the Centre of Excellence for British motorsport and the long term home of the British Grand Prix, but I do not think this possibility should yet be ruled out," Stewart said.

"We continue to struggle as a small Club without the financial support that almost every other country in the world gives to their Grands Prix on the Formula One circuit.

"New entry countries like Bahrain, China and Turkey have facilities way in advance of the historic venues like Silverstone.

"Whilst Government is pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into sports across the UK through lottery funding and other sources in anticipation for the Olympics in 2012; they refuse to put significant amounts into motorsport and we should speculate as to why this resistance exists."

Stewart also signed off his speech with a word for his opposers within the BRDC, calling on them to give his successor Damon Hill better support.

"It is my fervent hope both today and for the future, that you will give Damon Hill unanimous support to lead the Club as your new President," Stewart said.

"I hope this will include the minority of members who have historically undermined and disrupted the democratically elected Board to work together constructively for the future of the BRDC."

The full AGM opening statement by Jackie Stewart:

"I have been the Club President for six years, with, roughly speaking, three different Boards and we have achieved much for the Club during that time.

"Working closely with the ex-chairman Martin Brundle, we completed and signed a deal with the Interpublic Group (IPG) that, at least in the short term, successfully secured Silverstone's future as the venue for the British Grand Prix and as a Club for Members, as well as removing the commercial risks of being the promoter of the British Grand Prix.

"We played a leading role working closely with Government and the Competition Commission to ensure that the Interpublic Group deal was cleared. This took an immense amount of time.

"As a Board, we ensured that IPG carried out the obligations under the Master Plan Deed, which resulted in expenditure of more than 25m on the infrastructure at Silverstone.

"We led a concerted campaign to improve the transport infrastructure around Silverstone in time for the 2003 British Grand Prix. This intervention led to an accelerated 8m spend by Government to deliver the A43 Silverstone by-pass. This was critical in retaining the Grand Prix

"The withdrawal of IPG from the Grand Prix and from Silverstone provided a real threat to the Club and British motorsports. The Board dealt with this crisis and secured a good return for the Club as part of the IPG exit from motorsports in this country.

"The relationships we have helped develop and maintain with the Northamptonshire Council have also yielded benefits for the Club, both in favourable and fast-tracked planning decisions and in direct revenues to the Club from rate rebates and permission to advertise on the Dadford road.

"Our work with Government at the highest level, including the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister of Trade and Industry, led directly to the creation of the Motorsport Competitiveness Panel, on which myself and members of our Board represented the Club.

"The panel secured a commitment of 16m of government funding for the motorsports industry. Little of it has emerged so far but it was officially committed to.

"However, it is with sadness and regret that we and I have failed to obtain significant Government support for Silverstone as the Centre of Excellence for British motorsport and the long term home of the British Grand Prix, but I do not think this possibility should yet be ruled out.

"We continue to struggle as a small Club without the financial support that almost every other country in the world gives to their Grands Prix on the Formula One circuit. New entry countries like Bahrain, China and Turkey have facilities way in advance of the historic venues like Silverstone.

"Whilst Government is pouring hundreds of millions of pounds into sports across the UK through lottery funding and other sources in anticipation for the Olympics in 2012; they refuse to put significant amounts into motorsport and we should speculate as to why this resistance exists.

"We are still waiting for the delivery of the Sports Minister's famous promise in July 2003 that the Government was going 'to put its money where its mouth is' for the development of Silverstone.

"Whilst the Grand Prix is contractually retained through to 2009, the pre-eminence of the British motorsport industry will remain under threat until we have a public/private sector partnership for the long-term future of Silverstone and the defence of the Grand Prix.

"The Motorsport Competitiveness Panel also led directly to the East Midlands Development Agency being charged to work with the Club, which has resulted in a 1.8m investment by Government in the Innovation Centre joint venture at Silverstone.

"We have tried to bring on board commercial partners for long-term re-development of Silverstone's infrastructure. (Your board recommended a low-risk partnership with St Modwen).

"If the club does not proceed with St Modwen, there will still have to be some commercial and financial alternative because we as a Club are not of sufficient size, or financial strength, to develop Silverstone and maintain the British Grand Prix on our own.

"Over the last six years as President, I have tried at all times to be an ambassador for the Club and its members around the world.

"It is my fervent hope both today and for the future, that you will give Damon Hill unanimous support to lead the Club as your new President.

"I hope this will include the minority of Members who have historically undermined and disrupted the democratically elected Board to work together constructively for the future of the BRDC."

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