Donington reveals revamp plans
|By Edd Straw and Simon Strang||Thursday, July 10th 2008, 13:43 GMT|
Donington Park's owners have revealed details of their planned revamp of the venue that will make the race track suitable for Formula One when its first planned British Grand Prix takes place in 2010.
The current 2.5-mile circuit, which last hosted a Formula One race in 1993, will be extended by approximately half a mile thanks to the addition of a new loop at the final corner.
A new pit and paddock complex will be constructed on the inside of Starkey's Straight, while the Esses chicane may also be removed or reprofiled to extend the length of the new start-finish straight.
Track co-owner Simon Gillett, who admitted that keeping the run from Redgate to Coppice intact was a key part of their plans, explained his ideas for the new layout in this week's Autosport.
"Off the Melbourne loop, instead of going around Goddards corner and 180 degrees onto the [current] start-finish straight, you'll go straight on and do a half-mile loop before going back onto the [current] start-finish straight," he said.
Gillett confirmed that the circuit, which also hosts the British round of the MotoGP world championship in July, would remain open during the build that is scheduled to begin in October and will be overseen by FIA-favoured track designer Hermann Tilke.
"We close the circuit from October to March except for testing, and we're going to be doing the same this year," said Gillett. "During that period we're going to be doing all the works that need to be done to the track to bring us to FIA standard.
"We're building the pits and paddock on the infield next year, and there's no reason why race meetings can't happen at the same time. During the closed period we will be doing the cutting of the asphalt for the pitlane and for the track extension."
Gillett says that while the circuit is not currently suitable to host an F1 event, it is already wide enough and only minimal new safety measures are required, given the extent of the grass run-off that already exists at the track.
"We don't have to move the barriers back - we have adequate run-offs," he said. "What we will be looking at is FIA/FOM run-offs, where there's a mix of asphalt and gravel."
Gillett concedes that Donington's two key hurdles to overcome, setting aside securing the investment to pay for the revisions, are to build-up the circuit's infrastructure and surroundings and to gain the planning permission to do so.
Silverstone's Managing Director Richard Phillips expressed his doubts, however, at Donington's ability to secure the planning permission in the time-frame set out to run the event in 2010.
"I have my concerns," he said. "I know what it takes to go through planning; it takes time. Maybe they'll get fast-track, but good luck to them."
Leicestershire County Council leader David Parsons has promised to do all he can to help Donington hit its deadlines however.
"I'm not going to act until I know exactly what the proposals are," Parsons told Autosport. "But Leicestershire is one of the top authorities in the country and, if anyone can do it, we can. We will be extremely positive in the way that we approach things."
Gillett explained that planning permission for the changes had not been applied for because the track did not want to reveal details of their British GP plans before their contract was announced - but said the process would start soon.
"We had to wait - if we'd submitted an F1 application prior to announcing a contract I think we might have let the cat out of the bag," he said. "We're currently working through the finer points and you'll see out masterplan coming out in the next few weeks."
"You don't enter into a contract with Bernie Ecclestone without thinking about it long and hard. We are ready."