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Silverstone closing in on GP deal

Silverstone is getting closer a deal to secure the future of the British Grand Prix, even though meetings between track representatives and Bernie Ecclestone in Abu Dhabi this weekend have so far failed to conclude a deal.

Circuit chiefs Neil England and Richard Phillips flew to Abu Dhabi to try and sort out a contract in the wake of the failure by Donington Park to get its plans for the British GP in place.

And although there remains some distance between what Ecclestone wants Silverstone to pay in the long term, and what the track can afford, there is hope that the two parties can find a solution.

British Racing Drivers' President Damon Hill, who has also flown to Abu Dhabi, told the Press Association: "It's moving along. Things are progressing inch by inch, and hopefully we'll get to a point where there is no gap and we can join the two parties."

He added: "We've got to sort this out, and Bernie's been very helpful. He is coming to the table and working with our team to find a solution. But he has to get the best price, and so do we. We absolutely want to get it on, there's no question of that.

"But we're a small player. As a venue operator, we operate with a pretty tiny margin and we have to be careful."

One of the main hurdles in the deal appears to be the escalator fee that forms part of long-term race deals - with the race fee set to increase by seven per cent per year from whatever is agreed for 2010. It is that figure which, over the terms of a 10-year deal, would see Silverstone doubling its expenditure.

Speaking about the matter, Hill said: "Everything moves. They're all chips in the negotiation. I am not involved in the detail of the negotiation, but the BRDC have to sign off the parameters.

"They're put to us by the circuit operators, Silverstone Holdings, and they have limits on them which are set by simple economics. There is no backstop for us. We don't have a safety net. It has to be within those defined limits somehow.

"Both Bernie and ourselves have to be flexible and try and find a solution, and that's what is happening. Ideally, it needs to be done sooner rather than later. It makes sense to get it done as soon as possible.

"But you can't rush these things. It has to be right. Obviously, we would like to have started selling tickets after the last grand prix, but that's gone, so we're now in overtime."

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