Bellm: BRDC must change or die

Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers' Club, has been told that it must wake up to modern commercial reality and change the way it is run, or it risks killing itself off. That is the view of the club's former chairman Ray Bellm who has spoken for the first time following his shock dismissal this week

Bellm: BRDC must change or die

Bellm's removal as chairman of the club followed a dispute with certain club factions, chiefly BRDC president Jackie Stewart, over the outcome of negotiations relating to the British Grand Prix.

Stewart was believed to be unhappy at the five-year deal put in place by Bellm and F1 commercial supremo Ecclestone, because it takes the track's contract beyond the end of F1's Concorde Agreement, when it is likely that circuits will be offered better financial terms for hosting races.

And despite Bellm having helped the club enjoy one of its more commercially successful years, with an increase in profits, successful negotiations for favourable exit terms with former British GP promoters Interpublic and the fresh British GP contract, he was ousted on Tuesday at a board meeting.

Speaking exclusively to autosport.com about the events, Bellm made it clear that he has no intention of turning his back on the BRDC and Silverstone entirely - and instead revealed he will now push for what he believes are changes that need to be made to the structure of the club.

"Unless the club takes a new direction, it will die," said Bellm. "What it requires now is the members to galvanise themselves into a revolution and put a president in charge that they believe should be the president. If they turn around and say, 'Ray, you are wrong, we still think Jackie is the right person', then I will go and play golf.

"If the members believe they want me back as a chairman in the future I would be very happy to serve them. What I am now going to campaign for is that the correct structure is put in place for the organisation of the club, and that the right people are in place to run the business and to lead the club.

"And obviously I do not believe Jackie Stewart is the right person to lead the club after this debacle."

Stewart himself has said that he foresees no problems ahead for the club, however, or its British GP contract..

"Bernie was one of the first people I called after the meeting," he said. "There is no problem there. The issues (surrounding Bellm's departure) were involving corporate governance. The development of Silverstone is our number one priority."

Bellm's departure is understood to have caused some concerns in motor racing circles about the BRDC's future and Ecclestone himself was quoted by the Bloomberg news agency as saying that there were worries about whether Stewart was the right man to help secure the club's commercial future.

"Jackie's a great ambassador, a good front guy, but I don't think he's got the time or the inclination to grub around and try to get things done," Ecclestone said. "Ray would have got the job done.

"Ray was driving things in the right direction. We compromised with him on the deal because we thought he'd get the finances together and do what needs to be done at Silverstone."

Speaking about the five-year length of the British GP deal, which proved to be the catalyst for the controversy, Bellm insisted that it was the right terms for a contract with Ecclestone - especially because it would take almost three years for work to begin on the planned major revamping of Silverstone.

"Jackie said to me, 'I don't want a five-year deal, it should be a three-year deal because you must not go beyond the length of the Concorde Agreement'," explained Bellm.

"But I said I think the Concorde Agreement is not relevant because the GPWC, the banks and Bernie will come to a commercial deal before then, and that I think we need a five-year deal because we need that window of time to achieve a redevelopment of the circuit.

"Bernie said to me that three years was too short and all along I had been saying to Bernie that we need at least three years.

"My personal belief as a business person is that five years is the right length of time because by the time you have organised it, got it through the members, planned it, financed it and got it started, it will be a five-year project to get the circuit upgraded."

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