British GP stays at Silverstone for next 15 years

Silverstone will continue to host the British Grand Prix for at least 15 years beyond the end of its existing contract in 2001.

British GP stays at Silverstone for next 15 years

The Octgaon marketing group, which holds the rights to the race from 2002 onwards, announced in London today (Saturday) that it will keep British motorsport's blue riband event at the Northamptonshire track. Octagon has also agreed a deal to lease and manage the circuit, via subsidiary company Brands Hatch Leisure (BHL), during the same period.

The agreement will be ratified by Silverstone's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), at its annual general meeting on December 18th.

BHL and Octagon had previously attempted to bring the race to Brands Hatch for 2002. But ongoing planning delays caused by the Kent track lying in a green belt zone meant that Donington Park and Silverstone both entered the frame.

BRDC chairman Jackie Stewart said he made contact with BHL and Octagon to re-open negotiations when Brands Hatch's application for planning permission to re-vamp the circuit to F1 standards was made the subject of a public inquiry.

Stewart added that McLaren boss Ron Dennis and ITV pundit and former F1 driver Martin Brundle carried out the bulk of the negotiations for the BRDC. The final agreement was signed at 1600 GMT yesterday (Friday).

Octagon chairman Frank Lowe said keeping the race at its present home was the best solution to safeguard its future and that it will embark on a programme to make Silverstone a 'state-of-the-art track for Formula 1'.

Neither party would elaborate on how profits or investment would be split under the new agreement, but Stewart described it as a 'win-win situation'.

The three-times world champion stressed that a financial partner was essential to develop the circuit and that the deal gave the whole of British motorsport a new impetus, with much of the BRDC's extra revenue from the deal set to be ploughed back into grass roots racing and the development of young drivers.

A new F1 pits complex is already planned, with work set to commence in six to eighth months, but minor changes are also expected to the layout of the track itself.

Lowe also vowed to ease traffic congestion and parking problems at the track. Work has already started on the A43 Silverstone bypass, but car parks and circuit access will also be targetted.

"Silverstone is one of the most famous tracks in the world," said Lowe, "and it needs the facilities to match that reputation. It will be our joint ambitions to create a circuit that is the envy of the motor racing world."

Stewart added: "The BRDC is delighted that we have structured a partnership so as to ensure the future development of the Silverstone circuit as the centrepiece of British motorsport. This agreement is great news for the club and its members."

Lowe and Stewart also thanked Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone "for his support and financial contributions", but declined to specify the nature of the contributions. Ecclestone has been scathing of Silverstone's facilities in recent years.

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