Gillett confirms 17-year British GP deal

Donington Park boss Simon Gillett has told Silverstone to forget its aspirations of reclaiming the British Grand Prix after confirming that he now has a 17-year contract to host the event

Gillett confirms 17-year British GP deal

Gillett, talking exclusively to AUTOSPORT, added that there was no chance that Donington Park would not be ready to host the British Grand Prix in 2010 with the investment-raising debenture scheme now due to be launched next month.

This is despite being offered the option of deferring the race to the following year by Bernie Ecclestone.

"Sitting here today, I can't see any reason for doing that," said Gillett. "What Bernie Ecclestone has done is given us a safety net. Part of the problem with our financing has been that everyone is out there saying it doesn't matter if Donington doesn't make it because Silverstone will pick it up.

"So that's a distraction for our financiers - they read in the press that Silverstone will get it back so ask why they should go with us. But what Mr Ecclestone did was very carefully say that if Donington is there in 2010, he'll wait because it's not going back to Silverstone.

"In doing that, he has made 2010 even more viable because now finance houses understand that it is our contract. To give us one-year breathing space is an absolute show of commitment."

Gillett is planning to launch the debenture investment scheme, which could raise just over double the £80 million needed to develop the circuit to F1 standards next month. He insists that after losing the original backer of its debenture scheme on March 4, the track work is back on course.

Currently, the circuit shareholders are funding the construction work, which restarted on May 18,

"That £100 million figure has come down," said Gillett. "The great thing about the credit crunch is that building is cheaper! So we're now looking at about £30 million. We're confident with what we have - and that's with a 10-year contract.

"Now, with a 17-year contract, we should double that as well. It's a very solid way of financing. It's just that we caught the market at the wrong time.

"But now we're talking to a lot of different funds and individuals about them backing this scheme because people now realise that this current situation is not going to last forever.

"We have a 17-year contract, and everyone knows that we will be out of this within that period."

Gillett also hit out at the "British motorsport establishment", which he accused of taking every opportunity to put out negative stories about the Donington Park British Grand Prix plans.

"We're not part of the British motorsport establishment and we've stolen the crown jewels," said Gillett. "They think it is their god-given right to keep hold of these things when actually it was a commercial decision.

"When we sit in front of investors, we put a plan that said here's a 10-year, or now 17-year, plan that secures the British Grand Prix and therefore secures you a return - they understand that.

"What they don't want to hear about is the history of Archibald Flippy-Flop in his BRM! They don't care. This is a business.

"I am a motorsport guy. I started racing when I was four-and-a-half years old. I've never been world champion, but I love motorsport. But first and foremost I'm a businessman. And this is a business."

Gillett added that negative press stories surrounding the circuit following the circuit freeholder Wheatcroft and Sons launching a legal action pursuing unpaid rent - which has now been resolved - didn't help the situation.

"I love the freedom of the press, but the ability of people to say what they want without basis of fact is a difficult one," Gillett told AUTOSPORT. "But that's the price we pay for these privileges!

"People have run off down so many false tracks rather than coming up and asking questions. Lots of people have been feeding their own agendas. You can see where the messages are coming from that impact Donington."

According to Gillett, all construction work at the track will be complete before the April 1 deadline, on which the track is planning to be given its FIA Class 1 track licence in advance of holding the 2010 British Grand Prix.

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