Gillett won’t give up fight for British GP

Donington Park still has the potential to host next year’s British Grand Prix, according to Simon Gillett, the chief executive of Donington Leisure Ventures Ltd (DVVL), which was put into administration last week.

Although Silverstone claim they are close to agreeing a 10-year agreement to host Formula One in the UK, Gillett continues to solicit the support of investors interested in his Leicestershire venue.

Bernie Ecclestone has set a deadline of December 9th for a deal to be done to hold a British GP next summer, otherwise he has threatened to remove it from the 2010 calendar.

The administrators are working hard and if we had the money we would have the 17-year agreement. There are half-a-dozen people interested at the moment, from different backgrounds, with different ideas and intentions. But from a location point of view and a fans’ point of view, everything about Donington makes it a viable circuit

Despite the fact that DVVL are in administration, Gillett still believes that Donington remains a viable challenger for the contract.

Donington Ventures Leisure Limited had secured a 17-year contract to host the British GP in July last year but that was later withdrawn following failure to secure the £135million funding required to meet the necesssary redevelopment plans.

“As far as I see it there are two tracks competing, so in my mind that makes it 50-50,” Gillett said. “As Bernie said last week, if someone comes in now and invests in Donington the chance is still there.”

“The administrators are working hard and if we had the money we would have the 17-year agreement. There are half-a-dozen people interested at the moment, from different backgrounds, with different ideas and intentions. But from a location point of view and a fans’ point of view, everything about Donington makes it a viable circuit.”

Gillett and several other shareholders spent upwards of £12m on initial work to the Leicestershire race circuit but only preliminary construction has been undertaken.

Gillett says however that he has no regrets.

“There was nothing wrong with the idea of a debenture scheme or the way the project looked. Everyone we talked to was very enthusiastic, including Bernie, who was very helpful”, says Gillett. “It would’ve given the British Grand Prix and motorsport fans in this country the type of circuit they deserve, but we were victims of the global recession – in the right place at the wrong time.

“It has cost me personally an awful lot of money, but I don’t really regret it. I had an idea and the conviction to try to see it through, but it hasn’t worked out.”

Simon Gillett overseeing the works at Donington Circuit in September.  Photo: Sutton Images

Simon Gillett overseeing the works at Donington Circuit in September. Photo: Sutton Images

But a deal for the British Grand Prix to remain at Silverstone is imminent, according to Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips. Phillips told BBC Radio Northampton, “I don’t think there are any real stumbling blocks, we’re going through the last details of the deal. I’m pretty convinced that it will be run at Silverstone next year.”

The Northamptonshire circuit has been told to modernise its facilities in order to keep the race long-term, but Phillips is confident that this will not be a problem. “We’ve been planning for more than a year, we’ll finish the track works in March and start on the new pits ready for 2011”, said Phillips.

He said, “We always had the faith that the Grand Prix would return, we certainly would like the contract to be for more than 10 years – that’s the minimum.”

Meanwhile Damon Hill is “quietly confident” that a deal will be done to ensure the British Grand Prix will take place next year. “The main hurdle is making sure the deal is mutually beneficial. That’s got to be part of it, so we don’t end up with another false start.”

We wish Simon Gillett well as he continues his fight, let’s just hope that someone with this much persistence and passion gets the chance to contribute to British motorsport in some shape or form during the next few years.