Outlook: Brands Hatch

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The Independent Online
Brands Hatch

BRANDS HATCH may think it is in pole position to take over the British Grand Prix in three years' time. But as every motor sport fan knows, Formula One races are long, gruelling and unpredictable affairs. There is plenty of rubber to be burnt between now and 2002 and, with Bernie Ecclestone helping the contestants through the chicanes, who knows what thrills and spills lie ahead.

Nicola Foulston, who runs Leisure, has the single-mindedness of a Michael Schumacher when it comes to business. Compared with Lord Hesketh and the old buffers from the British Racing Drivers Club who run Silverstone, the present home of the Grand Prix, she is very much this year's super-charged model.

Ms Foulston would love desperately to get her hands on Silverstone but has so far been rebuffed. In retaliation, she has prised the race away from the BRDC. If this sounds like a negotiating tactic, that's because it is.

has not staged the British Grand Prix since the days when Nigel Mansell could still fit into a Formula One car and if Ms Foulston thinks pounds 20m will be enough to bring it up to scratch, she may have a rude surprise in store. According to some estimates, it will cost that just to install enough seating.

Then there is the small matter of planning permission. Brands has yet to put in an application. When it does it will be interesting to see the reaction of the residents in the executive housing development next door. Ms Foulston as good as admitted yesterday that her intention was to get the BRDC to succumb to a takeover. After all, it would be much simpler to buy the circuit than to rebuild the one she has in Kent.

As for Mr Ecclestone, a bidding war for the rights to the British Grand Prix might be just the kickstart he needs to get his $2bn Bernie bond out of the pit lane. This race has a long way to run yet.

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