Comment: Common sense prevails at Silverstone

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The Independent Online

British motor sport is celebrating the deal that has saved the country's Formula One grand prix for the next 17 years.

Silverstone today signed a deal to stage the oldest race on the F1 calendar after the circuit's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club, and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreed to put aside their differences.

The agreement between Silverstone Circuits Limited, who operate Silverstone on behalf of the BRDC, and Formula One Management means common sense has prevailed.

The BRDC and Ecclestone are old foes, a dislike that goes back to the days when Ecclestone was a racer.

But since former champion Damon Hill took over as BRDC president, relations have been thawing between both parties.

Conspiracy theorists would have you believe Ecclestone used the threat of moving the race to Donington Park as a bargaining tool to up the ante in his personal battle with the BRDC.

While there may be some truth in this, the fact the race will be staged at Silverstone is one that will be universally welcomed by British fans, the motor sport industry and local and national government.

With 230,000 fans having visited the race weekend at Silverstone last year, the popularity of the Northamptonshire venue has never been in question.

The BRDC and Silverstone Circuits Limited will also be celebrating having secured what they believe to be a workable deal with F1 Management.

With the industry surrounding F1 mainly based in or around the M40 corridor, staging the race at Silverstone is nothing if not convenient.

The local government will be breathing a huge sigh of relief following heavy investment in infrastructure in the vicinity in recent years.

And the importance of the race and the motorsport industry to the economy is also indicated by the fact both Sports Minister Gerry Sutcliffe and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson have already joined in the collective back-slapping.

The only real losers appear to be Simon Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Limited, who recently went into administration after failing to meet the requirements to stage the F1 race after initially winning the deal.

Gillett has invested heavily in upgrading Donington but now the possibility of hosting the British Grand Prix for the next 17 years has disappeared there is nothing for the administrators to use as leverage to get new money into the Leicestershire venue.

An added bonus for Silverstone and another negative for Donington is MotoGP, the world's top motorcycling series, will be moving to Northamptonshire next year.

When it looked like Silverstone would lose F1, they hedged their bets by taking MotoGP from its traditional home at Donington.

All that is left at Donington is a venue under reconstruction and a sackful of broken dreams.

The late Tom Wheatcroft, a local businessman who built Donington into an international motorsport venue from humble beginnings and whose family own the venue, must surely be turning in his grave.