Silverstone deal imminent

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The Independent Online

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is close to being saved with Government officials hoping to make an announcement tomorrow.

Talks between Formula One representatives and Silverstone's owners are at an advanced stage and a statement is expected before the start of this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka. The Government has refused to use taxpayers' money to bail out the British Racing Drivers' Club but it is thought an incentives package, arranged through the East Midlands Development Agency, could smooth the way for a deal. The move should enable the BRDC to bridge the £800,000 gap between their offer and Formula One's demands for the rights to stage the British Grand Prix.

A source close to the Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, said: "He is now much more confident that a deal can be delivered than he was last week. The two sides have been back in useful negotiations and they both know the grand prix is too big to drop for both of them.

"Although it is not 100 per cent yet, he has high hopes there will be an announcement before the end of the week."

The final deadline for a deal is next Wednesday, when next year's provisional Formula One calendar goes before the FIA world motorsports council meeting. Only 17 out of a possible 19 dates are on the list so there is space for Silverstone to be included.

Caborn's main concern has been the impact losing the grand prix would have on plans to make Silverstone an international centre of excellence for the motor racing industry.

Last week however he ruled out the use of Government money to help pay for the grand prix saying: "This is an asset-rich and cash-rich sport and yet the Government is being asked to take money away from grass-roots sport to put into it."

The BRDC claimed the sticking point was less about money than having to sign up for the next seven years.