Stalling tactics cast doubt on new Silverstone plans

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The Independent Online

Doubts have emerged over plans to involve the Formula One rights holder Bernie Ecclestone in the redevelopment of Silverstone after a new twist in the power struggle at the British Racing Drivers' Club.

The rebel member Harry Stiller, a former Formula Three champion, last week unveiled a deal with Ecclestone as part of his efforts to remove the BRDC board. That proposal was for an equal partnership to share the cost of rebuilding Silverstone, which the BRDC owns, and promoting the British Grand Prix.

But Ecclestone is thought to have privately denied agreeing to such a deal, while Stiller has moved to postpone the vote of no confidence in the club board which he initiated.

Stiller contacted the club chairman, Stuart Rolt, on Friday, proposing to delay the extraordinary general meeting set for 28 April in return for payment of his £7,000-plus legal bill.

"He suggested he would like the EGM postponed or put off," said Sir Jackie Stewart, the BRDC president. "In return for doing that he would like us to pay his legal costs. We do not wish to do so but it gives some idea of the kind of person we are dealing with.

"I am confused by his tactics. I rather suspect he's been told by Bernie that all the things he has said are not reality and he wants more time to pull together the proposal."

Since the Ecclestone proposal was made public last Thursday, Stewart claims that no further details have been forthcoming, even though the BRDC board welcomed the plan. "If there is a real proposal or an alternative way to go rather than leasing out the circuit to developers for a number of years, we need to know about it," he said.

In his six-year term as the club president, a role he voluntarily relinquishes later this month, Stewart has led a ceaseless campaign to find funding for vital rebuilding work at Silverstone. If Stiller's hopes of an alliance with regular Silverstone critic Ecclestone do not come off, the Northamptonshire track faces an uncertain future.

Stewart has faced stiff opposition to his plan to fund a redevelopment by leasing the site to developers St Modwen for 150 years - a dramatic step he was willing to take only after pleas to the Government fell on deaf ears.

He has lobbied the highest-ranking politicians in the country but to no avail. That has led to fears that the British Grand Prix could be lost before action from the Government.

Stewart said: "What we are asking for is a pittance to try to improve Silverstone to retain the grand prix and provide the public with the facilities they deserve."