The would-be promoters of the 2010 British Grand Prix, face a crunch meeting with the local North West Leicestershire council on Tuesday which, if it goes wrong, could mean the end of plans for the race at Donington.
Already squeezed by a £2.5 million law suit from circuit owners the Wheatcroft family, Simon Gillett’s Donington Ventures group must persuade the council to give them more time to get the Wheatcrofts to sign a crucial section 106 spectator safety document, without which the race cannot go ahead.
According to the council leader, speaking in the News of the World today, either Gillett will get an extension until May 31st, or the planning consent will be thrown out and the race plans will be in tatters.
The council leader claims to be optimistic about the chances of the race being saved, but it looks like it will take payment of the outstanding £2.5 million of rent by Tuesday, or proof that it will be paid by May 31st for the council to move forward with granting planning consent.
Gillett is showing all the signs of having difficulty raising funds. Bernie Ecclestone, who appears to be giving Gillett every opportunity to come through said, “Donington’s problem is that it had a deal with a bank but then the credit crisis happened. Maybe the government can help.”
Gillett told me last December that he had a deal with Goldman Sachs for the debenture scheme. He was due to announce plans for the scheme by the end of March. Government funding of tens of millions for an F1 circuit at a time when the national debt is spiralling out of control is hard to imagine.
Bankers I spoke to at the time all said that the credit crunch was going to be very severe and that the bottom was going to drop out of everything. All the savvy business leaders were bracing themselves for the worst.
It’s all very surprising, then, that Gillett did this deal last July.
As to whether Bernie might relent and go back to Silverstone if Donington falls through, we’ll have to wait and see. He’s been negative about it lately, but he needs to leave himself some wriggle room. Just look at how many times he’s said we’re not going back to Magny Cours…