No-one could accuse Bernie Ecclestone of failing to give Donington Park a decent chance of hosting the British Grand Prix.
But now it seems that the 79 year old’s patience is running out as the circuit once again failed to meet a deadline to produce a bank guarantee. Ecclestone had given Donington chief executive Simon Gillett an extra week past the agreed 28th September deadline, but on Friday night that expired. There is concern that the circuit will not be able to raise the £145 million it needs and in any case time is running out to build the infrastructure.
“It’s not good, is it?” Ecclestone told the Times newspaper. “Even if they get the money, I cannot see how it will all be ready in time to go. It is very disappointing – because we thought it would happen – but they cannot go on missing deadlines.
According to my colleagues on the Financial Times, Gillett is due to have a last gasp meeting with backers on Monday morning. If the final pieces cannot be put in place then, the great project may well hit the skids. Silverstone is poised to take back the race, but has said it would only do so on a long term basis.
The FT quotes a City insider saying that the problem for Donington is that Citigroup, Gillett’s advisers, have secured a loan of £120 million but the deal is being held up by Citigroup having to find a £12 million line of credit from a third party. There are concerns among backers that the time-scales are too short now before the British GP next July and that the circuit would have to complete building works at the same time as selling debentures and hospitality. The funding plan for the Grand Prix circuit, conceived in summer 2008, before the credit crunch struck, is based on a debenture scheme.
The last time I saw Gillett, at Spa in August, he said that he would easly make the September 28th deadline and that he had a consortium of banks in place to replace Goldman Sachs, who pulled out earlier this year.
“They could still come to us saying they have the money but there is no way the circuit would be ready at this late stage,” Ecclestone added. “It looks as though we will have to start planning again.”