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British Grand Prix faces the axe

October 01, 2004 11:02 IST

The British Grand Prix is set to be axed for the first time in Formula One history, former champion Jackie Stewart said on Thursday.

"At the moment it would seem that the calendar is not going to include the British Grand Prix for 2005," Stewart, president of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) that owns the Silverstone circuit, told BBC radio.

"We feel that the Grand Prix is terribly important for the country," added Stewart. "I think it's a real disaster that this has happened."

Silverstone, a former World War Two airfield in central England, hosted the first Formula One Grand Prix in 1950 and only Britain and Italy have hosted a race every year since then.

Formula One sources said the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, which earned a late reprieve this year, could also be dropped to trim the provisional calendar from an unprecedented 19 races to 17.

China and Bahrain made their debuts this year and Turkey is due to be included for the first time in 2005.

Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who draws up the calendar, told Reuters that the official list of races would be announced after the governing FIA's world motor sport council met on October 13.

COUNTRY FAIR

Ecclestone, who has called the British race a 'country fair masquerading as a world event', had set Thursday as a deadline for offers to promote the event.

The non-profit-making BRDC made an offer to Ecclestone's Formula One Management to promote the race for the next three years, despite the likelihood that they would lose money, but it was not enough.

"Mr Ecclestone is asking an amount of money which currently we cannot afford," said Stewart, who joined the BRDC in blaming the British government for failing to step in.

"The international finances of Formula One are such that almost every country around the world that hosts a Grand Prix is given considerable financial support by its government," said the BRDC in a statement.

"We regret that (the) government...has not been able to put together a package to help the retention of the Grand Prix in this country."

In an interview on ITN news Ecclestone said there was still a slim chance that Silverstone could host a race next season if the teams agreed an 18-race season.

But he said the BRDC had failed to bring Silverstone's facilities up to scratch.

"It's quite embarrassing, I'm pushing the world to raise the standard everywhere and our country has got probably one of the worst (facilities).

"It's bad news for all the people that have supported us at Silverstone, they've had terrible conditions but they stuck by us. They haven't lost it yet, but probably will.

"We even gave them an option to have a contract in 2007 so they can have two years off, get everything done properly and come back in 2007 but they haven't taken in those things."

China, with a new $325 million circuit, and Bahrain have no motor racing heritage but facilities unrivalled by any venues in the sport's European heartland.

A majority of the 10 Formula One teams are based in Britain, with some 40,000 people working in the local motorsport industry.

"I hope he gets a great deal of flak from all the British-based teams if he decides to drop Silverstone," team boss Frank Williams said of Ecclestone at last weekend's inaugural Chinese Grand Prix.

"I know that Silverstone can't afford the current rate that some of the European races pay but we do care about Silverstone, it is a traditional venue."

Alan Baldwin in London
Source:
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