Donington: Council extends deadline

06/05/2009
NEWS STORY

At a meeting on Tuesday night, North West Leicestershire District Council agreed to give Donington leaseholder Simon Gillett until the end of June in order that he might clarify his plans for developing the track ahead of the 2010 British GP. The decision gives Gillet some much needed breathing space at a time when the future of the British Grand Prix is shrouded in uncertainty and doubt.

Despite Gillet's continued claims that all is well and that the 2010 race will go ahead, many remain highly dubious regarding the man and his plan.

The sceptics appeared to have got it right when two weeks ago it was revealed that Donington owner Tom Wheatcroft is suing Gillet's company, Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, for 2.7m in unpaid rent. Then came the news that Gillett had not yet signed the planning permission agreements which would give him the authority to make the necessary modifications to host the British Grand Prix next year.

While the problem of the unpaid rent remains, last night's decision at least gives Gillet a few more weeks to sort out the council, another key factor if the event is ever to go ahead.

However, none of this answers the other major questions, how will Gillet and his company finance the massive redevelopment needed at Donington and will the work be completed in time.

"We are 110% committed to making this happen and 100% confident that it will," Gillet told BBC Sport on Tuesday. "We have our little trials and tribulations but we are still confident the Grand Prix is coming to Donington next year. We know what is going on behind the scenes and there is a lot going on in the background that gives us confidence.

"We have a nine-month construction programme and that has never changed," he continued. "We have always known we could construct everything we have to in nine months but we have the construction in hand. We need to be in a position to roll everything out by July 2009 but we are not panicking yet."

Some remain hopeful that should the Donington project fail that race might remain at Silverstone, however, Ecclestone has made it quite clear that this will not happen, certainly not under the present arrangement. Consequently, in the eyes of many, Gillet remains British race fans' only hope.

"I'm still working to the mantra that it's Donington or the Grand Prix goes outside of the UK," he said. "We are here to try and save the British Grand Prix not to jeopardise it.

"At the moment the British Grand Prix doesn't have a home, we have stepped in and given it a lifeboat. Without the Donington circuit being available it would have gone already, we are here to make sure it stays here."

That said, last week, Pitpass' business editor Chris Sylt revealed that Bernie Ecclestone had told him that a number of banks have pulled out of backing Gillet and his venture at Donington, a move described as "potentially fatal" for the race.

Speaking on Tuesday night, Gillet admitted that he had indeed lost some of his financial backing.

"The world of banking has changed," he told the Daily Telegraph. "The bank we were planning to work with decided they were not in the market any more, so we had to find an alternative.

"There are banks in the market, and we are working on the detail now," he added, repeating his previous claim. "We are 110 per cent committed to make it happen, and 100 per cent certain it will happen."

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Published: 06/05/2009
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