Donington Park's plans to welcome Formula 1 could be set to fly irreversibly off the rails after it was revealed that circuit boss Simon Gillett is being sued by owner Tom Wheatcroft over 'unpaid rent' – in a development that could mean the end of the British Grand Prix.
All sorts of question marks have plagued the Leicestershire track's preparations to host the blue riband
event on the UK's motorsport calendar, since it was controversially awarded a ten-year contract to replace traditional venue Silverstone as the race's home from 2010 onwards by the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone last summer.
Those doubts have centred upon the provision of sufficient financial backing to undertake the ambitious redevelopment project – with nobody seemingly really too sure where the stated £100 million was coming from – and the short timeline in which the work needs to be completed. Whilst Gillett has persistently urged that all was going according to plan, the latest announcement could just prove to be a fatal blow.
'Wheatcroft & Son Limited, the owners of Donington Park motor racing circuit, have issued legal proceedings against Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd, the operators of the circuit, seeking £2.47 million in rent arrears and forfeiture of the circuit lease,' read a statement issued by law firm Browne Jacobson LLP, which has today (23 April) set the judicial wheels in motion at Derby County Court.
Wheatcroft & Son Limited awarded Gillett's company Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd a 150-year lease back in January, 2007, and Kevin Wheatcroft said that the latest step was the only available option after repeated leniency on the part of Wheatcroft & Son Limited over the past seven months had not been matched by the agreed financial payments from DVLL.
“It is with great reluctance that we have taken this decision,” he underlined. “Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd owe us nearly £2.5 million in rent dating back to September, 2008. Despite receiving numerous re-assurances over a number of months, they have consistently failed to meet their financial obligations under the terms of the lease.
“We have held off taking legal action for as long as possible, but have been left with no choice but to commence proceedings to recover the outstanding rent and forfeit the lease.”
Donington Park spokesperson Rebecca Brocklesby, meanwhile, admitted that the first she had been aware of the bombshell was when she received the Browne Jacobson LLP press release, and added that she had been unable to contact Gillett, who is understood today to be attending a Parliamentary debate in London on the future of the British Grand Prix.
“We had a face-to-face meeting with Simon yesterday to discuss all the matters,” she told Crash.net
. “We were assured there was nothing hanging over us, no problems with the Wheatcrofts and that everything was fine. The press release that has been sent out obviously suggests a different situation.”