Following months of what he calls 'little trials and tribulations', Simon Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) company has finally been granted a little breathing space - temporarily at least - with a month's extension of its deadline to sign paperwork crucial to the future of the British Grand Prix.

A key meeting of North West Leicestershire District Council's planning committee yesterday (Tuesday) resolved that DVLL is to be allowed until 30 June to convince planners that certain criteria - including the provision of a transport management plan for a circuit notoriously poor in terms of access - will be satisfied, according to a 'Section 106' agreement that was part-and-parcel of the initial planning permission approval.

Should those conditions not be met, then the planning permission for the ambitious ?100 million redevelopment programme required to bring the venue up to Formula 1 standard - granted back in January - will be rescinded, and the blue riband event on the UK motorsport calendar will likely be no more.

"We are 110 per cent committed to making this happen and 100 per cent confident that it will," Gillett told BBC Sport. "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."

Another significant hurdle that the embattled Gillett must overcome, however, is that of settling his financial dispute with circuit owner Tom Wheatcroft, the man who awarded him a 150-year lease on the Derbyshire track two years ago but who is now suing DVLL for a reputed ?2.47 million in unpaid rent and demanding the return of the lease. The case is due to be heard at Derby County Court on 8 June.

"We will be in a position to be able to sort that out very soon," Gillett stressed. "We are in in-depth meetings to button down the finances, and you should see a resolution on this situation soon."

The track upgrades have been repeatedly stymied by other setbacks including Gillett's business partner Lee Gill departing the fray late last year, the bank financing the project pulling out, a delay in planning permission and the circuit's national racing licence being revoked on safety grounds - leading to the embarrassing and expensive cancellation or postponement of a number of meetings. The debenture scheme by which Gillett had hoped to raise funding - offering corporate seats for sale at a cost of ?5,000, and underwritten by investment bank Goldman Sachs - is also believed to have been withdrawn.

The DVLL chief executive has acknowledged that the global credit crunch has stunted progress somewhat, leaving the ten-year deal to host the race - granted by F1 supremo and commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone last summer - looking tenuous at best. Gillett's self-imposed deadline for the work to be completed is 1 April, 2010 - but he is adamant the job will be done and that the future of one of the oldest grands prix on the sport's calendar will be assured.

"We have a nine-month construction programme and that has never changed," he underlined. "We have always known we could construct everything we have to in nine months, and 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.

"We are bending over backwards to ensure safe racing is on-track at Donington Park as quickly as possible. Our main concern is the future, and ensuring our forthcoming events in May are a huge success for all involved. We have ongoing communication with the directors of both car race series that will host events at Donington Park in May, and we are all working together for the benefit of the fans and competitors.

"[Beyond that], I'm still working to the mantra that it's Donington or the grand prix goes outside of the UK. Brits are natural doubters. There are vested interests out there, too. The people who matter in my world - the banks, the research companies, Bernie - all believe this can happen.

"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."

Indeed, there is understood to be a covenant within the governing Concorde Agreement between teams and Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company whereby five grands prix on the calendar - Britain amongst them - are contractually protected as part of the top flight's heritage.

That being the case, and notwithstanding Ecclestone's persistent criticism of the circuit and steadfast insistence that 'there is no question of us going back to Silverstone - they have had enough chances and have not delivered what they promised', the race's traditional home has still not given up hope of reclaiming the rights to the prestigious event either, with Damon Hill, President of the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) which owns the Northants track, suggesting that nothing is out of the question yet.

"Bernie is a businessman," the 1996 F1 World Champion told the Daily Telegraph. "He keeps his options open. If we can present him with a viable option then I'm sure he will consider it.

"I am concerned that they (Donington) don't have the experience to do this. They appear to be well behind schedule [and] their financing is not in place. I'm doubtful that it is a sustainable business model, which is why it has not yet been endorsed by banks.

"Everybody was sceptical about Donington from the start, yet we have funds here to improve our circuit and we are improving all the time. Silverstone is ready to go. We're at the final stages now of our development brief for the ?40 million upgrade of the pit and paddock complex. All we are saying is 'let's talk about it'.

"The FIA should also act responsibly for the health and wellbeing of the sport. Britain is a protected race and they should look after it."


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