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Ecclestone signals end of Donington’s F1 hopes

29 October 2009

Any chance Donington Park had of hosting the British Grand Prix from next season appears to now be at an end after F1 commerical rights holder Bernie Ecclestone insisted 'there's no Donington' when quizzed about the ongoing saga of the event.

Donington has been fighting an uphill battle to try and host the race for some time due to funding issues, with a debenture scheme and then a last-ditch to secure the necessary money both falling flat.

Having found itself in breach of contract with Formula One Management, Donington faced a deadline of earlier this week to show that it had the money to push ahead with the plans.

Despite reports suggesting that circuit boss Simon Gillett had paid Ecclestone the £12 million needed to keep the dream alive, the F1 supremo told reporters in the paddock on his arrival in Abu Dhabi for the season finale that any hope the venue had of hosting the race had now gone.

"There's no Donington," he said. "They've missed the deadline which we keep extending for them. It's unfortunate for them and it was the credit crunch that caused them to be in trouble because their intentions were good, that's for sure.

"It's bad for [circuit owner] Tom Wheatcroft because he's been an old friend for a long time."

Talks will now continue with Silverstone to see if a deal can be done to take the race back to the venue which looked to have hosted its final Grand Prix earlier this year, with Ecclestone revealing that there wasn't a huge difference of opinion between himself and the BRDC in the negotiations.

"There isn't actually," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, no problems. We're talking. A deal can be done if they want to."

The loss of the British GP will be a further blow to Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Limited company, which has faced increasing pressure in recent months as its plans to welcome F1 slowly began to crumble.

Already this year, the circuit was forced to cancel a number of events after work to install a new tunnel to the infield led to the venue being refused a safety licence.

Although remedial work allowed action to resume, further issues with the tunnel later in the year caused a day of club level racing to be canned due to dangerous conditions on track.

Gillett was also faced with legal action over unpaid rent to the Wheatcroft family, while numerous reports have suggested that suppliers have gone unpaid. Fans who have attended events at Donington this season have also hit out about the state of the venue as work got underway on the redevelopment.

While Donington closed to track activity early to allow work to begin on the new circuit layout, the amount of work actually carried out means that the venue is currently in a state of disrepair.

As things stand, there remains plenty to do to ensure the circuit is even in a usable state, never mind at the high standards that had been proposed for F1's arrival.


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