Richard Phillips has lauded the revised Silverstone 'Arena Grand Prix' layout as 'brave' and 'ballsy' as the celebrated 'Home of British Motor Racing' has endeavoured to achieve the tricky balancing-act of suiting both cars and bikes alike - and he predicted that not only will it have the 'wow' factor, but it will also generate as many as 2,000 extra jobs over the next decade.

The new circuit was officially unveiled yesterday (Thursday) in the presence of the great and the good from the sport's past, present and future - including F1 World Champions Sir Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill, 13-time grand prix-winner David Coulthard, former British Grand Prix-winner Johnny Herbert, current Red Bull Racing ace Mark Webber and team principal Christian Horner, Mercedes Grand Prix CEO Nick Fry, popular BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle and World Superbike Championship leader Leon Haslam amongst others.

From looking like having no British Grand Prix at all just under two years ago to boasting the entire motorsport 'holy trinity' - F1, MotoGP and World Superbikes - on its calendar, Silverstone has ridden a rollercoaster of emotion over the past 24 months and not only survived to tell the tale, but indeed come out of it all looking stronger than ever.

"I'm relieved," the track's managing director Phillips told Radio, "and the feedback we're getting from people that have driven and ridden the circuit is very good, so there's a certain amount of pride there too, I suppose. I'm certainly proud of my staff and all the people that have been working on this, because they've done a phenomenal job."

That much seems indisputable, for it was only finally set in stone last December that Silverstone would be continuing to host the British Grand Prix, after the ill-fated Donington Park d?b?cle reached its perhaps inevitably sorry conclusion.

On the same day as its Leicestershire rival confirmed its intention to re-open for business later this year [see separate story - click here], Phillips re-lived the story of how Silverstone had got to where it is now, and how when the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone initially revealed that the race was heading to Donington on the eve of the 2008 edition, it 'pulled the floor out of our world'.

"It was pretty shocking actually," he confessed. "To make an announcement on the Friday of the grand prix, when you've got hundreds of thousands of people coming over the weekend, for the staff it was devastating really. It pulled the floor out of our world, but you bounce back and after a month or two you think 'well hang on a minute, they haven't done anything yet - where is the money?' Time goes on and hope comes back.

"I always thought [the race] would [remain at Silverstone], but that didn't make it an easy time to live through, because you could never be sure. As many times as you think it will happen and it will go right, other people are wavering in other directions - the rumour mill is a terrible thing. We fought our way through it - but it's not something we'd want to go through again.

"I'm not happy with what happened at Donington, and I hope that the circuit gets put back to its former glory really as soon as possible. If they can get the circuit back and running then good for them - it's good for motorsport that Donington is there. I don't think we compete in the same world, though, to be honest - I think we're a slightly different animal to them now."

The official inauguration laps of the Arena Grand Prix circuit were performed by Leon and Ron Haslam on road-going bikes, Coulthard in an old RBR machine and British Racing Drivers' Club President Hill in a special, Santander-backed two-seater F1 car - with a very special passenger in the back, HRH The Duke of York.

"We were very fortunate to have him here today," Phillips admitted of receiving the coveted Royal seal of approval, "and I hope he comes back - but seeing him get out of that two-seater Formula 1 car, he looked a bit grey! I'm sure he must have enjoyed it, though - Damon takes no prisoners! [Prince Andrew] is a great ambassador for the UK, and it's the jobs agenda and the high-performance engineering that's important from his perspective, and that's also very important for us.

"What we're creating at Silverstone now is a great track and also a catalyst to build these jobs up. We have 60 companies here at the moment, and hopefully from 2011 onwards we'll be producing an average of 200 new jobs on-circuit for the next ten years probably. That's really good, and the local community is going to benefit from that obviously as well."

So far so good, but what motor racing fans - and F1 fans in particular - crave the most is on-track overtaking, and the Englishman's team was faced with the daunting task when it became apparent that Silverstone would be hosting F1 and MotoGP in 2010, of designing a layout that would work for bikes and cars, and encourages close racing and overtaking for both. The first litmus test will come this weekend when the FIA GT1 World Championship pays a visit - but Phillips is optimistic that all the boxes have been successfully ticked.

"We're very confident now," he underlined. "We had to be very brave and ballsy about what we've just been doing. We had a committee of people involved from bikes and cars, our architect has been very good and even the contractors themselves who built the circuit wanted to make it right. We made tweaks as we were going along if we thought something wasn't quite right.

"We've done a lot of work also to make sure that the viewing is greatly improved - and we will continue to do so. We've had the thumbs-up so far, and we'll see [more] this weekend with the FIA GT1 World Championship - the first serious racing on the new circuit. They are big, fast cars and I think it's going to be a little bit greasy, so I shall be very interested to watch it. Then we'll get through MotoGP and get through F1 and see what people really think about it. That will be the test, but the indicators are quite good at the moment.

"I think the fact that we haven't made the mistake of getting too many tight corners involved in this means we've retained the character, the speed and the fast, flowing nature of [the circuit] and just introduced some areas where they've got to brake hard and might have different lines they can take. Hopefully we've increased the opportunity for overtaking at Silverstone - they're telling me we have, but again, until it's actually raced we won't know. Overall, though, I'm very confident that what we've got now people are going to be wowed by."



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