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 Crash.net 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 débâcle
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.”