Silverstone planning ahead for future rainy days
9 July 2012
It had been a gruelling, traumatic and at times emotional rollercoaster ride for the organising team at Silverstone over the last few days, and they were finally rewarded by a successful race day and an exciting Grand Prix enjoyed by 125,000 fans on Sunday.
"It's been an amazing day. It was much pretty much a capacity crowd. The atmosphere was great," said Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips.
But that doesn't paper over the problems that the venue had in the preceding days, when torrential rain forced the organisers to shut almost half of the general car parking facilities and ask up to 30,000 fans with valid tickets to stay away on Saturday, which could cost the circuit over a million pounds in lost revenue.
Phillips revealed that he had even considered quitting when the situation was at its worst this weekend. "On Friday night I was pretty emotional and I take it personally, I take it seriously,", he said. "I did think 'should I be in charge? Is it sustainable?' But I have always wanted to see it through.
"I love this place, there is a long way to go with it, we have come a long way but it's a great circuit and I am lucky to have the job I have got, I would love to be here next year," he added.
Phillips said after the race that an investigation into what could be done to ensure there was no repeat of the weekend's chaos would start immediately, with the track looking at securing new investment to finance improvements.
"The interest is there," he said. "These are very expensive places to run and having someone come in with some extra cash would be fantastic. It would enable us to do better things," he said, pointing out that, at the moment: "We are a private grand prix, a private circuit and we have to do a lot out of our own pocket."
One deal reported in the media involves the owners - the British Racing Drivers' Club - working with PricewaterhouseCoopers to lease the 760-acre estate for a 150-year period, which could be used to bring in up to £250 million in development funding.
Phillips said that the priorities for any further investment ahead of 2013 will be focussed on sorting out the campsites, ensuring that the car parks hold up under heavy use, and making more use of the park and ride scheme that proved particularly successful this week.
He was confident that the highly publicised problems wouldn't cause fans to turn their back on the British Grand Prix in the future.
"Even on Friday we sold £40,000 of tickets for next year," he revealed.
At least Silverstone dodged criticism from Bernie Ecclestone, usually one of the venue's quickest detractors but who this weekend spoke out firmly in support of all the efforts that had been made to cope with the situation, as well as the investment over the last few years in improving road access, a new track layout and a brand new pits and paddock complex.
"Honestly I don't think anyone expected the amount of rain we had," Ecclestone said. "You might as well say why didn't the councils in all these different places throughout England do something?
"I looked on the TV and saw the places flooded, the houses flooded, shops flooded, people abandoning cars. I didn't expect to see that either."