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EXCLUSIVE Silverstone's 'big changes' for MotoGP

28 July 2009

The British round of the MotoGP World Championship will take place at Silverstone for the first time since 1986 next season, on a revised track layout 'very different to the bike circuit of even twelve months ago'.

Silverstone became the first mainland venue for the British Motorcycle Grand Prix when it replaced the Isle of Man TT circuit in 1977. The event then moved to Donington Park for 1987, where it has remained since.

But F1's shock switch from Silverstone to Donington for 2010 triggered a countermove in the opposite direction for MotoGP. There is real doubt over whether Donington will be ready for next year's F1 round, but Silverstone's MotoGP return is set in stone.

“It's a new era for us, getting MotoGP back at Silverstone. It's been a long time,” circuit manager director Richard Phillips told Crash.net. “We've got a good bike heritage here, but now we're making the investment for the next 20 years of bike racing. It's a very exciting time for us and a very good time for MotoGP.

“We're spending a lot of money for 2010, from a safety perspective and to improve the crowd facilities but also on the track itself.

“There are new parts of track going in especially for MotoGP. We're not trying to alter the heritage of Silverstone, it's always been a fast and flowing circuit and we wanted to retain that, but it's going to be very different to what we've had here in the past.

“The work starts in November. We've already got the money in the bank ready to go. The planning is going through at the moment, so hopefully we'll have in place by September. We'll then start work in November and there is a programme that goes through to around April time. Hopefully we'll be finished slightly before that,” he added.

In recent years, it has been rival circuits Donington Park and Brands Hatch which have held the UK's world championship bike racing events - MotoGP and WSBK.

Both Donington Park and Brands Hatch have natural amphitheatre layouts, allowing fans to see large parts of the circuit from one place. As an airfield circuit, Silverstone's biggest criticism in the past has been that fans are too remote from the action.

“We're working hard on that,” said Phillips. “A lot of the changes that we are making now, like the reconfiguration of the track, will give more opportunity for fans to get closer to the track, like at Becketts [the high-speed curves at the start of the lap] and the new corners that are going in.

“We are also moving a lot of debris fencing in as well and moving grandstands around to better locations than in the past. We'll get people much closer to the action than they have been previously.

“It's going to be very different to the bike circuit we had even twelve months ago,” he insisted.

But what can the riders expect?

Silverstone's present fast and flowing nature (the full grand prix circuit, not the shorter international circuit used for BSB and the 2005-2007 WSBK events) is an excellent starting point for a MotoGP circuit and its only downside is the lack of elevation changes, something it can do little about.

But Assen and Monza, which traditionally provide great two-wheeled racing, are also flat and British 125GP winner Bradley Smith (who has driven the new Silverstone layout in a simulator) believes it will offer an exciting - and unique - challenge.

“The track layout and all the plans look great,” Smith told Crash.net. “It doesn't compare to any of the circuits already on the grand prix calendar. Some corners are very similar, but the actually layout is going to completely different. It's going to be fast and sweeping and there is going to be some close racing.

“I think down Hangar Straight into Stowe is going to be one of the fastest and most exciting corners. The new complex also looks good. I like their idea of going right [onto the new section], building in some undulations and having some blind crests. That's something technical for riders and something everyone is looking forward to.

“Donington is a fantastic GP from a rider's perspective and the amphitheatre effect for the fans, but the guys here at Silverstone are taking note. They are planning on building banks and things like that to get the fans above, to see more of what is going on, and trying to get them as close to the racing as possible. Plus you'll have all the big TV screens.

“It's going to be different to Donington,” Smith reflected. “Obviously a lot of riders like the natural layout at Donington. The hills are what make Donington special and Craner Curves is a fantastic piece of track.

“I think Silverstone, with the new plans, are not trying to be Donington, they are trying to be something completely different - and completely different to anything that is on the calendar at the moment.

“That's great for individuality and great for British motorcycle racing.”

Silverstone attracted 120,000 fans on raceday for the 2009 British F1 Grand Prix, but Phillips admits it'll take time to build MotoGP to such levels.

“I think for our first year if we could get topside of 70,000 fans I'd be quite pleased with that,” he said. “Hopefully we'll build a crowd much bigger than that in the future.

“Hopefully a lot of people will come and see what it's all about at Silverstone in the first year. It's not just about the entertainment on the track, although that is fantastic, we do add other dimensions as well. And it's a comfortable place, easy access and so on.

“So I'd say to people, 'if you want to come, come! We'll be pleased to see you'.”

The provisional date for the 2010 British MotoGP at Silverstone, round six of 18, is June 6. As of Tuesday morning, more than £50,000 worth of tickets have already been sold.


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