Simon Gillett has again responded to critics who are still refusing to treat seriously Donington Park's preparations to host the British Grand Prix from next year - telling them that 'it's time they stop knocking and start believing'.

The Leicestershire circuit was awarded the rights to hold the blue riband event on the British motorsport calendar by Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Bernie Ecclestone last July, in a ten-year deal beginning in 2010. The move will see the race depart from its traditional home of Silverstone, which has welcomed F1 on no fewer than 42 occasions since the official inception of the world championship back in 1950.

There has been, however, persistent doubt and cynicism over the venue's ability to welcome the top flight, having only done so once before, when it hosted the rain-lashed 1993 European Grand Prix, so famously dominated by the late, great three-time world champion Ayrton Senna.

Detractors have pointed to the track's inadequate infrastructure and poor access, and the limited timeframe in which to undertake a ?100 million revamp to bring it up to F1 standard, with further question marks over contracts and just where all the money is coming from, following a number of setbacks for Gillett's Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd (DVLL) company since the change of venue was announced eight months ago.

What's more, yesterday F1 ringmaster Ecclestone suggested that even if all of the required work is completed by the agreed summer 2010 deadline, there is still no guarantee that Donington will be a feature on the calendar next season [see separate story - click here]. Gillett, though, insists he is 'between 101 and 102 per cent confident' that the race will go ahead, and argues that what he refers to as 'the British motor racing establishment' had better get used to the idea.

"They said I'd never buy the circuit - and I did," he underlined in an interview with The Sun. "They said I'd never get Bernie Ecclestone to do a deal for the grand prix - and I did. They said I'd never get planning permission - and I did.

"The more they say these things, the better we seem to be doing - so it's actually quite a motivational driver. It's time they stop knocking and start believing, because I'm going to keep on building this project. Things like pit complexes will keep coming out of the ground. At what point will they actually realise we are going to do it?

"I think they'll follow the fans, who know Donington is the only chance Britain has of retaining a grand prix - Bernie has stated that quite openly - but I'm not going to court them. I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and they can come on-board as and when."

The significant redevelopment process began earlier this year, and amongst the improvements at are a new pit-lane and paddock complex along the Starkey Straight - which will become the new start-finish line - the displacement of the famous Dunlop Bridge, a new infield section which will join the present layout at the final corner, Goddards, enhanced media facilities and better access for fans.

On that last note, Gillett has made clear his desire for the race to be the first-ever public transport-only grand prix, transforming the circuit's car parks into camp sites for the three-day event in what will be 'a big, fundamental change' and enabling access only by train, plane or bus rather than automobile. This is in an effort to cut down on the traffic congestion that has frequently blighted the process of getting to and away from the venue in the past on its surrounding network of narrow, rural roads.

"You can't let 90,000 people turn up in their vehicles without expecting absolute gridlock," the Englishman stressed. "Motorsport venues have been a bit slow to catch on.

"We will be using the public transport infrastructure. We have a new railway station, East Midlands Parkway, just opened next door. Derby, Nottingham and Leicester stations are all nearby. We have East Midlands Airport down the road. We'll be using trains, buses and planes to bring people in.

"What we'll have is one big festival and party over the grand prix weekend. We'll encourage people to get here on Thursday or Friday night for the whole weekend and leave late on Sunday.

"There are two big benefits - a great atmosphere if we have 30,000 campers on site, and there will be 30,000 people out of the traffic equation. The campers will be able to climb out of their tents or motorhomes and wander across to the grandstands to watch the racing, then go back at night to enjoy the entertainment we'll lay on for them."

The issue of funding is another one on which Gillett is evidently keen to set the record straight, and he is shortly due to unveil a debenture scheme 'like those at Wembley and Twickenham' that he hopes will eventually see the track 'working 365 days a year'.

"To be honest it's not a new idea," he explained. "We're just copying a long line of 30 or 40 people who have done this over the last five or ten years for major sporting events, like Wimbledon or Ascot. It's a model that works very well.

"We are basically turning to the fans and saying, 'we'll do a deal with you'. We'll guarantee you some amazing events for the next ten years - F1, Superbikes and so on - and you will guarantee back to us a level of membership commitment for those ten years.

"The trade-off is that we can borrow against those earnings, and that's what will fund us through to 'Phase Two', which will be a hotel, retailing and wider leisure aspects. We want to get Donington working 365 days a year and not just three."

Gillett has competed in various forms of motorsport since the age of five, and he attributed his resilience and determination to prove his doubters wrong to his heritage, with an American grandmother and having himself spent a considerable period of time in business across the Pond.

"Americans are naturally more disposed to supporting business," he reasoned. "They go out and they try - and if it doesn't happen they pick themselves up and have another go.

"Brits are terminally scared of failure and change - and that's what I'm facing at the moment. Knocking is a natural part of our psyche, unfortunately.

''To be sat here with the prospect in 15 months' time of welcoming Formula 1 on to the grid and waving them off is absolutely amazing. It's a boyhood dream gone crazy."



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