British Grand Prix race organisers are having to appeal to spectators due to come to Silverstone for qualifying on Saturday not to travel to the circuit after all, and to stay away because of the heavy rain.

Those fans who hold public car park passes are being warned that there might be no where for them to park if they do try and travel to the circuit today.

"Silverstone are strongly advising fans with public car park passes for today not to come to Silverstone," an official statement said. "Unless spectators have pre-booked park and ride, a hospitality ticket that includes parking in the centre of the circuit, or are in local campsites and able to walk to the circuit, Silverstone strongly advises you do not attend the qualifying day.

"Silverstone has had to take this action due to the fact that 50% of the public car parks have been lost due to the severe weather conditions over the last weeks and, in particularly, the last 36 hours," the statement added. "Silverstone is doing everything possible to protect and preserve as many of the car parks ahead of tomorrow."

The organisers have confirmed that they will refund any unused Friday or Saturday tickets, which will likely cost the circuit a figure somewhere over a million pounds, as between 20,000 and 30,000 fans are thought to be affected by the advice to stay away.

"It's going to cost us a lot of money," said Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips. "I honestly don't know the figure, but it could be a lot more than hundreds of thousands."

Already on a drenched Friday - attended by a record estimated 80,000 fans despite the downpour limiting on-track action - the area around the Grand Prix circuit was quickly being churned up into a mudbath.

In order to cope with the massive crowds on Friday, Silverstone opened up some of the grass fields normally reserved for race day parking, but fear that to do so again on Saturday will mean that they are in no condition to be used on Sunday, affecting the race itself.

"Right now we're trying to get ourselves into a situation to get in as many people as we can from a position of devastation," explained Phillips of the decision to ask fans to stay away from qualifying. "I unreservedly apologise to people. I feel very responsible for it, this is something I've been very proud of over the years and I almost could cry now."

Even those fans already in the circuit's camping ground face an uncertain 24 hours, as Silverstone Radio said that some of the grounds would have to be evacuated because of the waterlogged fans, leaving them with no where to stay.

Silverstone has been lambasted in the press overnight because of the problems with the parking, as well as huge traffic tailbacks on Friday that jammed the area around the Northamptonshire circuit. Some of the drivers for the support races were forced to abandon their cars and jog into the circuit from two miles away in order to make the start of their events because of the excessive hold-ups.

Even Bernie Ecclestone was advised to stay away yesterday, unable to make the 14-mile commute from his hotel in Northampton due to the travel snarl-up.

The last time that Silverstone faced this magnitude of chaos was in 2000, and the circuit had investor millions in a comprehensive revamp to ensure there was no revamp of that PR disaster in order to win a new 14-year contract to host the British GP.



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