Although the British government continues to refuse financial backing for Silverstone's attempts to redevelop itself as a top-notch Formula One venue and secure its place on the grand prix calendar, it is not short of offering support in other ways.

During a visit to the Northamptonshire venue, the latest minister of sport, Gerry Sutcliffe, met British Racing Drivers' Club president Damon Hill to catch up on plans to revamp the venue as part of a presentation also attended by selected heads of local county and district councils, as well as planners, higher education authorities and
regional development agencies. Richard Phillips, MD of Silverstone Circuits Limited, and development director Spencer Canning presented on behalf of the BRDC.

"We all want to see the British Grand Prix remain here at Silverstone, and I congratulate the BRDC on the work they have already done to make that happen," Sutcliffe commented, "We have a real opportunity to make Silverstone a world-class sporting venue, providing future opportunities for education, skilled jobs and tourism. I offer my full support to the Master Plan and will work with my colleagues to help with its delivery."

Hill opened the proceedings by explaining the importance of the BRDC's 'Master Plan', not only to the future of British Grand Prix, but also the development of motorsport in the UK in general.

"Next year will be the 60th year of motor racing at Silverstone [and], in all that time, the BRDC has nurtured Silverstone and maintained it as the world's leading motor sport and grand prix venue," the 1996 F1 world champion said, "It remains, with only a handful of other circuits such as Monza, Spa and Monaco, one of the rare originals on the grand prix calendar. Together with a highly professional commercial team on Silverstone Holdings Limited, we are determined to continue that tradition.

"The stimulating effect of Silverstone on the motorsport, entertainment and manufacturing industries can not be underestimated. The effect of the British Grand Prix on inspiring the next generation of driving talent should not need emphasising. The Mosses, Stewarts, Mansells and Hamiltons of the future need a home grand prix to maximise that continued inspiration. Having won the British Grand Prix myself, I know how special it is for a driver to win their home grand prix. I fervently wish future British drivers will have the chance to experience that for themselves."

Formulated by the Canning and a property advisory committee formed from BRDC members, the Silverstone Master Plan has received the overwhelming approval of the club's members and was recently submitted for public consultation by the planning authorities at South Northamptonshire Council and Aylesbury Vale District Council, who govern the land on which Silverstone Circuit is based.

It is estimated that the proposal will allow up to six million square feet of new development over the next ten years. It incorporates a range of mixed uses, which include concepts for a business park, a manufacturer test centre, an extreme sport and leisure complex, two hotels with trackside suites, a university campus, a small amount
of residential development and a welcome centre' that will incorporate a museum, and arena for a range exhibitions, corporate launches and open air events.

The plans also include major upgrades to Silverstone's pit and paddock facilities, as well as new grandstands, which have been made part of the conditions that must be
met if a new British Grand Prix contract is to be signed.

"Governments around the world are recognising the importance of motorsport in their economic mix," Phillips pointed out, "Many have invested heavily in grand prix racing and many more have aspirations in that direction. I know from personal experience that these new circuits are being used as catalysts to attract high-tech businesses and, make no mistake about it, they are looking in our direction. The threat is very real and the loss of the British Grand Prix would be the tip of a slowly melting iceberg."

In addition to developing and improving circuit facilities, the plans will enable Silverstone to realise its ambition of becoming more than a grand prix circuit, and retain its position at the heart of Britain's so-called 'motorsport valley'. The long term objective is to expand its function and relevance to motorsport, leading technologies, education and training and, finally, to ensure that the UK continues to be the global leader in these specialist areas.

"The club's plans go far beyond the immediate requirements for retaining the British Grand Prix and would bring Silverstone into the 21st century," Canning concluded, "These ideas will not just bring Silverstone up to scratch, but create a unique community to ensure the global dominance for British motorsport at Silverstone."



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