Wednesday April 18th, 2001
British Grand Prix organiser Octagon Motorsports has dismissed reports that next year's race at Silverstone could be in doubt.
Octagon reacted following a British government decision to call in the Competitions Commission to investigate its deal with the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC).
Octagon owns the rights to promote the race for 15 years from 2002 and reached an agreement with the BRDC in December to lease the operational activities for the circuit until 2017.
But Octagon, through the British Motorsports Promoters (BMP), also own nine British circuits, and the British government's Trade Secretary Stephen Byers was on Wednesday reported to be concerned that the deal was unfair to other circuits.
It was reported that next year's British Grand Prix could be in doubt if the commission reaches negative conclusions about the deal. But Octagon believes the investigation does not involve the race and is instead centred on the BMP.
"As a result of discussions with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), Octagon believes that the focus of their investigation relates to BMP rather than the British Grand Prix," said an Octagon statement. "During those discussions, the OFT requested certain information about the organisation and management of BMP which Octagon supplied and we felt that we had answered all their queries regarding this matter."
The government decision surprised BRDC president Jackie Stewart. "We are surprised by the referral," said the former world champion, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the future of the British Grand Prix. "It is a complication that, we believe, needs to be dealt with promptly to remove any doubt about this country's commitment to a sport and industry that together represent one of our greatest achievements."
"The British Racing Drivers' Club entered the agreement with Octagon in December 2000 as the only way in which the British Grand Prix could be secured for the foreseeable future.
"We took that decision in the interests of the whole of our sport, with an investment of $60 million to raise Silverstone to the highest standards. The agreement has been broadly welcomed by the sport, the motor industry, and the Government at all levels."
The Competitions Commission is expected to complete its investigation by August 6th.