The British Grand Prix is to move, if everything goes to plan. At a press conference held today, Dorna and the management of the Circuit of Wales announced that a deal had been reached that will see the track, to be built in Ebbw Vale in South Wales, will host the race for the next five seasons, with an option to extend the contract for another five years after that, until 2024.
The only problem is that the Circuit of Wales does not exist yet. The track is part of a £ 315 million project aimed at regenerating the Blaenau Gwent region, a once-prosperous region that has lost most of its employment since the coal and steel industries closed. The Heads of the Valleys Development Company have set up a scheme to create a major motorsports industry hub centered around an FIM and FIA homologated race track, capable of hosting world championship racing.
So far, however, the ambitious project has run into a series of delays. First, it faced problems over the purchase of common land needed to complete the project. More importantly, there are still major financial question marks hanging over the project. Michael Carrick, chief executive of the HVDC, has said that less than 10% of the project funds will come from public sources. So far, however, the HDVC has been cagey about investment from private sources, telling reporters only that talks with potential investors are ongoing.
These delays mean that the circuit will not be ready to host the race in 2015, with some concerns that it could be 2017 before the first race can be held on the circuit. In the meantime, the Circuit of Wales will have to strike a deal with either Donington or Silverstone to host the race next year. A decision on where that race is to be held will be made within the next month, Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta told reporters.
Silverstone put out a press release saying that the Northamptonshire circuit was sorry to lose the British round of MotoGP, but said it had no choice given the sanctioning fee being asked by Dorna. That, the statement said, was at an 'unsustainable' level, and that Silverstone were keen to continue hosting the race if agreement could have been reached over a lower fee.
There is also disagreement between Silverstone and the Circuit of Wales over the use of public funds to build the Ebbw Vale track. The Circuit of Wales is looking for substantial public investment, promising returns for the region in terms of tourism, employment and tax income. The experience of other circuits around the world confirms their projections: the Circuit of the Americas has calculated that the MotoGP race there generates around $50 million for the Austin region. The Brno race generates around 1 billion Czech crowns for the Moravian area. And the Aragon regional government claims returns of between 50 and 60 million euros from MotoGP at the Motorland Aragon circuit.
For further reading on the subject, see the list of links after the press releases. Above that are the press releases put out by Dorna and Silverstone on the announcement.
Dorna Sports and Circuit of Wales sign historic MotoGP™ agreement
The Circuit of Wales is set to host the British round of the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship until 2024 after agreeing a five-year contract with the option for further five year extension with the Championship’s commercial rights holders, Dorna Sports S.L. The collaboration will begin in 2015 with next year’s Grand Prix which could be staged at an alternative British venue.
The agreement will bring the British Motorcycle Grand Prix to the innovative new Circuit of Wales near Ebbw Vale. The development is a flagship for the regeneration of the Blaenau Gwent area in a project that includes a focus on youth employment, education, academy structures and an investment in motorsport, one of the UK’s key industrial sectors.
“Our agreement with Dorna is a significant landmark in the development of the Circuit of Wales,” said Michael Carrick, Chief Executive of the Circuit of Wales. “MotoGP is the pinnacle of global motorcycle racing and expectations within the series and of its millions of fans worldwide are for a truly world class event at iconic and state-of-the art venues. We look forward to meeting those expectations when we welcome MotoGP to Wales from 2016 and we are now working closely with Dorna and the FIM, MotoGP’s governing body, with regard to the 2015 British round of the MotoGP World Championship.”
Carmelo Ezpeleta, the Chief Executive Officer of Dorna Sport S.L., commented: “We are excited to be working closely with the Circuit of Wales after being involved with the project for more than four years. The commitment to MotoGP is obviously a catalyst to a wide range of exciting projects aimed at contributing to the regeneration of the area, while we work together with MotoGP governing body the FIM in relation to the full homologation of the circuit.”
Ezpeleta continued: “The commitment to youth, to employment opportunities for the area, to its academy plans – linked to our own FIM CEV Repsol series – and the general investment in motorsport infrastructure will ensure very exciting times are ahead for Blaenau Gwent and the surrounding areas.”
The Circuit of Wales is a £280 million project to develop a purpose-built hub for the multi-billion pound British motorsport industry around a state-of-the art track, Britain’s first purpose-built motorcycle Grand Prix circuit, with unrivalled facilities for visiting fans. Sitting on the fringe of the picturesque Brecon Beacons, the Circuit of Wales will be a major catalyst for business, leisure and tourism as it spearheads the regeneration of the Blaenau Gwent region.
The first phase of the multi-purpose development will be the construction of an international specification motor racing circuit and world championship facilities, hotel, commercial and retail complexes. The facility is designed to host international motorsport events and will be a centre for motorsport-related industries.
Plans include a 3.5-mile track that takes advantage of the natural flow of the unique topography of the area, an indoor academy training facility, motocross, trials and enduro venues, an international kart circuit and driver training facilities as well as a variety of leisure and cultural amenities.
The automotive park will be one of the world’s leading sustainable developments, targeting the growth of low-carbon industries and events. It will be a hub for research and development companies that are seeking to push the boundaries in environmental technology and energy solutions. The park will showcase the latest technologies that capture and generate energy for the facility.
The race academy and training facility to develop future Welsh and UK talent will work in unison with the motor racing circuit and with Dorna. Commercial, industrial and leisure developments will be at the heart of the project, providing opportunities for the growth of advanced engineering, technology, education and sustainable transport-related businesses.
Councillor Hedley McCarthy, the Leader of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, commented: “On behalf of the community in Blaenau Gwent, we are absolutely delighted that Dorna is bringing the British Motorcycle Grand Prix to the Circuit of Wales. The MotoGP series is an amazing championship that has provided a stimulant and confidence for the growth of infrastructure in a number of similar areas to ours around the world in recent years. We look forward to welcoming the teams, riders, officials, media and fans to Blaenau Gwent.”
Silverstone disappointed not to extend MotoGP contract
Having invested heavily in its circuit and facilities, specifically to host the FIM MotoGP™ World Championship alongside Formula 1®, and developed the British round of the series into a highly successful event, Silverstone is disappointed not to be extending its MotoGP™ contract with Dorna.
Richard Phillips, Managing Director of Silverstone Circuits Limited, said: “We have expressed our desire to keep MotoGP™ at Silverstone, but the event is not sustainable at the fee level Dorna was proposing. Any future deal had to make economic sense and sadly we reached an impasse. The Circuit of Wales obviously believes it can make the finances work.”
Looking at the immediate future for the British Grand Prix, Phillips added, “Should the Circuit of Wales project be successful, it is unlikely that it will be ready before 2017. A venue for 2015 needs to be agreed as soon as possible to avoid having a negative impact on the success of next year’s British Grand Prix. Silverstone remains the ideal venue to stage MotoGP™; last year’s record crowds are testament to the excellent British Grand Prix experience provided by Silverstone.”