SILVERSTONE JAGUAR DEAL IN THE BALANCE
CRUCIAL VOTE RAISES QUESTIONS OVER GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT SALE
The Jaguar Land Rover deal to buy Silverstone hangs in the balance after members of circuit owner the British Racing Drivers’ Club narrowly voted to give the sale the go-ahead last week.
BRDC chairman John Grant announced a potential deal to members in February and a vote took place last Thursday. Motorsport News understands that 54 per cent voted in favour of the move and the board will now consider the implications of the vote.
The situation has been further complicated by a second offer to buy the home of the British Grand Prix, from Ginetta owner Lawrence Tomlinson.
Due to an exclusivity agreement with JLR, the BRDC board cannot enter into negotiations with Tomlinson until July, but the offer is thought to have created more of a split in the vote than had been expected.
Some members have also raised concerns over the sale of Silverstone to a corporation, rather than a more motorsport-related organisation.
One BRDC member at the meeting described the current situation as “very evenly balanced”.
Exact details of the JLR deal have yet to be released, but it is understood that it involves a 249-year lease of Silverstone, costing £33 million spread over several payments.
The BRDC would retain the freehold and control of Silverstone Circuits Limited.
A statement from JLR confirmed only that the company is “exploring potential options at Silverstone with the BRDC, but it is too soon to share details at this stage. All discussions remain confidential”.
Tomlinson’s offer is thought to be financially similar, but involves taking on Silverstone’s liabilities, which include the substantial hosting fee for the British Grand Prix.
Tomlinson believes the current JLR deal could jeopardise circuit racing, even though the negotiations are thought to include clauses protecting it.
“When people like John Surtees, David Richards, Ron Dennis and myself – successful businessmen – are really concerned about the deal I’m not sure it’s something the BRDC should do,” Tomlinson said. “JLR is a great company, but it wants to use it as a customer base for handing over cars. We’re about motor racing – Silverstone is a racing circuit.
“JLR is great at selling cars, but it conflicts with what we do. It would eventually result in Silverstone not operating as a race track and test venue in the way we’re used to. We’re going to be compromised because JLR wants track time and we at the BRDC shouldn’t accept a watered-down use of the track.”
Prodrive boss Richards is not against a relationship with JLR, which would boost the club’s financial situation, but believes the BRDC should retain control of Silverstone. “Ron [Dennis] and I met with [BRDC president] Derek Warwick at the Bahrain GP and talked about this, and our feeling is that JLR is an excellent partner for the BRDC,” he told Motorsport News. “It’s the right partner for the BRDC, but we don’t think selling the circuit in its entirety is the right thing to do. We are custodians of the circuit and we should retain ownership for BRDC members and future racing drivers.
“We feel there must be another way forward with this, where JLR can get what they want: enjoying the access they need from a circuit on their doorstep. But we need to find a way to retain ownership, which could be through a medium-term lease to JLR.”
The BRDC board is now considering its options. A strong ‘yes’ vote would have allowed the JLR deal to go ahead, but it is now unclear whether it has a mandate to proceed without further negotiations with JLR, or further discussion with its members.
A statement released by the BRDC on Friday said: “The Members of the BRDC yesterday voted in favour of the EGM resolution to enable their Board to continue negotiations to conclude a deal to lease the circuit property to Jaguar Land Rover while enabling the BRDC to retain ownership of Silverstone Circuits Limited and preserve Silverstone as the UK’S premier racing circuit.
“The potential deal, which will only be completed if the Board can agree terms with JLR that it believes to be in the best interests of the BRDC, would align Silverstone with two premier British brands and put the BRDC on a stronger financial footing.
“The Board will reflect on views expressed during the EGM in determining its next steps.”