Motor Sport News - - Front Page - By Kevin Turner

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”.

The de­bate

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.”

What next?

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.”

Lawrence Tomlinson

BRDC is in talks with JLR

Jaguar has rich Sil­ver­stone heritage, set­ting the pace in 1950s tin-tops The XJS was suc­cess­ful later too, here at the 1982 Tourist Tro­phy

Pho­tos: LAT

Mem­bers of Sil­ver­stone’s owner, the BRDC, have voted on the leas­ing pro­pos­als

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