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.
This article was originally published on MotoMatters, and is republished here on Asphalt & Rubber with permission by the author.