Circuit of Wales construction set to start this summer!
The soap opera that has kept motorcycle racing fans entertained for the last two years, known as the Circuit of Wales, is set for its own cliff hanger episode as construction is set to begin “4-5 months from now” according to Project Director, Chris Herring.
Ex-Honda Racing Corporation PR man Herring was supported by MotoGP commentator Keith Huewen, Riders for Health CEO Andrea Coleman, Moto2 rider Sam Lowes and 13-year old Red Bull Rookies star Rory Skinner who were on hand at a press event in London outlining the latest developments and underlining what happened with the Donington Park deal.
Next Tuesday, 10th March, sees the beginning of a Public Inquiry relating to the de-registration of 600-acres of common land on the proposed site in Blaenau Gwent, Wales.
Speaking to Bike Social, Herring said: “My understanding is that it (the Public Inquiry) will take up to 8 days and then there’s a report to be written and sent with an opinion to the relevant Minister in the Welsh Government.”
He continued: “It could take 4-6 weeks to write the report then once we’ve been through the legal process to get to Financial Close, contracts signed and so on, that could be another couple of months so that means it should be about 4 to 5 months from now to actually start work.”
In August 2014, the Circuit of Wales were awarded a 10-year contract from DORNA, beginning in 2015, to host the British round of the MotoGP Championship. It was clear there’d be no Circuit of Wales so the race was sub-let to Donington Park but five months further down the line and the two companies failed to settle on certain terms in the contract. The race has now been awarded to Silverstone play host for 2015 and 2016.
The aim now is to actually host the British MotoGP in August or September 2017. According to Herring, Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta said: “The moment the work starts everybody will believe in the project.”
A major feature of the project will be a GP Academy, designed to replicate what MotoGP organiser, DORNA, have achieved in Spain; to give young British talent an opportunity to get on the ladder towards the Grand Prix paddock. The proposed academy will comprise of a fully supported base in Spain for the British riders to race in the ultra-competitive CEV Championship which is seen as the best route into the MotoGP paddock. It’s boosted the careers of Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Scott Redding among many.
Slightly tongue-in-cheek, Herring said: “If it wasn’t for the public inquiry we’d have the budget now to get the Spanish side of the academy underway, to have a base there but the money is just being spent on legal fees!”
“The Dorna guys are ready to support us. Poor old Oscar Gallardo, who runs the Spanish Championship, has been waiting for us for two years to start the academy structure to offer young British riders the opportunity to eventually race in the GP paddock.” He continued.
Back at Silverstone
It was officially announced only last month that the agreement with Donington Park had fallen through and Silverstone was to be the host of the British round of MotoGP for this season and next. Each party have said their piece but now the dust has settled, Herring offered his retrospective view:
“If we could have arranged an agreement with Donington, we would. It just got down to the nitty-gritty on certain areas of the contract, not necessarily money but they had a deadline to commit to resurfacing works and we couldn’t agree by that deadline.”
“With Silverstone, in the first instance back in August last year, the terms they were looking to get from us weren’t acceptable and that’s why we initially went with Donington. However, the change of management at Silverstone has been quite refreshing and the guys are big on two wheels so pulling everything together with them is fairly straight forward. It was apparent that Patrick Allen (Silverstone’s new Managing Director) was a real big motorcycle man with great enthusiasm. We spoke a lot with Javier Alonso from DORNA about how do we play it, what do we do and what’s best for the event and it all rolled out from there.”
Was the British Grand Prix ever in jeopardy?
Only two circuits exist in Britain which have the relevant licence and infrastructure to be able to host a round of MotoGP; Donington Park and Silverstone. Both made proposals to host the Grand Prix. However, when a contract failed to materialise, were Silverstone ready and waiting or could the British Grand Prix have existed in another country?
Herring explains: “You can look back to May/June last year after we signed the DORNA agreement and they were absolutely adamant that we wouldn’t be placed in a corner. They understand the 10 year picture and the plan in terms of nurturing youth talent. So it’s a much bigger picture form them. So having a British GP or not having one, if you can imagine it from a Spanish perspective, does it really matter?”
“But because it’s British and the sentiments of Carmelo Ezpeleta and DORNA about motorsport starting in Britain, I think he would always want a British Grand Prix. But if it meant not having one, or having one in another country even, everything had to be explored but they weren’t going to allow us to be placed in a difficult position and be forced to be compromised. I don’t think it was ever in doubt, I think there was always going to be a race but it was unfortunate how things unfolded and how we ran out of time with Donington.” He said.
Can Donington blame potholes?
It was revealed that one of the issues with the Donington Park contract was down to the time pressures of resurfacing. These were exacerbated when the Government announced in December they would commit £1billion per year to fixing potholes.
This, according to Herring, “got all the surfacing companies rubbing their hands together which put extra pressure on us and increased the deadline worries for Donington who were extremely consciences about what they were doing for the MotoGP event."
The naysayers may continue to say nay but the Circuit of Wales project leaders remain calm about the timelines; the team are in it for the long run and are as frustrated with the hurdles placed in their way as everyone else. They are also very aware that just because construction will start soon, there are bound to be more hurdles to clear. The silver lining is the knowledge that the development will regenerate a huge area of almost poverty-stricken South Wales as well as provide a state-of-the-art facility to nurture future generations of racers, race fans, businesses and infrastructure associated with automotive, engineering, hospitality and retail industries.
The circuit itself looks super smart at 3.5 miles with 49 metres of undulation and if the academy provides British GP stars of the future then consider Bike Social as supporters.
What's you view on the Circuit of Wales project?