Donington Park is on standby to step-in once again and host the 2016 British MotoGP, the second successive year of a five-year contract originally awarded to the as yet unbuilt Circuit of Wales.
On-going delays specifically relating to deregistering the common land on which the circuit is to be built have meant construction work on the Ebbw-Vale based circuit has yet to begin and when questioned about the 2016 completion objective a spokesperson for the project confirmed to Bike Social, “If conditional factors do not allow us to achieve this objective, we will have a contingency plan in place to host the event at a different location.”
The spokesperson explained, “The Circuit of Wales is working with the Planning Inspectorate in deregistering the common land at Rassau, Blaenau Gwent. As part of the due process with the Inspectorate, a public inquiry will be held in March this year. The process around the s16 submission is a lengthy one and we will continue to work with the Planning Inspectorate until a decision has been reached.”
They continued, “The Circuit of Wales is on schedule to commence work on site in 2015 following the outcome of the s16 submission. We have every intention to have Phase One site-wide and circuit infrastructure ready for an event in 2016.”
Last September an official announcement was made confirming Donington Park would host the British round of MotoGP in 2015, effectively sub-letting the event from the Circuit of Wales, who in turn were awarded with a five-year contract running from 2015-2019 with a further five-year option.
In November 2013, we were told that work was due to commence on the £280m project in February 2014 with homologation and testing by June 2015 followed by a British MotoGP round a couple of months later. However, once the contract was confirmed in August 2014, the project’s leaders told Bike Social construction was due to begin in December 2014 with the first phase being ready by July 2016. This also now looks unlikely given that the deregistering process is ongoing.
Two of the most recent race circuit developments similar to the Circuit of Wales have taken longer than the time-scales to which the project leaders are working to; The Circuit of the Americas in Texas took 17 months to build from ‘breaking the ground’ to the official opening while the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi took 29 months.
Peter Thomas from the company behind the design, build, finance and operation of the circuit told Bike Social “We’ll need to go through the homologation process and be ready at least three months prior to MotoGP.” According to our maths that would mean an operational circuit would need to be ready by mid-June at the very latest and that means a very tight schedule even if construction began in the next couple of months.
Mr. Thomas’s colleague, former Honda Racing Director, Chris Herring, remained unflustered. He explained to us: “The project doesn’t just focus on one race in Britain per year on a 3.5 mile stretch of tarmac, it’s about the future of the circuit, the academy, education, the youth and everything else. We won’t cut any corners because we’re not just looking at one race, we have to think about the next 10-15 years.”
Equally, when questioned in August 2014, MotoGP boss, Carmelo Ezpeleta, was unconcerned that despite the agreement being made and publicised the circuit remained unbuilt. He said, “We have been in this situation many times since 1992, sometimes the circuits get finished and sometimes they don’t. The majority of circuits are finished on time or one year later and if that is the case, as this will be for 2015, we arrange alternative arrangements and then look to 2016.”
On paper the Circuit of Wales looks like a stunning venue with many benefits to our industry, not just racing. The traffic infrastructure, opportunities for developing the surrounding area, educational facilities, hospitality, spectator areas and of course the track layout itself are as first class as you’d expect from such a modern and dazzling-looking project. However, the same question from 12 months ago still remains unanswered; when will a spade meet the Welsh countryside?
Are you pleased with MotoGP returning to Donington Park, possibly for this season and next?