Motor racing-Silverstone sees profitable future and growth

SILVERSTONE, England, March 9 Wed Mar 9, 2011 9:37pm GMT

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SILVERSTONE, England, March 9 (Reuters) - While other European Formula One circuits are feeling the pinch, the home of the British Grand Prix is bucking the trend and gearing up for growth.

Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips told Reuters on Wednesday that the former World War Two airfield, owned by the British Racing Drivers' Club, made a profit of more than 2 million pounds ($3.24 million) in 2010.

"Turnover in 2010 was around the 47-48 million pounds mark. This year we are targeting just over 52," he added after a tour of the new 27-million-pound pit and paddock complex under construction.

"It's a good healthy increase. We've been growing really about 14 percent a year over the last four years. If you go back to 2007, we were around mid-30 millions in turnover.

"I think we are probably the only privately-funded grand prix circuit that does make a profit in the world but the UK is quite peculiar because there is a huge motorsport following, there's a lot of industry here," said Phillips.

"We seem to be doing better than the Germans and French and Italians."

France has lost its grand prix and the Belgian round at Spa-Francorchamps has been financially troubled while the Nuerburgring and Hockenheim now share the German Grand Prix in alternate years.

Phillips said the two-year programme of track improvements and building the 'Silverstone Wing' would cost around 40 million pounds with the project coming in at three percent more than originally budgeted.

OUTSIDE INVESTMENT

The Wing is due to be opened on May 17, with the first race a round of the FIA GT championship in June. The Formula One race is on July 10.

The next stage is to secure outside investment to build hotels and grandstands.

"The way we are approaching it at the moment is looking at a bigger picture. We'd really like to get the dream come true, get the 2,500 jobs on the site and make this the motorsport destination that it should be on a global scale," said Phillips.

"To do that you really need to get some other investment in, so that's what we are looking for."

Previous plans involved selling off some of the 800 acres for housing to pay for improvements but Phillips said that was now a last resort.

"We are trying to avoid anything to do with housing," he said. "We've been growing the business quite successfully. This is the fourth year of successive growth and profit and we are looking forward to another good year this year."

"We are looking now to take the million visitors we get a year, who mainly come to our events and track days, to 1.5 million in the next three years.

"That means we've got to build the visitor centres, the heritage attractions and up our game completely in that regard," he added.

(Editing by Clare Fallon; To query or comment on this story emailsportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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