Silverstone seeks investor help for rainy days

SILVERSTONE, England Mon Jul 9, 2012 9:02am BST

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SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - The torrential rain that forced organisers to turn away spectators from the British Grand Prix this weekend has lent extra urgency to efforts to find an investor to help fund the Formula One circuit.

In the end, the sun shone on race day and organisers were able to accommodate an estimated crowd of 125,000 and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

"It's been an amazing day. It was much pretty much a capacity crowd. The atmosphere was great," circuit managing director Richard Phillips told reporters.

Thousands of fans and corporate guests trying to get to the circuit in central England on Friday were trapped for hours in traffic jams after downpours meant campsites had to be evacuated. As a consequence, some fans were asked to stay away on Saturday to allow car parks to dry out.

Phillips said lessons had to be learned and that an injection of cash for the circuit, owned by the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), would help.

"We are a private grand prix, a private circuit and we have to do a lot out of our own pocket," he said.

Finding a partner was very important, Phillips said, but he cautioned that it had to be the right people to help develop the circuit.

Silverstone said in May it had reopened talks with potential investors after an exclusivity agreement with an unidentified partner, believed to be a Qatar-based group, ended without a deal.

PricewaterhouseCoopers are assisting and advising Silverstone in the search for partners for the BRDC, a private members' club that has hosted the grand prix since the very first championship in 1950.

The owners want to lease their 760-acre estate in central England for 150 years, in a deal that could be worth up to 250 million pounds ($388 million), to secure funding for development.

Phillips said he had not calculated how much Silverstone would have to pay to reimburse an estimated 10,000 fans who took his advice and stayed away from qualifying on Saturday despite having tickets.

He said Silverstone had sold 40,000 pounds worth of tickets for next year on Friday alone - the day when traffic chaos was at its height.

The British fans who came on Sunday had little to cheer, with McLaren's former world champions Lewis Hamilton finishing eighth and Jenson Button 10th. Fellow Briton Paul Di Resta had to retire early in the race.

However, the fans' stoicism won them admirers.

"It was great to see so many people here today, in fact all weekend...with this kind of weather," said Stefano Domenicali, head of the Italian Ferrari team.

"We (Italians) for sure would have stayed in bed or in front of the television," he joked.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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