The Great Facilities Race
Pitpass dot com has an interesting article about the sale of Donington Park to a consortium calling itself Donington Ventures Leisure Limited (DVLL). This leads to speculation that Donington, with its improved facilities, might mount a serious challenge to be the venue for future British GPs.
It takes me back to 1993, when Donington hosted the European GP. At the time, there were thoughts that the circuit was too small to put on a decent F1 race but events proved everyone wrong. Thanks to the weather and the genius of Ayrton Senna, the race turned out to be one of the all time greats.
As a result, we all have fond memories of Donington as a GP venue and this must surely aid DVLL in any move to steal the British GP from Silverstone. But the most telling aspect will inevitably be facilities. Pitpass seems to think that Silverstone will never be able to compete in this area and they may have a point. The BRDC, owners of Silverstone, just don’t have the money to build luxury facilities like those on offer in the tiger economies of Asia.
Things have come a long way from the days of rickety toilets and greasy food served from a caravan. The average race goer expects to be cosseted with the latest advances in hygienic amenities; or so we are led to believe. And the standards for acceptance as one of Bernie’s elite circuits just keep going up and up, while the tracks become ever more standardized in the quest for safety. It’s a brave (and boring) new world.
It is not that I think Donington should not have a GP; more that I would be sad to see Silverstone go. Apart from being a good circuit, it has history on its side and that means atmosphere. Which wasn’t enough to save Brands Hatch, of course, and many other famous circuits on the continent. Surely it is about time that more factors than facilities were taken into account in this business of selecting GP venues. If the FIA is so concerned about entertainment value, it might be an idea for atmosphere and setting to be considered as well as fancy grandstands and ablution blocks.
The greatness of the Nordschleife was not just the length and variation of the circuit – it was also the brooding forest that surrounded the circuit and gave it atmosphere. Monaco survives only because its setting is so steeped in history that its demise is unthinkable. And we all react with horror to the thought that Spa might be taken from us yet again. Circuits become part of our memories, reminders of great races we have witnessed, places that speak of famous names and events, deeds of courage and superhuman skill.
Silverstone is not one of the most atmospheric circuits yet it has its share of memories. It remains one of the GPs that we look forward to, not just for the renewal of competition but also because it has that aura of tradition.