The three-cornered fight for the right to host the British Grand Prix has reached crisis point after FISA finally announced the proposed 1988 venue.
It seems the race will take place at Silverstone, as dictated by the exclusive deal which the Northamptonshire circuit signed with the Formula One Constructors Association for 1987-1991, but there is a strong possibility of legal action on behalf of both Brands Hatch and Donington Park as a result. Donington’s owner Tom Wheatcroft is suing the RAC Motor Sports Association for breach of contract, breach of duty and negligence, claiming that Britain’s national federation agreed as long ago as 1983 that his circuit should run the 1988 race.
Wheatcroft has already had a High Court writ served on the RAC claiming damages of more than £1.4-million in respect of work carried out on Donington’s facilities to enable it to qualify for a Formula One track licence, and is seeking an injunction to prevent arrangements being made concerning future British Grands Prix without consideration being given to the Leicestershire circuit’s case.
Having hosted this country’s premier motor race in alternate years since 1964, Brands Hatch managing director John Webb is also taking legal advice on the possibility of appealing to the European Court in Strasbourg, on the grounds that FISA’s apparent approval of the Silverstone/FOCA five-year contract represents a restriction on the Kent venue’s trade.
When the 1988 Formula One calendar was discussed at a FISA conference in Paris in December, the RAC MSA supported Webb’s claim, suggesting that it would be in the best interests of British motor racing that more than one circuit was able to retain facilities of the quality necessary for staging F1 races. But the principle of alternation was “shot down in flames” by FISA, according to RAC MSA chief executive Peter Hammond, who feels that this disregard of Brands Hatch’s claim renders Donington’s action futile.
Clearly one of the major implications of the controversy is that the world governing body does not recognise the right of national federations to nominate the venue for their own Grands Prix. . .
Donington Park has been requesting the opportunity to run its first post-war “Grand Prix” since it reopened in 1977. Motorcycle Grands Prix, European Touring Car and Formula 3000 rounds have been held there in recent years.
Although Brands Hatch is considering legal action, Webb says he will not try to prevent Silverstone’s event taking place this year unless he is advised that this is necessary to prevent his case being jeopardised. Hopefully this means Britain will not fall into the same abyss as Canada, whose GP had to be cancelled in 1987 due to contractual litigation between rival sponsors and has only been listed as a reserve event for 1988.