Oulton Park would make a lovely upmarket private housing estate: a select few seven-figure houses dotted around a swathe of prestigious rolling Cheshire parkland, its lake filled with trout (not Jaguar MkIIs!) and perhaps a new golf course, complete with a tricky approach to a small green sited on the inside of the old Esso/Shell Corner.
There’s more. Can you imagine a smaller such development at beautiful Cadwell Park, a busy-busy one full of starter homes at Brands Hatch (it even sounds like an estate) and one of those ungodly retail parks at Snetterton (situated just off the A11)? I can. And it could so easily have happened.
But today we know that these pillars of British motorsport are in safe hands.
Dr Jonathan Palmer was pretty tasty behind the wheel in his time — F3 and F2 champion, 89 grands prix starts and a brace of world sportscar victories — but he seems even more accomplished behind a desk. Since his post as resident expert alongside Murray Walker ended when BBC’s Grand Prix reign did, he has set his mind to a variety of motorsport projects. He approaches familiar topics — junior formulae, corporate track days, driver management — and then gives them an unexpected tweak: boost buttons and centralised car preparation (Formula Palmer Audi), a huge track complex at Bedford Aerodrome, and selling shares in Justin Wilson’s F1 future. He can be a little overwhelming face to face, but he has interesting ideas, puts his (and others’) money where his mouth is and has the chutzpah to make them happen.
And now, with the help of two businessmen/enthusiasts, John Britten and Peter Ogden, Palmer has pulled off the ‘big one’: an estimated £30 million deal to buy these four famous British tracks.
There’s nothing to say that these new owners — MotorSport (a very good title!) Vision Limited — might not want to sell these assets at some time in the future, and that is their prerogative. But it’s surely good news that the tracks have been purchased by people who understand the sport at a national level and are clearly confident of its future.
So it’s still pits and not clubhouse, still drive and not drive, at Oulton Park. That difficult dogleg par five over water will just have to wait. Doctor’s orders!