Matters of Moment

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Andrew Frankel

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Silverstone and Brands Hatch lock horns

Following months of speculation concerning the future of the British Racing Drivers Club in general, and that of its chief asset, the Silverstone Circuit, in particular, the board has announced its plans for the club’s future, which subject to the approval of its members, will be put into action over the summer. The chief recommendation is that Silverstone Circuit Ltd is restructured into a new company called Silverstone Circuit Group (comprising the track and its associated estate assets) and that shares should be issued to existing BRDC members. The BRDC itself would retain the freehold of the circuit and the trademarks of itself and Silverstone. It will also retain a so-called golden share in the new SCG which would deny anyone the chance of any outsider buying sufficient shares to attempt a takeover.

The strategy is clear. The BRDC wishes to retain control over Silverstone while providing its members with a tradeable investment. As acting Club secretary Howden Ganley points out, “You cannot deny there are members who would rather take the money and run. This allows them to do that without interfering in any way with the interests of other members who wish things to stay broadly as they are. As far as most members of the BRDC are concerned, the only real difference these proposals will make is that along with their usual passes, they will also hold a share certificate.”

Ganley confirms that members will continue to enjoy all the usual club facilities and does not rule out the chance of floating the company at some stage in the future.

All full members received notification of the proposal on March 31, and were given three weeks to mull over the proposal and ask questions before a formal vote to endorse the recommendations takes place at the Annual General Meeting on 23rd April. In the meantime, Brands Hatch Leisure PLC, the company run by Nicola Foulston, has formally offered to hold the British Grand Brands Hatch from 2002 if Silverstone’s suggested restructuring is approved by BRDC members, a move which would prevent BHLs planned acquisition of Silverstone. BHL has a deal with Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Administration to hold the GP at Silverstone until 2009 but this is, of course, conditional on its successful acquisition of the circuit.

Foulston has accused the BRDC of “jeopardising the future of the Grand Prix in Britain” and claims that if the Silverstone restructure is approved, it will constitute a change of control at Silverstone, invoking a clause in its deal with Ecclestone allowing FOA to terminate the current contract at its discretion.

Banking’s last chance

Monza’s famous banking is to be re-opened to competitors at next month’s 50th anniversary Coppa Inter-Europa race meeting for what is billed as “probably the last chance” to drive the legendary track. A cavalcade is planned for May 22 during the FIA Historic Festival in which Formula One and Two, Sports Prototypes, GT and Touring Cars are expected to delight drivers and spectators.

The once majestic banking has not been used for racing since 1961 and has remained under a stay of execution for several years, during which plans for its demolition have faced opposition from historians and purists. Monza remains the scene of the fastest ever World Championship Grand Prix – Peter Gethin’s 150mph victory for BRM in September 1971. Speed-sapping chicanes were installed the following year.

Silver Arrows return

Sixty years after Richard Seaman died at Spa-Francorchamps in a Mercedes-Benz W163, the factory is sending a 1938 W154 Grand Prix car from its wonderful museum in Stuttgart to Donington Park on May 23, to help the Vintage Sports Car Club honour the life and achievements of its pre-war British star. And the West McLaren Mercedes team will be updating the story of the ‘Silver Arrows’ by doing demonstration runs in last year’s World Championship-winning McLaren MP4/13 during the day.

McLaren test driver Nick Heidfeld, himself a rising Formula 3000 star, and 1964 World Champion John Surtees will demonstrate MP4/13 and W154 respectively and, hopefully, together at the annual Flockhart and Seaman Trophies meeting, in which the feature race winner traditionally receives the trophy which was presented to Dick Seaman when he finished third in the 1938 Grand Prix at Donington in a W154. Admission to this unmissable event includes both a paddock transfer that allows unusually close access to these incredible machines, and also grandstand seats for a price of just £8. Last year, the VSCC event paid tribute to Tazio Nuvolari with demonstrations of the fearsome replica twin-engined Alfa Romeo ‘Bimotore’ from the resident Donington Museum.

Gonzalez to honour BRM at Coys

So much did Froilan Gonzalez enjoy being reunited with a 4 1/2-litre Ferrari 375 at the 1997 Coy’s International Historic Festival that the Argentinian ‘Pampas Bull’ will return to Silverstone this July to drive a BRM V16 in the marque’s Golden Jubilee celebration.

Gonzalez, 76, raced the cars for the fledgling BRM in the early 1950s and last drove one at the 1996 Goodwood Festival of Speed. “Froilan telephoned from Argentina to say that he will be coming to Coys,” said BRDC event coordinator John Fitzpatrick. “That’s fantastic news for enthusiasts who have long appreciated his spectacular driving style.”

But Gonzalez’s greatest years were with Ferrari and his favourite circuit was Silverstone. In 1954, he won both the International Trophy and the British Grand Prix there and capped it by beating the brand new D-type Jaguar into second place during a thrilling drive with Maurice Trintignant at Le Mans.

Fellow BRM veterans already confirmed for the July meeting include Roy Salvadori, Tony Brooks, Hans Herrmann, Tony Marsh, Howden Ganley, Peter Gethin, Clay Regazzoni, Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo. More than 30 cars from the ex-Gonzalez P15 Mk1 to the famous P160 of 1971 are already slated to take part in a cavalcade around the track.

Goodwood summer meetings march on

Honda and Alfa Grand Prix cars so far unseen in Britain head the cast for this year’s Festival of Speed on June 18-20, which reaches back to before the dawn of motoring under the theme ‘Year One to Formula One’. Look out for steam carriages from the pre-petrol era, and even Roman chariot racing, which should please the Green element.

In case you thought there wasn’t an unseen exotic left, Lord March’s team have managed to attract still more novelties, like the twin-boom Nardi which was spectacularly unsuccessful at Le Mans in 1955, and the vast Cunningham Cadillac Le Monstre from 1950.

No fewer than three of Honda’s memorable V12s will resound in British ears for the first time since the 1960s, both 1.5 and 3-litre versions, accompanied by Ayrton Senna’s 1990 McLaren-Honda MP4/5B and the first-ever Honda racer, the Curtis. John Surtees will star with Hondas on two wheels and four.

While McLaren testing star Nick Heidfeld is keen to smash Williams’ current hill record, the odds are on Colin McRae in the new Ford Focus World Rally Car, running against Michelle Mouton’s Audi Quattro Evo 1 now that the rally stage is no more. Cartier’s Style et Luxe concours spans multi-cylinder

indulgence like V16 Marmon and V12 Delahaye down to fascinating microcars.

September’s race meeting pits Johnny Herbert and Boddy Rahal against Damon Hill in the TT, and introduces the wonderful noise of 3-litre Repco, Weslake and Matra engines. And warn your tailor the period dress code will be strengthened. Goodwood box office: 01243 755055 (fax: 755058).

Surtees: champ turned picture editor

A forthcoming book on the extraordinary racing career of John Surtees is to feature many unpublished photographs drawn from Hulton Getty’s library of 18 million images. Surtees has visited the archive, which embraces the entire Picture Post Library and other collections, to select around 20 outstanding photographs for a limited edition presentation folio to be released this autumn. He will subsequently annotate a volume of pictures of cars, bikes, events and personalities to be published next year. John is pictured with Hulton Getty executives at Franco Campigotto’s Monza restaurant in London’s Knightsbridge.

Zandvoort returned to former glory

Good news for all of those bemoaning the passing of the truly great circuits. News reaches us from across the Channel that Zandvoort, home to 30 Grands Prix since 1952 has been restored to its former glory.

After the cessation of F1 racing in 1985, the circuit was pruned from its original 2.6 miles to a Mickey Mouse circuit in the sand dunes of Holland. Now the full venue is due to reopen on May 7th with the 23rd Historic Zandvoort Trophy meeting.

Contact the HARC in Holland on +31 23 528 0362. What price a Dutch Grand Prix in the next century?

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