Page last updated at 12:16 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

UK motorsport industry in danger of being 'sidelined'

Silverstone circuit
The British Grand Prix does not enjoy government financial backing

The UK's motorsport industry may lose its current pole position because ministers are not giving it enough support, a Commons committee warns.

The industry was hailed by the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee as a "crown jewel of UK manufacturing", with 4,500 small firms.

But the committee's Full Speed Ahead report says if motorsport is treated as a "niche" market then work may be lost.

"Motorsport is an industry of national importance," the report says.

'Address problem'

"We find it difficult to imagine any other country sidelining such an important industry," the committee's chairman Peter Luff said.

"The government needs to address this problem if the UK is to maintain this pre-eminent international industry and help it flourish."

The UK motorsport business is centred around Silverstone in Northamptonshire, and supports 38,500 jobs and generates annual sales of more than £6bn.

The Commons committee now wants to see a specialist policy team set up, within Lord Mandelson's business department, with responsibility for the motorsport industry.

There are also worries that students in the UK prefer to study motorsport management rather than the more challenging subject of technical engineering.

'Economic asset'

Meanwhile, the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA) believes many other countries "envy the success of [the UK's] high value-added industry cluster and have active government programmes to try and capture a share."

The MIA represents nearly 400 high-performance companies active in the international business of motorsport, supplying products and services, covering everything from Formula One to sports racing and rallying to karting.

It said these overseas moves to capture motorsport business, often spearheaded by investment in hosting a Formula One race, posed a threat to the UK's current leading position.

The MIA said the industry was an "economic asset which requires less complacency and better awareness and active appreciation from government".

Meanwhile, the committee also noted in its report that the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was one of only two races in the FI calendar not to have financial support from the host government.

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