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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 10:47 GMT
New threat to British GP
By Andrew Benson
Motorsport editor

Bernie Ecclestone
Ecclestone says he is not worried about the sale of the race rights
The British Grand Prix is facing a fresh crisis following a decision by the company that owns the contract to run the race to sell up.

Octagon Motorsports bought a 15-year lease to run the Grand Prix in 1999, but its parent company - the US marketing giant Interpublic - is to sell all its motorsport business because of debts.

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said he was not worried about the move, but admitted it raised questions about the future of the race.

Ecclestone now admits the contract Octagon signed with him when it bought the rights to the race was not commercially viable.

If no-one wants to run the race, then there won't be a British Grand Prix
Bernie Ecclestone

"If someone buys Octagon, whatever its assets and liabities are, they will assume them. So either Octagon will run the race or someone else will," he told the BBC Sport website exclusively.

"It's a pity Octagon entered into an agreement not knowing what the commitments were, but I have no doubt they will honour those commitments.

"They made their decision based on research. They knew what they were getting into - I told them not to do it.

"The contract is guaranteed by Interpublic. But if no-one wants to run the race, then there won't be a British Grand Prix."

Ecclestone said that if the race is lost to the calendar as a result of Octagon's problems, it will not be his fault - but that of Silverstone's owner, the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC).

I know the numbers and what Bernie is saying is absolutely not correct
Martin Brundle
BRDC chairman

The BRDC rejected Ecclestone's terms for a new contract on the grounds it was too expensive before he did his deal with Octagon.

Ecclestone said: "The BRDC should run the race and be the promoter. We did a contract with them that was very cheap for them to run.

"Once, the idea was to sell Silverstone. But they decided not to do it - and got someone to rent it out.

"If the British Grand Prix disappears from Britain, it will be because no-one can afford Silverstone's rent."

BRDC chairman Martin Brundle rejected Ecclestone's claims.

"I know the numbers and what Bernie is saying is absolutely not correct," the TV commentator and former Grand Prix driver told this website.

"The BRDC's rent, which gives Octagon 365 days per year revenue at Silverstone, pales into insignificance compared to the promotional and related costs Octagon need to pay to FOM [Ecclestone's company] and others to operate the Grand Prix."

Ecclestone denied rumours he has plans to buy the lease.

"I have never wanted to get control of any [F1] races. I don't care who is in control," he said.

Octagon's decision came to light in an Interpublic report into its financial results from the last quarter of 2002.

It said the company "has retained independent advisors to evaluate exit strategies relative to its motor sports assets".

As well as the lease to run the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Octagon, through Interpublic, owns four British race circuits - Brands Hatch in Kent, Snetterton in Norfolk, Oulton Park in Cheshire and Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire.




SEE ALSO
Ecclestone rejects rules claims
13 Mar 03 |  Formula One

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