The British round of MotoGP will not this year take place at Donington Park. In a shock statement, Donington announced they were breaking off their partnership with the Circuit of Wales to host the British GP. In the statement, Donington claimed that they had not received the funding promised to them by the Circuit of Wales, which was needed to perform the upgrades required for MotoGP. With no money forthcoming, Donington had no choice but to break the contract, leaving the British round of MotoGP without a home, at least temporarily. Reports on the Motorcycle News website suggest that Silverstone will host the British race instead, with senior staff from the circuit having spoken to Dorna in Barcelona last week.
Though the fact that Donington Park announced they are pulling out of the deal at such a late stage caused a shock, it is not entirely unexpected. Donington had been awarded the contract to host the British Grand Prix as part of a deal with the Circuit of Wales. The Circuit of Wales had agreed a five-year contract with Dorna to organize the British race back in August last year, after protracted talks to host the race at the facility. However, the planning process has been subject to extensive delays, in part over the allocation of public land to the circuit, and in part due to the funding of the project. When it because clear that the track would not be ready to host the race in 2015, an agreement was reached with Donington Park, which would have seen the British race return to the Leicestershire circuit after an absence of five years.
A return to Donington was subject to major upgrades taking place to the track, however. The Circuit of Wales would have provided funds to help Donington perform these upgrades, and the failure to provide these funds appear to be the stumbling block over which the deal with the Circuit of Wales has fallen.
The statement from Donington Park assures ticket holders that they will not lose any money. Tickets bought through official channels will be refunded in full. However, tickets are just a small part of the total cost of attending a race. Costs for travel and accommodation may not be covered. The end of the deal will see travel organizations, in particular, hit hard.
The end of the tie up between Donington and the Circuit of Wales does not mean there will not be a British Grand Prix, however. Part of the deal between BT Sport and Dorna for the British rights to MotoGP is that there will be a race in the UK. With Donington Park out of the equation, that leaves Silverstone as the only viable option. MCN is reporting that talks are already well underway with Silverstone, with a long-term deal likely to keep the race at the circuit for the foreseeable future.
The breakdown of the deal between Donington Park and the Circuit of Wales could end up posing a serious threat to the future of the Circuit of Wales project. If the Circuit of Wales loses the contract to host MotoGP, then part of the rationale for building a circuit on such a grand scale in the Ebbw Vale region disappears. Without a major series at the circuit, the financial viability of the project is in question.
That was always the case, however. Although the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, the firm behind the Circuit of Wales, has consistently claimed that the track will be built using money from private investors, there has been a conspicuous lack of news forthcoming on which companies or individuals may have supplied any of the £315 million the project is said to cost. There has been a slow trickle of money from the Welsh regional government, including a £2 million development grant and underwriting of loans to the company, but no major investors have yet to step forward. That may be because of the legal issues surrounding the circuit - a public inquiry is due to be held in March on a request to deregister a large area of public land, on which the circuit and its facilities are due to be built. Attracting commercial investment may become easier if that process gives the development the green light, but so far, it has been conspicuous by its absence.
Below is the press release issued by Donington Park on its break with the Circuit of Wales:
Donington Park breaks off partnership with Circuit of Wales
10 February 2015
The Board of Directors and Staff of Donington Park Racing Limited (‘DPRL’) are greatly disappointed to have to report today that the Circuit of Wales company, and its new subsidiary GP15 Limited, have as yet been unable to complete their agreement with DPRL, nor meet long-planned payment deadlines, in order to set in motion the operation of the 2015 British Motorcycle Grand Prix, MotoGP™ at Donington Park.
For background:- In 2014 the Circuit of Wales (‘CoW’) signed a contract with Dorna SL of Barcelona, the owners and operators of the global racing series known as the FIM MotoGP World Championship, to stage the British round of MotoGP at their new circuit near Ebbw Vale for five years starting in 2015. The Circuit of Wales is not yet under construction.
In early September 2014, CoW therefore sought an alternative race circuit on which to hold the 2015 British race and so fulfil their Dorna contract. CoW agreed detailed Heads of Terms with the Board of DPRL to hire the Leicestershire circuit, which had been home to MotoGP for many years prior to 2009, in order to run their contracted British MotoGP in 2015, during which period the CoW track was scheduled to be built.
The situation at 10th February 2015 is very clear. Despite DPRL’s best efforts, the time lost with CoW being unable to complete the funding arrangements has resulted in delays in almost all of the event’s critically important operational plans, from track works to equipment hire. Therefore, in the judgment of the Board of DPRL, this current position could jeopardise the safe and successful running of the 2015 British MotoGP at Donington to such an extent, that both the commercial risks and the lack of time are now too great to allow Donington to proceed.
Therefore Donington Park must withdraw from any further participation. Consequently, the 2015 British round of the FIM MotoGP World Championship will not now be held at Donington Park on August 30th 2015.
Spectators who have already purchased tickets via Donington Park and their agency See Tickets are fully protected, with all ticket monies held safely in an independent escrow account. They will therefore automatically receive a full refund of the amount spent on their tickets, within 10 working days, if bought via See Tickets’ automated system, or by application.
The Board of DPRL is able to confirm to all ticket holders for all other 2015 race events at Donington Park that all these events will proceed as planned.
Naturally, any announcement on a replacement MotoGP race or about any future UK dates are now a matter solely for CoW and Dorna, and so DPRL will make no further comment.
DPRL has an established successful relationship with Dorna and will be welcoming Dorna’s World Superbike Championship to Donington for May 22-24, as planned.
The Board also assures all its industry partners, the many race clubs and other circuit-hiring clients who have helped build Donington’s revived business over the past 5 years, that DPRL itself will not feel any adverse financial effects. DPRL expects to work with such clients in continued partnership.
The Donington Park circuit, and the estate as a whole, is in excellent condition. The company is just currently completing a further £1 million of winter upgrades and track safety work, with innovations including a 4 x 4 course, and new build works, both on and off the circuit.
The Managing Director of Donington Park, Christopher Tate, said:-
“The whole Donington team who have worked so hard here over the past six months to fulfil our part of the MotoGP planning are as disappointed as those many fans will be who wanted to see the event return to Donington Park.
“The position we are now in is of course frustrating and uncomfortable for all concerned.
“We have our overall business, our staff and their futures to consider as well as our concerns for the fans. We have rebuilt so much of this facility and its global reputation in the years since 2010 under new ownership and management, and we are not going to risk all that nor risk affecting the quality of the MotoGP fans’ experience – looking after the fans is at the heart of what Donington does.
“It is this week, way past any normal deadlines, when we - in partnership with CoW - would have been committing to major expenditures. CoW have made it clear to us that they are not now in a position to complete, so we have to withdraw and end the planned arrangement.
“As to the immediate future, the team here at Donington look forward to welcoming fans to the wide range of 2015 events at our circuit this season which will, of course, all go ahead as normal, starting with great motorcycle racing on the Easter Weekend.”