Silverstone Apologises to Fans
Sunday April 23rd, 2000
by Alan Baldwin
Silverstone apologised to Formula One fans on Sunday after thousands missed out on the British Grand Prix due to traffic chaos and bad weather.
"Silverstone offers its sincere apologies," organisers at the central English circuit, which hosted the first Formula One world championship race 50 years ago, said in a statement. Traffic jams stretched for miles around and police warned fans that they faced a five-hour wait to get in.
"Nobody wanted this to happen, especially those of us at Silverstone," said the circuit's chief executive Denys Rohan.
"Despite our best efforts, the consistently wet weather over recent weeks caused damage to car parks.
"This slowed up parking overnight and this morning, and to add further problems, the thick fog which delayed F1 warm-up this morning also prevented the flight of our and the police traffic control helicopters."
The British Grand Prix is usually held in July but was moved this year to the Easter holiday weekend to the frustration of organisers, teams, fans and drivers who feared wet and blustery conditions.
Fields of Mud
Ironically, the race was run in sunshine and dry conditions in the end -- but only after days of rain had reduced much of the area around the circuit to a quagmire with soaked supporters camping in fields of mud.
Tractors had to pull cars out of deep ruts and public vehicles were banned altogether on Saturday when the authorities closed Silverstone's car parks to preserve them for race day.
Max Mosley, president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), said every effort would be made to hold the race in July in 2001 although he could not guarantee it.
"If we can move it back to July, we will," he said.
"We had to change it this year because we had to move the Nuerburgring (European Grand Prix) because of Indianapolis (the U.S. Grand Prix returning to the calendar in September)."
Mosley said the FIA had wanted to move the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona, which follows Silverstone early next month, but could not do so due to a clash with the Catalunya rally.
He said it was a toss up between Britain and France, with Magny Cours facing exactly the same likelihood of bad weather.
There had been no previous detailed official explanation about the change, with many observers suspecting that it was due to disagreements between Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the circuit authorities, but Mosley refuted the suggestion.
"We have not gone looking for problems," he said. "Everyone thinks that we want to upset Silverstone but we don't."
Mosley, himself a Briton like Ecclestone, defended the FIA but did not spare Silverstone -- who are due to lose the Grand Prix to Brands Hatch for five years from 2002 -- completely from criticism.
"They knew that they had 100,000 people coming and they know that it can rain. It is up to them to take reasonable precautions," he said.
"Maybe if they put some metal stuff down on the field rather than building a palatial club house they would have avoided losing money," he added with the trace of a smile.
Mosley said he did not care whether Silverstone, Brands Hatch or Donington Park hosted the event in future so long as the circuit was safe.