Work under way at Donington Park

Planning permission was granted to Donington Park on Thursday evening for the upgrades required for the 2010 British Grand Prix. Work had already started in December on the first stage: a new access tunnel to the infield. A slice was taken out of the track, a tunnel dug, and it’s about to be covered over to allow racing to resume when the 2009 season starts in a couple of months.

The tunnel will be used by construction traffic so the track itself won’t be disturbed while the new pit/paddock buildings are being constructed. The other changes to the racing surface, including realignment of the back straight and hooking up to the new loop to the existing track all won’t take place until the 2009 racing season is in the books.

That means the MotoGP, British Touring, and whatever other events they may choose to hold will all continue to take place in 2009 with only minor disruption. This also means that by watching those races we can keep up with developments without having to remember to check the websites for updates!

Simon Gillett, the owner of DP, was at the Autosport International Show this week. Keith the F1 Fanatic was there and has a great piece on what was said – here are a few quotes:

“We’ve already started – we began about two weeks ago on the expectation that we would get planning permission. We have the tunnels bored through so there’s a big hole in the circuit at the moment. That will be completed by February 20th so we can re-open the track. And we start work on the pits and paddock on Monday morning.”

“From Redgate corner to McLeans is being left untouched – we’re not even re-surfacing that part of the track. It’s wide enough, the run-offs are big enough and it’s fantastically good so I’m not going to touch it. One of the main elements of Donington Park’s character is that from Hollywood all the way down to Schwanz you’ve got a grass bank for spectators, which is staying. It’s where I go to watch the racing from.”

“Why is it that you turn up at an event and the first person you see is someone who doesn’t want you to get in? It’s ridiculous. Look at what Asda have done introducing greeters at the front of their stores. It’s not ‘I don’t want you in’, it’s ‘I want you in – with the right ticket’. For food – gone are the polystyrene tubs with the polystyrene burgers in them. People still want burgers, but what’s wrong with a ciabatta with a 100% beef burger in it? And the toilets. There will be no blue plastic toilets. We’re putting in eight permanent toilet blocks and more under the suites. You have to get the basics right and allow people to get in and out easily.”

Gillett also talks about the debenture scheme, the logistics of a racetrack being sited at the end of a runway of a growing airport, and asks how the 90,000 people who go to Wembley and Twickenham aren’t allowed to drive there and why DP shouldn’t be different, and there’s lots more too.

Check out the full story!
F1Fanatic has a lot more quotes from Gillett than most of the other sites out there and what I’ve posted is only a fraction.

So, Donington will become everything Silverstone isn’t! Silverstone has a bit of a reputation for focussing their attention on the ‘champagne and cucumber sandwiches’ crowd who get helicoptered in. I’d like to attend the race this year to see how true that is, and I’d like to go to Donington next year to see how they do it.
I tell you what, now I’ve seen their plans and heard their approach I really like what they are doing. I’ve been to Donington several times despite it being bloody miles away, and it is a great place to watch a race. Okay so the facilities as exist right now fall considerably short of Silverstone, but I really do see that changing.

The question then becomes…. what will happen to Silverstone?

In the comments of F1Fanatic, someone provided a link to the BBC local TV news who have a short piece on the development. You can see it here although it may only work for UK viewers (others should try it anyway).

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