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Motorsport | Formula 1

Richard Phillips © Gallo Images

Silverstone learns lessons from 2012 chaos



Organisers of the British Grand Prix are ready for all kinds of weather conditions on Sunday after flooding forced them to refund thousands of fans in 2012.

"We don't want it to rain but we'd be a lot more robust now under the same circumstances," said Richard Phillips, managing director of the historic Silverstone circuit in central England.

Silverstone, which staged the first ever Formula One Grand Prix in 1950, has spent heavily on improving drainage and park-and-ride facilities to avoid a repeat of last year's chaos.

Silverstone paid out around 1 million pounds ($1.5 million) to refund fans who had bought tickets but were advised not to attend qualifying on the eve of the race because of the flooding. The circuit's insurers covered most of that cost.

The weather is actually set fair for raceday on Sunday. "We're going to be into dust suppression tomorrow. That's novel from last year," Phillips added.

Fears that fans would stay away this summer have evaporated after a late surge in sales.

"We've seen unprecedented sales in the last six weeks, it's been phenomenal," said Phillips, who is hoping for a total crowd of around 300 000 over the three-day race weekend.

That would be the third highest ever and good enough to ensure that Silverstone, owned by the members of the elite British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), ends the year in the black.

Tickets for the grandstand on Sunday cost upwards of 200 pounds ($300) - a big outlay in a country where the economy is struggling and many families are having to manage their money carefully.

The sport's business model means circuits pay to host races, with ticket sales the main method for getting their money back. Formula One's management company, run by Bernie Ecclestone, takes the broadcast and trackside advertising revenues.

The BRDC, comprising many of the most successful British motor racing drivers, including former world champions Lewis Hamilton, Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill, has been looking for a new investor for a couple of years to help fund Silverstone's development.

A rumoured Qatari investment failed to materialise and Phillips declined to comment on reports that property developer MEPC, which is backed by BT's pension fund, planned to buy the circuit for 40 million pounds.

"It's been a difficult road to find the right investor with the right backing but hopefully soon we'll be in a position to move forward," Phillips said, adding there might be scope for two groups to get involved.

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