AN innovative Northampton company has secured lucrative contracts to protect racecourses from frost damage during the winter months.
Sports and Stadia Services Ltd, which was set up about 10 years ago by former Northamptonshire cricketer Nigel Felton, has been called in by courses including Kempton and Ascot to lay down protective covers on the tracks to stop race meetings being called off after overnight frosts.
The firm has supplied covers for stadiums including Sixfields, Twickenham and Old Trafford for several years but for 2006 they developed a way to protect racecourses using several hectares of sheeting.
Managing director Mr Felton said: "We have been working for the RFU and the FA for a while, and now we are working with the Racecourse Holdings Trust to get into that market.
"Obviously it's much more difficult because the area we have to protect is much larger, so there's a lot of work involved to get the covers down properly and make sure they fit well."
The team from Sports and Stadia Services Ltd have signed an exclusive four-year deal to put covers on Ascot Racecourse, and have just returned from a stint at Kempton Park, where they helped preserve the course for the famous King George VI Chase on Boxing Day, won by hot favourite Kauto Star.
More than 200 polyethylene covers were used on both the inner and outer tracks, and each cover measures about 40m by 11m. It took the team of 30 just two hours to get all the material in place on the course, and two hours to pack them up again to get them back to the Northamptonshire farm where they are stored.
Mr Felton added: "I don't want to give away too many secrets, so I can't say how they work.
"But they keep the frost off the courses so organisers can have some guarantee against the weather."