Racing legend Jackie Stewart says Silverstone's Formula One heritage has been put at risk by lack of Government funding

Formula 1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart has criticised the Government for allowing British motorsports to go "unfunded" despite the benefits it brings to the country.

Friday, 6th January 2017, 6:24 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 1:03 pm
Formula One legend Jackie Stewart has spoken out after the news Silverstone's hosting of the British Grand Prix was in jeopardy.

The retired racer's comments come as bosses at Silverstone consider dropping the British Grand Prix, as a leaked letter reveals the event carries 'potentially ruinous costs.'

"British Motorsports is one of the biggest industries in the country and is broadcast to a worldwide audience," Sir Jackie told The Chron. "But it has never received any funding from the Government. And now we are at risk of losing our motorsports heritage."

Silverstone Circuit hosted its first British Grand Prix in 1948 and the very first World Championship of Drivers race in 1950. Last July, it attracted 139,000 fans to see Lewis Hamilton claim the chequered flag, and is an international stage for Formula 1 racing.

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The BRDC says the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is not financially viable.

But a leaked letter, written by John Grant, chairman of the British Racing Driver's Club (BRDC) to the club's members says that even on a 'good year' the Grand Prix is 'loss-making.' Now, despite being contracted to host the event until 2026, the board of directors is considering using a break clause to end hosting races by 2019.

Sir Jackie Stewart, the three-time World Drivers' Championships winner and nicknamed 'The Flying Scot,' claims the Government has not done enough to support British motorsports despite the huge benefits it brings to the country.

Sir Jackie said: "After we hosted the 2012 Olympics, we saw an incredible boost in funding to athletics and sports like cycling and swimming. As a result we won more golds than ever in 2016.

"Yet British Motorsports has never received any funding, outside of local district support from areas like Northampton and Aylesbury.

The BRDC says the British Grand Prix at Silverstone is not financially viable.

"The Government assumes that motorsports is profitable by itself and needs no extra funding. But Silverstone has shown us how this is not the case. Now we are at risk of losing our motorsports heritage.

"The motorsports industry employs 143,000 people in Britain and has done so much for the United Kingdom in terms of tourism. Why do you think Mercedes-Benz produce their cars here? Why do you think nearly every racing team like MacLaren and Ferrari is based here?

"Australia, Italy, France, Malaysia, and so many other countries' governments fund their motorsports. Except Britain.

"The Olympics comes around once every four years for two weeks. Meanwhile the British Grand Prix is broadcast 21 times a year on an international stage.

"I think it's a tragedy.

"We have young people who are potential world champions just like Lewis Hamilton, but without funding and support they may never reach their full potential."

Sir Jackie said John Grant and the British Racing Drivers Club had a great challenge ahead of them.

"It's not their fault. John's a good businessman and a good chairman, and he has to ensure whatever happens the track and the club is financially stable. At the present time they are pressured to make it affordable and it would be disastrous for it to go into liquidation.

"They need to have a lot of conversation with the right people to find a way forward."

Despite the continued success of Silverstone’s events, Grant reveals in his letter that, even in a good year, “the BGP does not generate enough cash to cover its share of the site overheads.”