Few could have imagined that when Giuseppe Farina won the very first race of the modern Formula One World Championship at Silverstone in his Alfa Romeo in 1950, that sixty years later, Northamptonshire would be at the very heart of a world class multi-billion pound motor sport industry.
At the centre of this industry is Silverstone, a circuit which is rightly recognised by many as the home of British Motorsport, and is known worldwide as a favourite of racing drivers and spectators alike. But Silverstone is more than a circuit; it provides a wonderful shop window for the British Motorsport industry to an estimated 600 million television viewers across the globe.
As a county, we are very proud to have such a world famous circuit, on our doorstep and the announcement that Silverstone had secured a deal to hold the British Grand Prix event for 17 years was very welcome given our links to motorsport and high performance engineering.
With part of that deal resting on massive investment to improve the tracks pits and paddock complex, we felt it was important that the County Council should work with Silverstone to help ensure this is achieved. As funding for this work was set to come from future revenue income, the council has worked up with Silverstone Holding Limited a loan deal which can kick-start the project and help with cash flow as the transformation gets underway.
We have always said how vital it was to keep the Grand Prix in Northamptonshire, and this proposed loan will be a vital ingredient in helping the circuit start its improvement work before the income streams which they will rely on are ready.
This is good news for the people of Northamptonshire in more ways than one. The total attendance at last year’s British Grand Prix was 310,000, which was the highest in 15 years, and saw a total of £60m being spent in the county as a result of the event. This of course is in addition to the hundreds of jobs the event also provides. It is clear then that the Grand Prix is critically important to businesses and jobs in Northamptonshire and our proposed loan will be a key in helping to safeguarding them.
With over 60 years of motorsport heritage in Northamptonshire, it is important that we as a County Council can do all we can to support and promote our world class motor sport industry. As we look forward to a new Formula One season, the contribution our County will make is perhaps unrivalled. Not only are we home to two Grand Prix teams, but engines built in the County will be powering 16 out of the 26 cars that will line up to take part in the 2010 F1 World Championship.
Whilst many recognise Silverstone as being the home of British Motorsport, few people realise that the scale and importance of our Motorsport industry. It has an annual turnover of around £6 billion, employs around 20,000 in over 3000 businesses and helps to showcase British engineering and ingenuity worldwide. It also helps to inspire and motivate our children and young people, something we as a Council are keen to encourage and support.
The public response to Jenson Button and the Brawn team winning the world championship showed there is great affection and growing support for our teams and drivers. With Silverstone at its heart, motorsport in Northamptonshire and in the UK has a great and bright future. We can all look forward to an exciting 2010 season and be proud that Great Britain leads the world in Formula One and high performance motorsport engineering.