© Circuit of Wales

Proposed Circuit of Wales suffers fresh government setback

1 Comment

The proposed Circuit of Wales has suffered a fresh setback after the Welsh government announced it would not underwrite the £357 million project.

The Circuit of Wales is intended to be the newest permanent racing facility in the UK, and had a contract to host the British MotoGP round from 2015 until 2019.

The race remained at Silverstone for 2015 and is likely to until 2017 at the earliest, but there are now fresh doubts about the viability of the Circuit of Wales project.

Heads of The Valleys Development Company, the body behind the circuit, announced last November it had secured the finance required to buy the land in the Blaneu Gwent region thanks to insurance company Aviva.

However, the Welsh government informed HOTVDC earlier this week that it would not underwrite the £357 million ($503 million) project due to concerns about its viability and the risks involved.

“The final official advice recommends that I should not agree to underwriting the £357.4m Aviva investment in the scheme for two reasons,” economy minister Edwina Hart wrote to Welsh first minister Carwyn Jones.

“Firstly the significant question around the viability of the project and secondly the unacceptable risk to the Welsh Government of in effect underwriting the entire project.

“These two factors mean that there is both a significant value for money gap and a real legal challenge around issuing such a guarantee.

“As you will be aware we have been working to support this project for a significant period of time and have already in effect spent around £9 million in support of its development.

“We also explored sharing the risk with several local authorities, and that option also failed unfortunately.

“In these last few days we have considered that a guarantee of 80 per cent of the total value of the project may have reduced our risk to an acceptable level, but the Circuit have not been able to secure any real private risk capital and so this option has not been possible.”

HOTVDC responded by saying it would explore alternative commercial options following this setback.

“We respect and understand the minister’s decision on the support for a 100 per cent guarantee for our private funding,” CEO Michael Carrick said.

“While this was our clear preference and reflective of the negotiations we have held over the past six months, we accept that the project will need to progress on revised terms.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.