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.”
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.