Donington Park is to undergo a multi-million pound refurbishment programme intended to make the home of the British MotoGP one of the most modern race circuits in the world.
Last year’s MotoGP attracted a record-breaking crowd of 129,738 over the course of three days, with 82,091 spectators turning out on race day despite wet weather at the Leicestershire parkland venue.
And now Donington Park Leisure, the company who run the circuit on behalf of leaseholders Clear Channel Entertainment, have confirmed a £4m (€5.8m) modernisation of the pit and paddock areas, as well as race control and the international media centre.
The works are scheduled to begin after the running of the 2005 MotoGP in July and be completed by the autumn.
Donington Park Leisure managing director Brian Pallett revealed that as well as refurbishment of outdated facilities, the scheme represented an investment in the circuit’s future.
“Our current facilities are no longer suitable for staging major events,” he conceded.
“But it’s a situation we have reacted positively to and that underlines a commitment to the sport and to the circuit.
“Last year we spent £1m (€1.45m) on track resurfacing and have also upgraded the hospitality suites at Redgate and introduced further kerbing and gravel beds. Now this latest round of refurbishments will take the spending to £5m (€7.3m).
“The current paddock facilities date from the 1970s so by now they’ve had 30 years of hard and long service and it’s about time we brought them into the modern era.
“They’re not very user-friendly in sometimes the most obvious of ways – for example in some pit garages the rear door is not in line with the front door.
“So we’ve consulted with the people who are actually going to have to use these facilities and listened very carefully to what they’ve had to say.
“Our planners and design team have even got down to details like ‘do you want the power point here or there?’, ‘light switch here or there?’ so we’re really down to the nitty gritty. Donington Park is a true motorcycle racer’s circuit and a wonderful circuit for the fans.
“We hold the rights to stage the 125cc and 250cc British Grands Prix as well as MotoGPs until 2009 but we have no intention of resting on our laurels. We see this as certainly one of the most important development stages in the circuit’s history because we want to be in a strong position when we come to renegotiate the contract with Dorna, who administer the championships.”
And Pallett confirmed there was also an eagerness to address the traffic flow problems which have afflicted the circuit in recent years and were particularly severe following last year’s MotoGP.
“There were traffic problems last year and we’ve put a lot of thought and effort into tackling those,” he said.
“There are various strategies we can adopt in the short term which include having effective car park stewarding and we’ve also been looking very closely at access and exit routes.
“In addition, we’ve told our on-site contractors, whether they be caterers or whatever, that they will not be allowed to leave the circuit until 10pm. But a major factor last year was the rain and, sadly, we can’t control the weather.
“Because whereas people might usually enjoy the sunshine after the MotoGP and watch some support races or have a barbecue, last year they decided to leave straight away.
“But a long-term solution would involve looking at an overall roads strategy and we are in discussions with the East Midlands Development Agency, North West Leicestershire District Council, highways authorities, our MP and the police about that.”