Top Stories from the Sports pages of the International Herald Tribune,
Monday, April 24, 2000

April Showers Bring a Foe to Silverstone: Mud

By Brad Spurgeon International Herald Tribune
SILVERSTONE, England - The organizational chaos that surrounded the British Grand Prix came to a head Sunday morning when local police urged spectators who had not already set out for the race to stay at home and watch it on television.

The race had been moved to April from its traditional date in July this season, and in the two weeks before the event, the heavy rain barely let up. The circuit is in the countryside of central England, and the fields around the track, which are used as parking lots for as many as 40,000 cars, had become waterlogged and unusable.

On Saturday, organizers urged fans to avoid coming to the track for the qualifying sessions.

Many spectators often book helicopter flights from nearby towns to avoid the traffic jams around the track, but on Sunday a heavy fog prevented helicopters from flying into the region. Meanwhile, the automobile traffic jams were worse than ever, starting about 15 miles (24 kilometers) from the track. Thousands of spectators left their cars and walked the last few miles to the event.

The British Grand Prix has been the subject of a dispute involving the Silverstone track, the Brands Hatch track and Bernie Ecclestone, Formula One's chief executive, over the future location of the race.

Silverstone said it pays Ecclestone $5 million a race to stage the event and that it makes a $4 million profit. Brands Hatch offered to pay Ecclestone $11 million for the race.

On Saturday, Ecclestone denied having had anything to do with the date change and said the race would never be run at Easter again.

He would not say when it might be scheduled. ''They'd better keep their Christmas free,'' he added.

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