South East Wales

Circuit of Wales location questioned by motor race group

Circuit of Wales Image copyright Circuit of Wales

The motorsport industry is sceptical about locating the proposed Circuit of Wales track in Ebbw Vale, a director of a motor circuit owners' group says.

Christopher Tate, who also runs Donington Park circuit, said most of the British industry was in "Motorsport Valley", in central England counties.

On Wednesday, the Welsh Government refused to underwrite the £350m private funding for the Welsh circuit.

Developers say they have a new deal which could proceed within eight weeks.

The Heads of the Valleys Development Company, which runs the Circuit of Wales, has said up to 6,000 jobs could be created by the project.

Mr Tate, a director of the Association of Motor Racing Circuit Owners, told the BBC's Good Morning Wales programme there had always been "an eyebrow raised" about some of the claims made about the size of the proposed Circuit of Wales.

He stressed it was not a question of not wanting more competition, but being "surprised and concerned" about the figures involved.

"When it came to the point that it was apparent that private investment felt it needed to be underwritten by the government of Wales, more eyebrows were raised, as you can imagine, among the members of our association - 17 of them, including circuits of course in Wales at Pembrey and on Anglesey - that said 'really?

"'Wouldn't be nice if all our private investors got underwritten by our government?'."

Image copyright Autocar/Ben Summerell-Youde
Image caption A computer-generated image of what the new TVR might look like, which will be built in Ebbw Vale

He said the recent announcement by First Minister Carwyn Jones that the TVR car company would establish a new factory in the Ebbw Vale enterprise zone and bring about 150 jobs, was still "a long way short of the much-vaunted 6,000".

"That number depends on the building of hotels and restaurants and other factory units and industrial units and so on," he said.

"Right across the UK - not just in Wales - there is not a shortage of empty industrial space at the moment.

"The second [point] is, the British motor sport industry is very much focused on what they call 'Motorsport Valley' - running approximately from Oxford up in a loop through Northamptonshire towards Leicestershire and Derbyshire.

"Now, in that area lies 50,000 jobs and they're all a little bit interdependent.

"So it doesn't matter if someone had suggested that a new motor racing track be built in Cornwall or in Aberdeen or in Ebbw Vale or, for that matter, in Norwich.

"It would still have been well outside the natural agglomeration of these industries, and that's always been another reason for the raising of an eyebrow."

Circuit of Wales director Michael Carrick has been contacted for a response.

The Welsh Government has declined to comment.

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