Jaguar Land Rover is in talks to buy the historic Silverstone racing circuit and has plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment.
The Midland car giant has made a bid for the circuit, home to the British Grand Prix, thought to be valued at almost £23 million, according to sources.
It wants to create a five-star hotel, JLR heritage centre, a motor industry museum, a vehicle design workshop, offices and a visitor centre at the world-famous Northamptonshire venue.
Talks between JLR and British Racing Drivers’ Club, which currently owns the circuit, are continuing the Post understands, but the carmaker’s board has given the green light.
Silverstone’s managing director said in September the future of Formula One’s British Grand Prix was at risk without major investment in the race track.
It is understood any agreement would allow Silverstone to remain the home of UK motorsport, with events like the Formula One Grand Prix, MotoGP, World Superbikes and the British Touring Car Championship remaining in the hands of Silverstone Circuits.
Automotive sector experts have welcomed the news, claiming Tata Motors-owned JLR could attract car enthusiasts from around the world to the home of British motor racing.
A source close to Jaguar Land Rover told the Post: “They have been trying to buy Silverstone for a while now. Talks are still ongoing and the deal isn’t sealed yet.
“They are interested in it for testing cars and the motorsport side.”
The Post understands JLR has major plans for Silverstone, including using it as a base for up to 1,000 sales and marketing staff and 700 engineers. The plans also include:
* A special workshop for vehicle specification and handover to VIPs
* A 200-bedroom five-star hotel
* A visitor centre for brand experience and training, including 4x4 off -roading
* A heritage centre, including space to store and display the JLR Heritage Fleet
* Museums celebrating British motor heritage
JLR has made an offer to the British Racing Drivers’ Club, a group of 850 members including superstar drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, for the 249-year leasehold of Silverstone, which first hosted the British Grand Prix in 1950.
Automotive expert David Bailey said that, with investment, it would be an international draw and a major boost to the JLR brand.
Prof Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at the Aston Business School, said: “I think this makes sense on a number of levels.
“The whole experience side of buying a premium car is becoming more important. They are offering a service as well as a new car. The opportunity to have heritage vehicles at a site like Silverstone would be a very attractive proposition internationally.
“And there is a big cluster of motorsport activity there. JLR would be tapping into a lot of expertise and linking better with motorsport.”
A spokesman for Jaguar Land Rover declined to comment on links with Silverstone.
He added: “Jaguar Land Rover continually looks to invest and grow its business operations in the UK. We constantly evaluate a wide range of opportunities which are confidential.”
Silverstone has struggled to keep pace with the huge cost associated with Formula One in recent years.
It has a contract to host the British Grand Prix until 2026 but a clause in the agreement allows it to be terminated as early as next year.
Managing director Patrick Allen admitted earlier this year that financial pressures meant the £16 million annual cost of hosting a Formula One race weekend – and keeping Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone satisfied – could be a struggle.
He was reported as saying: “Can I guarantee the future? No, I can’t.
“Could I hand on heart say to Mr Ecclestone, ‘don’t worry, your money is absolutely safe for the next ten years?’ No I couldn’t... to pull the contract would be a sad thing for Silverstone, it would be a sad thing for motor racing and it would be a very sad thing for Britain.”
Pictures: Jaguar Land Rover parade