COVENTRY - WHAT REALLY IS GOING ON?
Long term future of Stock Car Racing assured
Reporting and pictures by Dave Carter
COVENTRY - WHAT REALLY IS GOING ON?
1. Read the article
2. View the draft Master Plan for redevelopment of Coventry Stadium
3. See the work in progress
4. Look at the Rolling Start Comment
5. Fill in the form!
|An article in the Coventry Evening Telegraph on 21 January sent a
shiver down the spine of stoxfans with the report that "the final stage of the plan
will see the presence of stock car and banger racing at the site come under review".
Very little hard information was available but this report had been sufficient to spark off considerable speculation about the future of racing at Brandon. A visit to the Planning Office in Rugby to see the plans actually raised more questions than it answered since the plans envisage building on the stock car pit area. Reports back from two people who had attended the public meeting held for local residents both expressed the view that the days of car racing were numbered added to the woes!
Rather than risk an off-beam knee-jerk reaction to these reports the time had come to tackle the Racing Club about their proposals with the aim of bringing everyone up-to-speed on the actual intentions of the management. This article is therefore based on a combination of both written responses to questions by email but more significantly a visit to the stadium on the morning of Thursday 12 February. This was no rushed affair as Jeremy Heaver spent 90 minutes proudly showing the progress thats being made and then chatting about the proposals and more generally about the state of stock car racing.
The Draft Master Plan
The first thing to stress is that the Master Plan is a draft and it has been produced for public consultation. There's already been a public meeting with local residents but Heaver was keen to stress that the final plan would change making it doubly important that final plan - which is shown on this page - has to be read in conjunction with these notes! The Planning Office had said the deadline for comments on the Master Plan was the end of February but Heaver discounted this saying, "the consultation is being handled by the Racing Club as it us who will be undertaking the development, however, no fixed deadline has been sought as we would like to gauge comment from our customers as well as residents prior to submission".
So what are the plans? There are four phases to the draft proposals and these are as follows:
Phase 1 of the redevelopment is now well underway. This has three main components. The first provides for the greyhound track and supporting infrastructure such as dog walking area kennels and vets accommodation. As you can see from the pictures this is well underway and for the dog racing expert Heaver explained how the dog track would be the only one in the UK built to international greyhound racing standards.
In order to accommodate the dog track there are changes to the car-racing infrastructure. Heaver explained how these include "the lowering of the safety fence by 18 inches - it will now be topped with post and wires - the removal of the existing catch fencing in front of the grandstand. This will now be replaced by temporary fencing for stock car events and the construction of a new roadway from the speedway pit area to the pit gate where cars will line up directly adjacent to the spectator area. In addition the track shape will be adjusted to provide a variety of racing lines". None of these changes appear to cause a problem for stox; rather they should add interest at car race meetings. There is consideration to the grassing of the centre following the relocation of the go-karts but a final decision on this remains to be made.
The third group of changes are customer-related. There is a massive new bar and catering area being built in the void beneath the stand, new executive boxes and the new 230-seat restaurant. In addition two-thirds of the grandstand seating have been replaced and what was best described as the 'trench' adjacent to the grandstand filled-in. Its fair to say that the buildings resemble a whole series of 'Changing Rooms' but there's no doubting the commitment and quality of the changes and come the first Saturday in April all will be revealed!
Phase 2. This provides for the Conference Centre, built alongside the car park in the location of the current Guest entrance. There is also a proposal to create an access road and footway alongside the Speedway Lane boundary. Subject to alternative pit-space being made available this does not seem to present any problems for car meetings.
Phase 3. This allows for a 250 stall Sunday Market located in the main pit area.
The Final Phase (see picture). At face value - because of the proposed sports club in the existing pit area - this appears to rule out car racing at the venue but to the relief of stoxfans Heaver is quick to point out that "the future of car racing in the long term is assured and that sufficient alternative pit-space will be made available - even if that meant utilising some of the car park". Heaver also reiterated the point that "changes are likely to be made to the draft plan which will help clarify the position"
Stock Car Racing's Wembley
"There is most definitely a role for Stock Car racing", Heaver said, "and we recognise that we are the Wembley of Stock Car Racing and we want to play a lead role in taking the sport forward". He certainly gave the impression that he meant what he said with TV coverage and meaningful sponsorship deals top of the agenda.
However, Heaver is also clear that the money being spent at the stadium is primarily to support the introduction of Greyhounds, which will have 200 events per year. The spin-off for Stock Cars (8 events) and Speedway (30 events) is that the transformation "will keep Coventry at the forefront of Oval Racing in the UK as at long last we will have a stadium which will match the expectations of the paying public". Having seen the work underway it is difficult to disagree.
Elsewhere Heaver has hinted that the stock cars might move to Sunday afternoons from 2005 although he did say this decision would depend on attendances. In short, the message is that if the decline in attendances over the past five years is halted and reversed then Saturday evenings will remain as Stock Car raceday. In fact this is in the Stadium's interest as Heaver noted that the stock car events, while small in number, are the Stadium's major events in terms of spectator attendance.
In discussing the why's and wherefore's of the sport Heaver did lay down a challenge for us all and that is where do we wish to see the sport in 10 years? Its a good question and one that everyone involved whether organiser, promoter, driver or racefan could usefully ponder. While there is always a danger of introducing change for changes sake, hearing some of Heaver's ideas for his 2004 dates - which cannot be revealed at the moment - really whets the appetite for the start of the season. He is clearly excited by the prospect of the BriSCA F2s as he revealed that 55 drivers had been in touch to request bookings for the April meeting already and he is eager to see the 2L Saloons on-track at F1 WF night! Apart from the WF night - which will feature the V8 Stock Car and Rebels WFs as well as the 2L Saloons and Ministox three other big events are planned. These include the opening meeting of the Golden Jubilee Year in April, the new Shale-Mac weekend with Northampton, which really does sound very promising as well as a big end of season meeting in November.
So, What about the Bangers?
At the moment no Bangers dates are fixed but Heaver did say that his preference would be to hold just one Banger event each year, but to make this a special one. Like most racefans he had found the Unlimited Banger session in early December last year the better of the two trial events.
The above report has been written in a way that tries to fairly and accurately reflect the situation at Coventry.
There is little doubt that early reports on the draft Master Plan did not paint a favourable picture for the future of oval racing. Having spoken at length with Jeremy Heaver, however, I believe that the management is both serious about keeping car racing at the venue in the long term and also in playing a full and active role in taking the sport forward.
We know that local residents and the anti-Greyhound Racing fraternity are very actively involved in making responses to the plan and now is the time for the car-racing fraternity to do likewise. Anyone can do this by writing individually to Jeremy Heaver at the stadium and you are encouraged to do this. Here is the address:
Coventry Racing Club Limited
Coventry International Motor Speedway
For its part Rolling Start is encouraging all racefans to fill-in the following form which supports revision of the draft Master Plan to clearly show and explain all of the facilities at the racetrack that will enable the continuation of stock car racing in the long-term. In addition to this there is space for you to set out any other comments such as the importance of Brandon Stadium to you personally.
Information on your name and address is required but this will only be used in reporting the results to the Stadium Management and Rugby Borough Council and for no other purpose. At intervals the completed forms will be amalgamated and submitted as part of the consultation exercise and the response - but not names and addresses - may be reproduced on Rolling Start for all to see.
Show your support for Stock Car Racing at Brandon by attending this seasons events and by filling in the form - NOW!
Contents copyright. May not be reproduced without permission.