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Interview: Bill Coombs, Thruxton Group

The Thruxton Group's managing director is confident the circuit can compete in an increasingly competitive market 

by Rachel Evans

 

What is your earliest motorsport memory?
The British Grand Prix in 1965 when I was 4 years old. All I can remember is Jim Clark’s victory lap, and I think there were fire engines, and that’s it!

What is your earliest Thruxton memory?

The Formula Two meeting in 1968. I was seven years old and was up on the bank watching Jochen Rindt, he was the big star at the time.

How did you get into the business?

All I wanted to be [when I was younger] was a racing driver, but we had no money as a family. So in 1979 I came to Thruxton to the Scorpion Racing Drivers School and they were running a scholarship for the quickest person each month. I was quickest person of the month so I got to do my first public race. By the age of 19 I was a professional racing driver.

What is the worst part of your job?

Going to meetings and doing spreadsheets! It’s rubbish! I’m not an office kind of guy.

How can traditional circuits compete with developing tracks in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East?

The UK circuit scene is difficult and it’s particularly difficult for circuits like Thruxton where you can only have seven race meetings a year. You can’t justify putting all the barriers up and having all the spectator safety measures just for such a small amount of meetings a year. You’ve got to have other businesses on site. The simpliest thing to do is to have lots of people at the circuit all the time, engaging in other activities related to motorsport.

How else does Thruxton generate revenue outside of racing events?

We have junior driving on the circuit, we have instruction for people getting their novice race licenses, and the kart track is a fantastic facility that operates almost every day of the year except for Christmas day. We have around 20,000 people karting a year.

What makes Thruxton stand out in an increasingly competitive market?

There are a couple of things. It’s got a lot of history and it’s the fastest circuit in the country – that’s really the key. But also it’s got an unusual layout, it’s not like a normal circuit where it’s a straight, corner, then a straight – there’s always a corner going on. Even the straights aren’t that straight.

Are there any development plans for the future?

I’m very keen that the circuit will remain iconic. It has a character of its own and it would be terrible to put any chicanes in or change it. But the next development we have is a skid area, which hopefully manufacturers will use, and then following that we’re installing a hospitality building. That will service the race meetings and it’ll be used as a basis for the junior driving, the skid area and the experience center. We hope it will be in place by July 2014.

Where do you see Thruxton in 10 years?

I don’t see it doing any more racing. I think the key is to make those seven race meetings we have very special each with their own individual market. The facilities will change quite a lot but they will change based and funded on the other general retail activity on site. I would like people to see Thruxton as a destination they drive past on the A303, somewhere they can just call in and see what’s going on, because there will be activities everyday.

 

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