The long-term future of the British Grand Prix is back in jeopardy as Inside Sport reveals that a proposed 'takeover' of Silverstone, backed by Qatari money and potentially worth £500million, is off.
While the glamour and glitz of the new F1 season unfolds on the other side of the world at the first Grand Prix of 2012 in Melbourne, the imminent withdrawal of the Alpha Group bid for Silverstone will rock the circuit's owners, the British Racing Drivers' Club.
As we reported last year, the Qatar-backed Alpha Group made a £1m non-refundable payment to gain 'preferred bidder' status for a 150-year lease on Silverstone, the spiritual home of British motor racing.
Any new investor will fund a modernisation programme and profit from commercial spin-offs.
But Alpha have got tired of waiting for the BRDC to complete a deal and sources say the money earmarked for Silverstone will instead be channelled into two other Qatar-backed sports projects.
Those sources, close to the Qatar Royal Family who control much of the oil-rich nation's overseas investment, including via the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), say Paris St-Germain football club plus an America's Cup will now get the cash instead.
The QIA have not responded to questions on the subject, while the BRDC - whose members include former world champions Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill - still appear to believe the Qatar=backed investment will happen.
A spokesman told me: 'The BRDC have been in negotiations with one preferred potential investor since late 2011, and remain in negotiations with the same potential investor. The terms of the exclusivity agreement stipulate that all matters remain confidential.'
The BRDC also claim that their deal with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone to keep the British GP at Silverstone until 2026 will stand regardless of any more circuit upgrades.
Other sources say this is not the case and that fresh money is urgently needed to fund Silverstone's redevelopment, without which Silverstone's long-term hosting of the GP is in doubt.
Ecclestone himself said in late October it would be 'wonderful' if the Alpha Group deal happened.
As and when the BRDC accept that the Qataris have walked away, I can reveal that a second group of would-be investors are interested in stepping in.
The Anglo- American syndicate of big-hitters from finance and sport includes Sir Richard Branson as a commercial partner and is codenamed Project Penelope.
The public back Aldama in the Plastic Brits debate
Yamile Aldama, who won a triple jump gold medal for Britain at the World Indoor Athletics Championships last weekend, tells me she has received 'nothing but support and good wishes' from the public.
This despite a 'Plastic Brits' campaign attempt to stir up animosity towards her and other Team GB athletes who, like several prominent members of England's cricket and rugby teams, were not born here.
Aldama, 39 and originally from Cuba, has lived in north London for more than a decade.
She and her Scottish husband have two British sons, aged 10 and 18 months, and she adds: 'I'm really proud to have won for Britain. My boys are proud and my 10-year-old's classmates even made me a congratulations card.'
Shake your booty for 2012
The budget for the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics and Paralympics may have doubled to around £80million, but insiders say the sheer scale of the event being masterminded by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle is breathtaking.
Some 20,000 performers will be involved, with many thousands more working behind the scenes and as suppliers.
And Boyle, London 2012's Oscar-winning artistic director, is taking an active role from the auditioning process onwards.
The cast of more than 10,000 people for the curtain-raiser on July 27 has been drawn largely from volunteers, auditioned in batches of around 500 a day for months on end at a film studio at Bow, in East London.
One successful contender tells me: 'My audition was last autumn and lasted three hours. Every single person auditioned had a screen test and had their measurements taken in case they got through and needed a costume.
'It was great fun. I had to bend over and shake my booty in front of Danny. It was like something you'd see at a Beyonce gig. But, frankly, I'd have swung upside down from a chandelier to make it. It'll be amazing.'
There was apparently a shortage of 'men with rhythm' in auditions and a mailshot to successful volunteers requested suggestions for more.
The only payment that volunteers will get - the details are yet to be confirmed - are travel costs to auditions.
The audition schedule is gruelling: up to 30 sessions, each five hours long, in evenings and at weekends between now and July, including eight dress rehearsals in the Olympic Stadium closer to show time.
Nick Harris has been chosen as Internet Sports Writer of the Year by the Sports Journalists’ Association for the second year running
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