A FORMULA One racing legend has backed a campaign to save the United Downs raceway by objecting to plans to turn it into a rum cask maturation facility and visitor centre.

Former Renault Formula 1 racing driver Derek Warwick, has publicly backed the calls to save the grass roots motor sport venue United Downs Raceway, near Redruth in Cornwall.

The Cornwall Distillery Company is seeking planning permission to convert the site into a green business.

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Warwick, whose distinguished career includes 11 seasons and 147 starts in Formula One, wins in both the Le Mans 24 Hours and the World Sportscar Championship, and three seasons in the British Touring Car Championship, started his illustrious career racing the oval tracks in the F2 Superstox.

Formula One racing legend Derek Warwick has backed the campaign

Formula One racing legend Derek Warwick has backed the campaign

“I’ve been a racing driver for most of my life. I started on the short oval raceways like United Downs, racing F2 Superstox. I was one of the lucky ones to race on ovals up and down the country from the age of 15 through to 22.”

“I found that I had a talent for motor racing and quickly started winning races and championships. I was the youngest English, European and World Champion, winning the title in 1973, at Wimbledon Stadium.”

“From this platform I started racing at circuits like Silverstone and Oulton Park. I was again lucky to progress up the world of motorsport winning championships in Formula Ford, Formula 3, Formula 2, the Worlds Sports Car Championship plus 24 hours of Le Mans in 1992, and then my ultimate dream - Formula One”.

“Simply, without grass roots racing, I would not have become a Formula One racing driver.”

In a submission supporting the campaign, Warwick wrote, "Please consider my objection to this development. I’m sure that the same development could be done elsewhere, and leave this little jewel for the next budding racing driver.”

“It’s difficult enough trying to keep motor racing going without taking another track from the UK, it gives so many competitors and spectators fun, competition and a place to go.

"The United Downs Raceway first opened in 1962 as a go-kart track before converting to a stock car track in 1969.

“To this day it still hosts 15 meetings per year, mainly through the summer season when it also serves as a valuable tourist attraction.”

“Cornwall has had stock car racing in the county for 60 years, which has helped in the proud tradition of producing World Champions.”

“United Downs Raceway is now the last stock car racing track in Cornwall after others were lost to development. This track has been in existence for over 50 years, and has been an integral part of the community.”

“Without a race track in Cornwall, the nearest venue is on the Devon-Somerset border. This scheme would be a disaster for grass roots motorsport, not only for Cornwall but it would have repercussions elsewhere in the U.K.”

“Although motorsport is viewed by some people as an inconvenient noise, many thousands of young drivers need to find a way to start climbing the ladder as I did, and many other British Grand Prix drivers.”

“So I beg you one more time, let’s find a better way forward and work together to find the best solution to satisfy everyone.”

Cornwall Council said in a statement: "Purple Cornwall’s lease with the council to operate their stock car racing business on council owned land at United Downs runs until October 2021.  We’re working with the company to help identify other suitable potential sites for their business after that date.

"In preparation for when the lease expires in 2021, the council is looking at low carbon and sustainable alternative uses for the site.  This includes innovative proposals that have the potential to contribute to economic growth and job opportunities in the area, as well as harness the potential offered by the new renewable energy generated by the United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project.  The council has invested in the geothermal project to generate electricity, but also to power industry and bring employment to the area.

"Whilst also keen to see low carbon development take place within the existing industrial site, the Council’s wider ownership in the area gives businesses with larger space requirements the ability to explore the unique opportunity as well.

The Cornwall Distillery Company has committed to local community engagement and have submitted an application to planning for their proposed project to build a sustainable rum cask maturation facility on the site.

The outcome of that application and as well as their own viability studies will determine if they are involved in what happens with the site after October 2021.