Council cashes in on F1 interest

By James HoreTHE bidding will soon be under way for one of the most sought after motoring souvenirs in the country after a council decided to auction off of its prized F1 number plate.

By James Hore

THE bidding will soon be under way for one of the most sought after motoring souvenirs in the country after a council decided to auction off of its prized F1 number plate.

The historic artefact was the first one issued in Essex and it is expected to fetch a six-figure sum when it goes under the hammer.

Council officials confirmed there had already been a specific inquiry from the wealthy world of Formula 1, which began its new season in Australia at the weekend.

The identity of the person behind the inquiry is being kept a closely-guarded secret, although the sport's supremo Bernie Ecclestone, the son of a Lowestoft trawlerman, is thought to be interested in the number plate.

Bids have to be submitted before July 9 - the opening day of practice for the British Grand Prix - for F1, the first car to be registered in Essex when the county council became the registration authority.

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The number plate has historically been used on the chairman of the council's car and currently it takes pride of place on a Volvo, although the winning bidder will probably transfer it to something a little more up-market.

County council leader, Lord Hanningfield, said: "This number plate is a valuable asset and, given the rising enthusiasm for Formula 1, it seems an appropriate time to make the most of it.

"Obviously, what we do with the money received will depend on just how much we raise, but I think it would be appropriate to use money raised on keeping children and young people safe on the county's roads."

Eric Craggs, chairman of National Numbers, which specialises in cherished and personalised plates, said the "sky's the limit" on the price of F1 because of the links to Formula 1.

He added: "F1 was issued in January 1904 and was the first one and back then the council got it for free effectively.

"They are like antiques and this original F1 is absolutely unique and worth a lot of money. I think you are talking anything from £100,000 to £250,000 and that is the sort of price it would retail at.

"But with the Formula 1 connotation, you could be talking in excess of a quarter of a million. With people like billionaire Bernie Ecclestone, to whom money doesn't really matter, then the sky is the limit.

"However, anyone paying more than £500,000 would be over the odds, but to some people that is like handing over the money for a pint of ale."

Mr Craggs said he thought the price would go through the roof, but he would pay between £50,000 and £70,000 to put it in his stock.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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