THE motorsport industry with Oxfordshire at its heart has become one of the most important in the UK, a new report has revealed.

While the rest of the economy has been limping along in the slow lane, motorsport has bucked the trend and is now worth £9bn, having doubled in value from £4.6bn in 2000, according to the Motorsport Industry Association (MIA).

The county is at the centre of “Motorsport Valley” with four Formula One teams – Lotus, Williams, Marussia and Caterham – along with hundreds of other companies involved in other areas or acting as suppliers and providing thousands of jobs.

David Richards set up Banbury-based Prodrive 30 years ago with 14 employees and now has 600 staff and a turnover of £110m.

He said: “Motorsport technology is cutting edge, so that when aerospace people come to see us they say ‘Wow’.

“People have to look at motorsport as an industry, not just a fun thing where people go round and round a circuit.

“The sector is full of entrepreneurs pushing the boundaries and looking for opportunities.”

Prodrive’s expertise has stretched to producing cutting-edge technology for electric and hybrid cars, cabins for airliners, components for satellites and even parts for the Rover space vehicle that will fly to Mars.

The MIA’s review, done with UK Trade and Investment and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, also found 87 per cent of motorsport businesses export products or services.

Bicester firm Stack, which manufactures electronic dashboard instruments and data and video recording systems, generates 75 per cent of its income from overseas.

The firm, which has a £2m turnover and employs 18 people, has also successfully expanded into the defence sector.

Managing director Alan Rock said: “Motorsport is a harsh environment in terms of temperature, shock, vibration and water.

“Having developed a product that meets those needs means we have created something which also is appropriate for the defence environment.”

Mr Rock said the speed production required by motorsport is also an advantage when transferring skills to other sectors. He said: “We have extremely high-tech capability but are also able to deliver quickly and that’s a combination that’s pretty hard to beat.”