Billionaire businessman John Whittaker has given his blessing to the Southern 100.

The chairman of the Peel Group lives at Billown Mansion which is located inside the famous 4.25 mile course.

In a rare public statement Mr Whittaker said: ’As a keen admirer of the Southern 100 over many years, I am delighted that The Peel Group is supporting this event, which not only attracts top-level road racing talent to the Isle of Man but also provides a major tourism boost for the local economy.

’I am very much looking forward to the return of road racing to the Billown Course in 2021.’

Club chairman and race secretary George Peach said: ’We are absolutely delighted that the Peel Group have joined us as a sponsor of our races.

’Their support in what has been and still is a devastating year with the Covid-19 pandemic is a major boost in confidence for the club and the races which have been running since 1955 and hopefully will be back on the race calendar in 2021.’

Rachel Palmer, club secretary said: ’Southern 100 Racing greatly appreciates The Peel Group coming on board as a sponsor and we all look forward to welcoming John Whittaker and his team to our races, especially The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Southern 100 Road Races in July.’

It is hoped the next event, widely known as the ’friendly races’ will take place with three road races over July 12 to July 15 next year.

Meanwhile Mr Whittaker could be in the spotlight again after the Trafford Centre in the north of England was put up for sale in the last few days.

It is reported that the sale of the centre, which attracts 30 million visitors a year, could attract Mr Whittaker’s attention as a potential buyer.

Intu Properties, which owns 17 UK shopping complexes including Lakeside in Essex in addition to the Trafford Centre in Greater Manchester, entered administration in June.

Its joint administrators said: ’All parties are working constructively together to maximise value for this highly attractive asset.’

Shoppers can still visit the Trafford Centre, which opened in 1998.

Property giant Peel sold the shopping centre site to Capital shopping Centre, now Intu Properties for £1.6 billion back in 2011.

Isle of Man Newspapers reported last month that business circles were speculating that if Intu was forced to sell the Trafford Centre, perhaps Mr Whittaker himself would buy it back. The Trafford Centre was the Peel Group’s first landmark development.

Peel went on to develop MediaCity UK, Liverpool John Lennon Airport and Doncaster Sheffield Airport.