This time last year was meant to be the last French Grand Prix held at Magny Cours in Nevers, France. However, Bernie Ecclestone found enough softness in his heart to allow a years reprieve for the circuit and now, in 2008, we are supposedly visiting the track for the very last time. So why is Bernie against the circuit, and what can be done in the future to ensure France – the founders of grand prix motor racing – keep a race in their country.
Magny Cours is set in the French countryside, over two hours drive from Paris according to the official website – I’m guessing Ecclestone considers anything not within walking distance of an airport at which his plane can land is considered remote by him. Looking at the Google Earth image of the region, you can see the track is pretty much slap-bang in the middle of the country, there aren’t any major airports nearby and accommodation for all the team personnel is said to be a nightmare at best. Because the region doesn’t attract a lot of tourists, the amount of hotels and other facilities are lacking.
The red flag is where Magny Cours is located. It didn’t come out too well on the reduced resolution.
However, there is possibly a way for France to keep a grand prix and remain involved with Formula One other than through the Renault team and competing-driver Sebastien Bourdais. Rouen-Les-Essarts have supposedly put themselves forward as a potential venue for the race in the future, and the circuit has hosted French Grands Prix before.
Rouen was a street circuit that cut its way through the city and hosted the French Grand Prix back in 1952, repeating the feat in 1957, ’62, ’64 and ’68. Since then the race has alternated between Dijon, Paul Ricard and more recently, Magny Cours. Although the Rouen venue was a street circuit, many permanant features were added such was the success of the place, and at the time the track was considered to be one of the finest in Europe. It is worth noting that Spa Francorchamps was originally run on public roads, as is Albert Park, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and of course, Monaco.
In 1999 though, all of Rouen’s permanant fixtures were demolished though, the track having closed down five years previous due to safety and financial reasons. However, according to Grandprix.com, the local Chamber of Commerce in Rouen are considering reviving the track and bidding for the French Grand Prix. Together with an external organisation – Espace des Decideurs des Entreprises Normandes – it is hoped a new street circuit could grace the Formula One calendar.
It is no secret that Bernie Ecclestone likes street races, two new ones are being added to the calendar this year alone (Valencia and Singapore). There is also the possiblity of a permanant circuit being constructed near the airport in Rouen as well as the idea of copying Valencia and using the dock area of the city to hold a race.
However, this idea appears to be very much in the ‘dream’ stage and little seems to have been done regarding wheels and motion. Ecclestone has talked in the past about a street race in Paris, which would no doubt capture the romance of the city and motor sport. And as I’ve never seen anything race around Rouen, I have absolutely no idea just how good the track was. Perhaps some of BlogF1’s wiser readers could fill us youngsters in.
Wherever the race is held though, I feel it important for France to hold a round of the Formula One championship. Motor racing essentially started in the country and the French have been a part of F1 for almost every year since 1950.
Where would you like the French Grand Prix to be held; Magny Cours, Rouen, Paris, Le Mans, Paul Ricard, somewhere else…? Have your say in the comments below and in the poll.[poll:18]
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