Monsieur et Madame X and the Paris Grand Prix

I'm biased, of course. For 10 years I lived in the back of beyond in rural France. And I loved it. This is why I secretly like the French Grand Prix being at Magny-Cours. Not a lot of people would admit to something like that, but I am rather fond of it. I know that the race does not make sense but as far as I am concerned it is the cheapest race of the year. I stay with Monsieur and Madame X (I'm not given away the name for fear that someone will steal the accommodation) who live in the village next to the track and who open their house to a bevvy of Formula 1 journalists. That may not be quite the right collective noun but it seems an apt one given that we are not exactly a bevy of beauties.

Over the years we have watched the X grandchildren grow up each year and that sort of thing is always nice. Even better than that (and whisper this) we have even located a restaurant at which we can get a table during the F1 weekend and do not need to sell our shoes to pay the bill. Now do we have to make do with McDonalds, the Buffalo Grill, the Hotel Mercure or a bad pizzeria.

Magny-Cours is not a bad race track but the access is sometimes odd and traffic jams tend to develop for no obvious reason apart from the fact that a solitary policeman may have thought it would be good fun to cause one.

On the way one down to Magny-Cours one can stop for lunch in a nice place and occasionally F1 folk have been known to go home with a few bottles of Sancerre or a case or two of Pouilly in the boot.

That is why we like Magny-Cours.

The problem is that if one takes off one's illogical head and applies pure logic to the question in hand there is no doubt that it makes a great deal more sense to have a race nearer a big population centre - and the obvious place is Paris. The population of the Nievre is minimal. Most of them are old folks. The rest are cows. This is a region where wireless means "a radio" and broadband is something you might put in your hair.

If there was a race at Le Mans the people of Paris might turn up but the Automobile Club de l'Ouest don't want to get involved in that.

Back in the old days the French Grand Prix was at Montlhery for many years. This mighty oval to the south of Paris is still there but is owned by something called the Union Technique de l'Automobile du Motocycle et du Cycle which does not have the money to redevelop it, but still wants to hold on. Years ago, FIA President Jean Marie Balestre tried to get the place revamped but gave up because of the bureaucracy. That was a shame.

If it is not careful Montlhery will one day end up like Brooklands.

There is a strong argument that really an event should take place in the Bois de Boulogne, the vast public park that sits on the western side of Paris and can be accessed by the Metro. The park includes two racecourses (the Hippodromes of Auteuil and Longchamps) and a number of other sporting facilities. There are roads already laid out and it would be easy to host a race there. It would take about 10 minutes to design the track and I could take you right now to the place where they could use the same kind of convertible pit buildings/squash courts that they have in Melbourne.

The park would be better off for it.

If the mayor of Paris has some imagination he would realise that the Bois de Boulogne was where the first motor race took place (you can argue about which was the first, but they all involved the Bois de Boulogne). It was where motor racing revived after World War II. It is perfect. But what can you do? The mayor is a screaming left-winger and he has done everything in his power to mess up life for the car owners of Paris. He has pioneered endless cycle lanes in Paris - but still no-one uses a bicycle. What he has failed to do is land any really big sporting events. If he had spent more money cleaning the dog crap off the pavements he might have done better when it came to bidding for the Olympic Games but the socialists, greens and communists that make up his support do not seem to understand this. Presumably because dog crap in bio-degradable.

The truth is that he was only elected because the right wing vote was split in two by feuding politicians.

As Charles de Gaulle famously said: "How can one govern a country with two hundred and forty six varieties of cheese?"

The only Paris Grand Prix since the Montlhery days was in a comic strip back in the turbo era when Jean Graton’s hero Michel Vaillant won the day. Vaillant’s first Grand Prix victory was in 1958 (wearing open-face cork helmet and goggles), his most recent in 2003. His hair is still jet black, and he has no wrinkles. Despite starting eleventh on the grid, he took the lead by outbraking Alain Prost’s Renault on the last lap and led home a French 1-2-3 with Didier Pironi’s Ferrari in third.

From what we are hearing now, Bernie & Co may soon give Vaillant the chance to win another Paris GP victory but not in the Bois de Boulogne (which is a shame because the crowds would be much bigger) but instead at a purpose-built facility at Disneyland Paris. This is totally logical, particularly as Union Properties in Dubai is looking to spend $500m to build an F1 theme park somewhere in western Europe. The obvious thing to do if you are cosnidering such an investment is to look at the experiences oif other who have gone through the same process. Disney spent years doing research and getting all the permissions needed. Disneyland Paris has everything there that F1 needs: planes, trains, automobiles, hotels and so on. And Paris is just a few miles away. Disney is required in its contract with the French government to have 18,200 hotel rooms by 2017 and they need to fill all of them if the business is to continue to boom. They must be looking at new ways to pull in people.

And building a race track next to the theme park makes obvious sense as UP has done in Dubai and the Aldar company is doing with its Ferrari-themed park in Abu Dhabi.

On paper it looks like a slam dunk.

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