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French GP - Le Mans pulls out of the race

THE Le Mans circuit has announced that it has shelved plans to bid for the next French Grand Prix contract - which will run from 1997-2001. The regional council of the Sarthe department and the Automobile Club de L'Ouest have decided that the Le Mans 24 Hours classic should be the priority and will concentrate on developing that event.

The news opens the way for Paul Ricard to bid against Magny-Cours, although there continue to be whispers that a new bid will come from the Montlhery autodrome near Paris. Built in 1924, the track featured a banked oval with an L-shaped road course attached. The track hosted the French Grand Prix of 1925 and throughout the Thirties was the center of French racing. A serious accident in 1964, which left two drivers and three officials dead, sent the track into decline at a time when new permanent facilities were being built elsewhere.

The old banking remains but the new plan calls for these to be turned into grandstands. The refurbishment of the circuit would be expensive, but the plan has the backing of Jean-Marie Balestre and a variety of local government bodies might be convinced to split the costs: these include the departments of Yvelines and Essonne, the city of Paris and the Ile de France regional government.

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