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OCTOBER 16, 1995

French delay decision over GP circuit

THE Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile, the governing body of French motorsport, has announced that it is to delay a decision on the future home of the French Grand Prix until its next committee meeting on December 11.

The FFSA, headed by Jean-Marie Balestre, says that it has received bids from three French racing circuits: Magny-Cours, PaulÊRicard and Le Mans for the race contract which will run between 1997 and 2001.

Magny-Cours, which won the event in 1991 thanks to pressure on the FFSA from the government of the day - headed by local man Francois Mitterand - is currently the favorite to continue to hold the race. There has been considerable investment in recent years in the Magny-Cours facilities, and the local infrastructure is much improved.

Paul Ricard, however, has a strong claim to hold the race. It hosted the event between 1985-1990 and prior to that alternated with Dijon throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. The local government has promised to invest heavily at Ricard to bring the facility up to the necessary standard.

Le Mans is the least likely bid to succeed. It has hosted only one Grand Prix - back in 1967 - although it remains a world-renowned circuit thanks to the annual Le Mans 24 Hour race. The circuit used for the classic sportscar event could not be used for F1, but there is a smaller track attached - known as the Le Mans Bugatti circuit - which could be modified for F1 racing. This will involve a major investment from the local authorities. They appear happy to put the money into the project if they win the bidding game. The major drawback for Le Mans is that the race would have to be switched in 1997 from its traditional early July date to September in order for work to be completed without disrupting the 24 Hour race.