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French resistance to Mosley

FIA President Max Mosley last week told the French regional newspaper Nice Matin that the French Grand Prix will move to Paul Ricard in the future. Mosley's comments caused an immediate press statement from the organizers at Magny-Cours pointing out that there is a contract already in place for the 2000 and 2001 seasons and that nothing has been decided beyond that.

But Magny-Cours's bombast is unlikely to make much difference to the future. Bernie Ecclestone is the major shareholder in a company called Excelsis which recently bought the Paul Ricard racing circuit from the Ricard family. There are plans for the facility to be completely rebuilt with a road course and an oval, complete with an automobile racing theme park and hotel. This will include Ecclestone's extraordinary car collection which is currently warehoused in Britain and Switzerland. The plan is for the circuit to be completed in time for a Grand Prix in 2002.

The plan is supported by several important local and national politicians but the authorities at Magny-Cours are not without influence as well. The president of the company running the circuit is Roland Hodel, a local socialist politician, who is also a senior law officer for the government, appointed in 1997 by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

There is considerable pressure on Jospin to push for the race to remain at Magny-Cours because the Nevers region is seen as the birthplace of the modern socialist party in France thanks to the area's association with the late President Francois Mitterand and Prime Minister Pierre Beregovoy.

Jospin is, however, unlikely to be able to sway Mosley and Ecclestone from their decision to switch the race to Paul Ricard.

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