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French GP until 2005

THE French Grand Prix is to stay at Magny-Cours for the next five years. Agreements have now been signed by the race organizers, Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Administration, the FIA and the French national sporting authority and all would seem to be set until 2005. The race may be conditional on F1 settling its differences with the European Commission.

As part of the agreement, Magny-Cours has agreed to do considerable upgrading work at the facility, including revamping of the pit buildings, pitlane and paddock and the doubling of the capacity of the VIP Village from 400 to 800. In addition there will be a brand new grandstand at the Adelaide hairpin and there are plans for more grandstands in the future. The last corner will be completely rebuilt after this year's race with new pit entry and grandstands.

The deal with Magny-Cours is not a surprise as race organizers all over Europe have been scurrying to sign up deals with F1 because of the obvious threat to European races from the increasing number of tracks in the Middle East and Asia. Hockenheim is currently trying to sort out a new deal for the German GP while another five-year contract was recently announced for the Spanish GP.

The Magny-Cours deal means that it is unlikely that Bernie Ecclestone will invest in the development of the Paul Ricard facility for the next few years. Plans to have the circuit completely rebuilt were delayed because existing tenants refused to move. Whether or not the facility will ever be rebuilt is now a question.

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