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MARCH 29, 2004

Electoral disaster will not hurt French Grand Prix

The French Grand Prix was saved last winter by the intervention of the regional government, led by republican Jean-Pierre Soisson after the socialist Conseil General of the Nievre, which oversaw the race, pulled the plug on the event after two years of losses. The Federation Fran¬ćaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) stepped in and agreed to run the event until 2009 and put together a rescue package which involved 2m Euros from the Conseil Regional of Burgundy; two million from the Conseil General of the Nievre, 2m from sponsors (believed to be Renault, Total and Michelin) and 10m from the event itself. However soon afterwards the money from Burgundy was held up when the socialists voted against the 2004 budget. It was not until the end of February that the money was finally voted through with the undertaking from the Conseil Regional that it would contribute to the financing of the Grand Prix until 2009.

At the weekend Soisson, a major player in local politics since the 1960s, suffered a heavy defeat in the French regional elections but the race should be safe as socialist leader Michel Neugnot said that he is in support of the event. A recent survey suggested that the Magny Cours circuit generates as much as 150m Euros for the region each year, with about a third of that being a direct result of the Grand Prix.

All but one of the 21 French regions are now controlled by socialists.