MARCH 3, 1997
Prost Grand Prix on the move?
THE euphoria at Magny-Cours following the takeover of Ligier by Alain Prost is beginning to wear off and there are rumors that Prost intends to move the team to a new base as soon as he can.
Ligier moved to Magny-Cours in 1988 and the team's 40% windtunnel was built the following year. In modern F1 terms the factory is now relatively old-fashioned and its location is rather isolated in rural central France. The main attraction for the team when it moved was important concessions from the local government and the ability to test at a track next to the factory. This is not quite the advantage it seemed as Magny-Cours's unusual surface means that testing work is not relevant to other circuits and so Ligier tends to have to test elsewhere to learn about its cars.
The most likely destination for the team will be Paul Ricard, near Toulon in the south of France. The Ricard circuit is much more useful for testing and the weather is certainly better as the circuit is 250 miles to the south of Magny-Cours and enjoys Mediterranean conditions.
More importantly Ricard is the base of Hugues de Chaunac's ORECA empire and with de Chaunac expected to play a big role in Prost Grand Prix it would make sense for the factory to be close to his other businesses. The local authorities at PaulÊRicard would be delighted to snatch the team from Magny-Cours and have in the past shown themselves to be willing to fund other motor racing projects, notably the construction of factories for AGS (at nearby Le Luc) and Larrousse (in the Signes industrial park behind the Ricard circuit).
Ricard also has the advantage that there is a airfield right next to the track capable of taking small jets, which makes it much more accessible than Magny-Cours ever was.
Prost is also expected to open an office in Paris to take care of the team's administration, marketing and public relations. This would not be new as Ligier was for many years represented in Paris by Dany Hindenoch's WHO public relations company.
At the moment Prost is not saying whether he plans to move the team or not - but he is not denying that a move is possible.