Patrice Joly, the Président of the Conseil Général de la Nièvre, the regional government of the area around the Magny-Cours racing circuit, says that he wants to build a mobility and transport theme park at the facility, in an effort to attract between 350,000 and 400,000 visitors each year. The idea would cost the region around $60 million. This is a surprisingly low figure, but is explained by the fact that the circuit boasts a great deal of infrastructure and parking, which means that the costs could be reduced significantly.
Joly is hoping that the circuit can win back the French Grand Prix, rather than seeing the race go off to Paul Ricard, near Toulon, where the facilities for the public – and the crowd capacity – are much inferior to those at Magny-Cours. In addition, Ricard is a long way from the major population centres of Paris (11 million) and Lyon (1.6 million), although it is close to Marseille, which boasts 1.5 million people.
The French motor racing industry has suffered in recent years, but Magny-Cours remains an important focus and will soon be home of the country’s newest car company, as Exagon will shortly open a production plant for its Furtive-eGT electric car, which will go on sale in October, after the next Mondial de l’Automobile exhibition in Paris.
One of the aims of the theme park project is to increase hotel capacity in the region, which will help it win back the Grand Prix. One of the biggest criticisms of Magny-Cours has long been the scarcity and quality of its hotels.
The inaccessibility of Magny-Cours has now largely been solved, with the A77 autoroute having finally been completed to the gates of the circuit at the start of 2011. This means that the journey time from Paris has been reduced significantly, although it remains a trip of 160 miles, which takes around three hours, allowing for traffic getting out of Paris. It is a similar distance from Lyon, although the journey will be shortened when the A77 is extended southwards to Moulins.
It is also worth noting that there are longterm plans for a major new high speed train route from Paris-Lyon, which could have a major new international station just a couple of kilometres to the west of Magny-Cours. This would have a dramatic effect on the region as it would reduce journey times from Paris (and Charles de Gaulle Airport) to just one hour, with a similar journey time to Lyon. The route has yet to be chosen, but the region is lobbying hard for the project.
There is no official decision yet on the French GP, but the signs are that the government might be willing to back a project at Paul Ricard. However, there are elections are coming up and the ruling party is not doing well in the opinion polls and it is possible that there will be a Socialist administration by the late Spring. The Nievre region has long been a Socialist stronghold, which was why Magny-Cours was originally transformed into An F1 track, back in the days of President Francois Mitterand, much to the annoyance of the folk at Paul Ricard, which was home of the French GP in the 1980s, before the arrival of Magny-Cours in 1991.