Magny-Cours has a new F1 plan

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.

27 thoughts on “Magny-Cours has a new F1 plan

  1. Given that Paul Ricard is all but owned by Bernie, what chance does Magny-Cours have of winning the right to host any potential French GP?

    Also, with a question mark hanging over the future of both Spanish circuits, are there any plans to relocate the European GP or would it be abolished in favour of somewhere more lucrative?

    1. I have no idea who owns Paul Ricard as it is all now registered in Mauritius. There are rumours that it was given to Mrs E as part of the divorce settlement, or it could perhaps be owned by the Bambino Trust. Who knows?

      1. Boy is Mauritius popular these days. Maybe The Mole should do a Tailor of Panama excursion thataway? I wonder who, and it could very well be singular, is the common notary?

        Anyhow, let’s have this French GP on again. Been a disgrace, the omission.

    2. But now think about Bernie and consider staging a race himself (either paying fees – not good for Bernie/Bambino/X or not getting revenue for FOM – not good eiter), wouldn’t it be far better to get the French not only to invest in the facility, inftrastructure but also pay a nice sum into the coffers of FOM?

  2. Personally , I can’t see Bernie paying the kind of money that Bernie wants to run an F1 race at his track . Bernie would lose a lot of money on the deal and the only person making money would be Bernie … Oh , wait …

  3. Good for M. Joly. This sounds a bit like a PR stunt though with the elevtions coming up. Aside from the traditional four (Monaco, Silverstone, Spa and Monza), grands prix need to be located close to an international hub to attract crowds in sufficient numbers. Who’s going to build those hotels? Private investors will need more than a GP and theme park to pour money in the region.

    Being French, I would love to have a GP not too far off from my family and Magny-Cours is ideal as far as this is concerned. However, looking at what happens in Europe and beyond (e.g. Melbourne, Singapore), does France really need a GP there? I don’t think so. Yeongam (the convenient location of the Korean GP) anyone? 🙂

    My first choice would be Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans. The infrastructure is there and modifications require would be minimal. There are camp sites a plenty. I think of it as the French Silverstone. A street race would be my second option.

      1. And we can’t blame the ACO for such a decision.
        As things stand now, a circuit is unlikely to return a profit from hosting an F1 event on its own.

        Melbourne and Singapore show the overall profit comes from the added tourism money the event brings to the city. Both are street tracks and government initiatives.
        I believe this is also the route Austin is following, although starting as a private enterprise and following a different financial model.

        With that in mind, I see the return of the French GP (Magny-Cours or anywhere else) as a very distant future. The government cannot assign funds to such a ‘frivolity’ as long as unemployement remains above 8% (today above 10%).

        Final though, France does not need a GP the way South-East Asian and Middle-East nations have used their GP to promote themselves.

    1. The short track in Le Mans is not a good track though… I would hate to see it getting F1 races. It really isn’t interesting enough for that.

      Heck the full Le Mans track isn’t good enough for F1 never mind the Bugatti baby track.

  4. The comments about the TGV being welcome in the region contrast with the ridiculous row over HS2 over here. I’m sure there are aggrieved parties when the French build their new high-speed lines and for that matter any other infrastructure projects (you also referred to extensions of the Autoroutes) – but we seem to love to put barriers in the way – which massively increases costs and only delays the inevitable. The row today for example being about a third runway at Heathrow or a completely new mad alternative airport project in the Thames estuary – both of which will doubtless take at least 10 to 20 years to build

  5. as far as the tracks go – for racing – we know that magny cours sucks… i seem to remember paul ricard being a decent track back in the day, no?

    1. No, I remember some good races at Magny-Cours. The F1 races at Ricard were really too long ago to be any kind of guide.

  6. Building a motor racing theme park next to a racing circuit makes sense if you can guarantee visitor numbers.

    Some lessons can be learnt from the F1X theme park in Dubai, remember!

  7. And in unrelated news, I am sad to see that Peugeot have pulled the plug on the WEC LMP1 project today with immediate effect, citing poor car sales.
    Really feel for Ant Davidson – he was spectacular in the ILMC last season.

    1. I feel sorry to hear that too, not only for Davidson but for the Championship in itself – who/what is gonna rivalize the Audis?

    2. Current news is that obviously Craig Pollock`s PURE has an eye on Peugeots engine facilities including the staff near Paris. I always doubted that the PURE engine will retain it´s name when in action, but should there be a gradually transformation from the PURE into a Pug a la Mecachrome-Renault, after Mess. Simon and Boudy are on board already? Would make some sense as it could be quite less financial demanding than a full scale sportscar engagement. Or am I counting 2 and 2 together and get 6? What do you think, Mr. Saward?

  8. The French Grand Prix is an important one–at least historically speaking–and it should be back on the calendar sooner than later. With a French driver in the fray and one of the Spanish tracks (conceivably) losing a 2012 race, maybe this could play into the hands of Paul Ricard temporarily as the teams already test there? Good to hear that Magny-Cours appears to be in FIA courtship mode though.

  9. same thoughts. as a fan, history is very important, and as spectator I would enjoy going to watch on site, at least once, whichever the track.

  10. For a day trip Magny-Cours wasn’t bad. I was there in ’08-leaving Paris by train in the morning and back in the cafe having dinner before 9PM. Shuttle bus from the train station to the track and back.
    The circuit and its surroundings reminded me of Watkins Glen here in the US…especially the campers outside the track.
    I have been to plenty of worse events.
    A theme park? Ask the Nurburgring how that is working out for them.

  11. I got caught by surpirse by the new roads on leaving Moulins for Paris one morning last October. As you say, swept right past the MC entrance and the onwards trip to Paris was completely painless, and certainly quicker than before.

  12. Joe,

    While the motor racing industry isn’t flourishing in France, there is considerable interest in events such as the Dakar rally raid. It is organized by the French organization ASO, and French companies such as Total are major sponsors of this tough event. Most entrants are French too. So perhaps it is only in circuit racing (with the exception of sports prototype racing) that French interest has waned, right?

    By the way Joe, why is the Dakar never prominently featured in motorsport sites such as Autosport, and why hasn’t there been considerable British interest in it? Surely it can rival Formula 1 as one of the ultimate motorsport events.

  13. Mr. Jolys bold plan seems to be a little bit like political PR in pre-election phase to me as his bill has numerous unknowns. I don´t think it would be easy for the haunted french economy and the public authorities to thrust out even a sum of 50 billions nowadays. And there already some bad examples what can happen to a “theme park” when it doesn´t add up. And, as always, whats Bernies position? Alas, the situation of Paul Ricard was hardened by its abasement to a sole test facility, but it would be my favourite, as it is the more interesting site regarding the track and the surroundings (the futuristic track layout, the local colour “mediteraneé”, the Signes and the Mistrale.g.); there is a problem with the direct traffic connection, but also consider the Castellet airport vis-a-vis and the A50 motorway south of Castellet. The missing grandstands are not a real problem. As Magny Cours may be the more favourable location for the british to get to, Paul Ricard may be the same for the italian and spaniard Ferrari crowds. So I hope sincerely the Paul Ricard/Spa deal will be fixed soon, before the whole project runs danger to become pulverized between political poles as it happened several times before in France.

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