Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in the French Presidential election last weekend has thrown the future of the French Grand Prix into uncertainty once again, as the plan to have a race every two years was not completed in time. The socialist government which is currently being formed would prefer to see a race at Magny Cours, which is located in a region that is one of the strongholds of the socialist party. The government must decide whether or not it wants to try to create a deal that would alternate the event between Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard, but the problem remains one of funding, as the new government would be unwise to use government money for the project. The problem is that Bernie Ecclestone and most of the Formula 1 circus is not really interested in going to Magny Cours, which lacks the infrastructure and failed to attract big crowds the last time it was on the F1 calendar. The one thing that has changed since then is that the long-promised autoroute has now finally arrived at the gates of the circuit, albeit 20 years behind schedule.
We hear, however, that if there is to be a French GP at Magny Cours it will not be at a “mate’s rate” as had been discussed by Bernie Ecclestone and the last government for the Ricard project, but would be at a much higher tariff, with the usual 10 percent increase per year.
Before the election Hollande told the sports journal L’Equipe that he was in favour of the return of the French GP “in principle” but would prefer alternation between the two circuits in order to spread the economic benefits of a race.
Patrice Joly, the president of the Conseil Général de la Nièvre, where Magny Cours is located, has proposed building a mobility and transport theme park on land near the circuit, with the goal being to attract between 350,000 and 400,000 visitors each year. This would cost the region around $60 million as most of the infrastructure is already in place at the circuit and the authorities own the land needed.
Joly believes that the park would result in more hotel rooms and that these would help to make Magny-Cours a more attractive F1 venue.
There are also plans for a new high speed train route from Paris to Lyon, which are very likely to include a major station close to the circuit. This would reduce journey times from Paris to just one hour. The Commission Nationale du Debat Public has revealed that the preferred route is one that will include the stop near Nevers, and a final decision will be taken in June. If the line is built it will not be operational before 2025.