x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

French Grand Prix cancelled

The 2009 French Grand Prix is called off as the country's federation withdraws its backing due to costs.

Kimi Raikkonen leaving the pits of the Nevers Magny-Cours racetrack at the French Grand Prix.
Kimi Raikkonen leaving the pits of the Nevers Magny-Cours racetrack at the French Grand Prix.

ABU DHABI // The 2009 French Grand Prix, scheduled for Magny-Cours on June 28, has been cancelled for economic reasons as sport continues to feel the pinch from the global crisis in the financial sector. It is unlikely a substitute race will be added to the calendar, although the reinstatement of the Canadian Grand Prix may be an option if Formula One Management want to maintain the status quo in regard to the number of fixtures. Though this seems unlikely. Bringing forward the arrival of India from its debut race in 2011 is also a possibility, although that might involve inflicting undue haste on the schedule for the organisation of the first race on the sub-continent. The Middle East is always considered whenever there is scope for hosting big events, as Abu Dhabi proved when earning the rights to stage the inaugural grand prix at Yas Island in November next year. This vacancy looks like coming too soon, however, for Dubai to put together a realistic plan. Qatar is a more suitable venue if the government there decide to make a firm bid to Bernie Eccleston, chief executive of the sport's governing body. Barry Hope is a local expert on the politics within the multi-million dollar sport. He is the managing director of Gulf Sport Racing based in Dubai and he believes it is unrealistic to regard the emirate as an imminent Formula One venue.

"Nowadays, Bernie Ecclestone will not deal with anybody other than those in high ranking government positions when it comes to the granting of Grand Prix status," said Hope, who addressed the annual Motor Sport Business forum at their two-day seminar in April. "If Sheikh Mohammed [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE prime minister, vice president and Ruler of Dubai] decided that he wanted a race, then there might be a discussion. But that's not yet happened. The facilities are here but to get the place ready for next summer might be pushing it. "Besides, there is a queue forming of potential venues. Russia and South Korea have expressed a desire to follow India on to the calendar." Philippe Gurdjian, the French-born chief executive of Abu Dhabi Motor Sports Management and the man in charge of organising next year's Dhs1.46billion Yas Island showpiece, was unavailable to comment about the demise of his native race as he was travelling to Shanghai for Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix. Gurdjian's crowning glory as a leading Formula One administrator was taking the role of troubleshooter when the construction of the circuit at Bahrain was behind schedule in early 2004 and completing it on time in only 70 days. He expressed his concern recently about the future of Magny-Cours, a circuit disliked by Ecclestone, who made no secret of his desire to move the race to a less remote venue closer to Paris. But not even Gurdjian could have expected the track's future to be decided so suddenly. Sources in France suggest that the French GP will be revived in 2010 at a new home, with Disneyland Paris considered to be the most popular of six options, Magny-Cours remaining among them.

wjohnson@thenational.ae