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Former F1 grand prix promoter Philippe Gurdjian dies

Philippe Gurdjian

Former French Grand Prix promoter Philippe Gurdjian, who also played an instrumental role in helping put Malaysia and Abu Dhabi on the Formula 1 calendar, has died aged 69.

The Frenchman competed at Le Mans five times in the 1970s and 1980s, taking seventh overall and a GT class win in 1977, before first shooting to prominence as the promoter of his home F1 GP.

He oversaw the race at Paul Ricard from 1985 and then in 1991 led the transfer of the event to Magny-Cours.

Gurdjian's success with the French GP led to him becoming one of Bernie Ecclestone's most trusted men, and he helped organise the Spanish GP for a while.

He was also called upon to ensure that efforts to bring the Malaysian and Abu Dhabi GPs on to the calendar were successful - and both have become established.

Gurdjian's biggest legacy will be helping to engineer the transformation of the Ricard circuit into a modern testing facility - although he never did see it secure an F1 race again.

It became a contender to host a Mediterranean GP back in 2006, and Gurdjian once famously suggested that an F1 race could even take place there exclusively for corporate guests, without any paying spectators.

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier, who became a friend of Gurdjian, was one of the first to pay tribute to him.

"On behalf of all at McLaren, I want to say how very sorry we all are to hear the sad news that Philippe Gurdjian has passed away," he said.

"As the French Grand Prix promoter for many years, when the race was at Magny-Cours, and latterly as the 'father' of the brilliantly revamped Paul Ricard circuit, he was a very important and highly influential figure in the story of motorsport in France.

"He was also a friend of mine, and a lovely man - wise, intelligent, friendly and amusing. I'll miss him.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and many friends today."

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