Magny-Cours cancels 2004 F1 French GP

The F1 French GP will not be held in 2004, the Conseil General de la Nievre is expected to inform the FIA today. The local council is the majority shareholder in the promoter, SAEMS Circuit de Nevers de Magny-Cours. Its president, Marcel Charmant, said: "The financial situation of the holding company makes it impossible to give Bernie Ecclestone the guarantees he needs for the finance of the race." SAEMS says it has agreed a new contract with FOM for 2005-09

Magny-Cours cancels 2004 F1 French GP

French sports minister Jean-François Lamour may intervene to ensure that the event is secured. He said: "A decision is yet to be taken by the competent authorities. I will do all I can to persuade the FIA to keep the Grand Prix for the good of motorsport."

Last month the FIA listed the event as provisional on the 2004 F1 calendar, pending a financial settlement between SAEMS and Ecclestone's group, which is understood to be owed as much as US$11m. The FIA set the promoter an early December deadline to raise the required funds, but the council decided on Friday that it would be unable to do so. M Charmant said that it would now withdraw its application to hold a race in 2004.

On Saturday, SAEMS president Roland Hodel said that a five-year deal had been concluded with Ecclestone for the race to take place over 2005-09 at Magny-Cours. He said: "We'll take a break in 2004. Bernie Ecclestone has agreed to this."

The local council's decision has been announced more than two weeks before the deadline (the next meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Monaco). This may be a ploy to leave time for the French national government to come to the rescue of the situation with state funding.

The French GP - the world's oldest motor race - has been held at Magny-Cours since 1991. As the Grand Prix de l'ACF, it was first held in 1906 at Le Mans, where the Automobile Club de l'Ouest and its partners (also local civic bodies) are known to be anxious to secure the national F1 fixture. Their permanent 'Bugatti' circuit did stage the race back in 1967, but is not thought to be in a position to do so as early as July 2004.

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