“REIMS, ROUEN & DIJON”
of hosting troubles for the likes of Hockenheim, the Nürburgring and Silverstone?
Well, the project has had an advantage from the start: the circuit is already in near-perfect condition and requires relatively minor work to meet the notoriously tough demands of an F1 GP.
Paul Ricard, named after its founder, who died in 1997, has become renowned for leading the way in circuit design and technology since it was sold in ’99. The track is part of the assets of the family trust controlled by Ecclestone’s ex-wife Slavica – an important distinction from the widely held belief that ‘Bernie owns Paul Ricard.’ In 2002 it was relaunched as the most sophisticated test track in the world; the high-tech sprinkler system installed to simulate wet-weather conditions, and its signature blueand red-striped high-abrasion run-off areas are just two of the circuit’s groundbreaking developments and safety features. a spin-off evaluation of $90m per annum to the region, and the creation of 500 jobs.
The single access road will need to be developed to avoid snarling congestion on grand prix weekends, but that won’t be a problem for the privileged few whom F1 values beyond any humble fan. Ricard is but a short helicopter hop to the French Riviera, while the Le Castellet airport, situated adjacent to the pit straight, will welcome the F1 world’s squadron of private jets.
But as anyone at Hockenheim will tell you, fans are still important to a GP. Will Ricard draw a crowd? “No question it will,” says Dro. “Those who go to Monte Carlo and travel to Barcelona for the Spanish GP will be attracted – and the ticket prices will be lower than Monaco, too.”
The French motor racing community has understandably embraced the news. As for the public at large, the response is harder to gauge. Despite the importance of the car industry it; F1 is coming back to France, at the Circuit Paul Ricard. It’s wonderful news.”
That it is. For those who care little for history and tradition, it is just another race in the middle of a long season. But all sport requires the context and perspective that only the passing of time can decree if success is to count for anything worth remembering. That’s why drivers and teams chase records, or why a win at Monaco, Monza or Silverstone instinctively means more than one at Baku.
Economics and fruitful nancial markets are what count to those who turn the F1 wheels. But for the rest of us, the French GP comeback has a value without a price. To those for whom Reims, Rouen, Clermont-Ferrand and Dijon are more than just French provincial towns – and instead stir thoughts of Fangio, Moss, Clark, Amon and Villeneuve – this news really matters.
It’s good for the soul.