“REIMS, ROUEN & DIJON”

F1 Racing - - FRENCH CORRECTION -

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.

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