Ecclestone eyes Disneyland Paris GP

UPDATE #10 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. The prospective organizers of a French grand prix on the grounds of Disneyland Paris have scrapped their plans.

It has emerged that the collaboration, with Euro Disney providing the land and promoter Lagardere Sports over $100 million, was relying on additional third party financial backing that did not materialize.

Map showing Disneyland (right edge of map) geographic relationship to downtown Paris

An excerpt from a statement distributed by Lagardere, formerly the racing car company Matra, explained that "it proved impossible to reach an agreement with the other parties, which was an essential condition in the development of the project".

The Disneyland plans had been the most likely to materialize for 2010, after the current French grand prix at Magny-Cours withdrew from the 2009 calendar.

The news means that France is likely to be missing minimally from next year's formula one schedule, as well as in 2010.

10/16/08 (GMM) Disneyland Resort Paris is the frontrunner to bring France back to the formula one calendar in 2010, French racing federation chief executive Nicolas Deschaux has admitted.

As the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) announced that next year's Magny Cours race has been cancelled for economic reasons, Deschaux said he met this week with organizers of six alternate venues.

Disneyland Paris is located about a half hour drive from the French capital, and we reported recently that plans have been devised for a temporary track on the Euro Disney-owned grounds.

Moreover, the national sports newspaper L'Equipe reports that quadruple world champion and former F1 team owner Alain Prost is firmly backing the project, having declared the future of the French grand prix "an issue of national importance".

Deschaux said: "The only plan that can be put in place in 2010 is the Paris Val d'Europe (Disneyland) project."

He also said the other five hopeful venues have thought up "serious" propositions for the French grand prix.

10/07/08 (GMM) Draft plans for a formula one circuit on the grounds of Disneyland Paris have been prepared, as the French racing federation considers options for the country's grand prix in 2010 and beyond.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is desperate for his sport to move away from Magny Cours, an isolated circuit in the rural centre of the country.

There are alternatives to Disneyland, which is about a half hour drive from the French capital, but it is reportedly Ecclestone's preferred venue.

The French language newspaper La Presse reports that Lagardere Group, formerly the racing car company Matra, in collaboration with Disneyland's owners Euro Disney, have devised plans for a temporary F1 track.

The circuit would use some existing roads, and require some purpose-built sections, the publication said.

Lagardere Group would not confirm the claims.

It is expected that the French racing federation FFSA will publish a shortlist of four potential 2010 grand prix venues on October 15, and that Ecclestone will then make the final selection.

05/16/08 (GMM) Paris is reportedly not yet ready to step in and replace the outgoing formula one venue Magny Cours as host of the annual French grand prix.

It was reported early this week that F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, keen to instate a Paris date on the grand prix calendar as soon as possible, ruled out returning to the unpopular rural venue Magny Cours following its swansong race next month.

Ecclestone revealed that he has been told by French prime minister Francois Fillon that he will look into the possibility of a Paris race.

But the French daily newspaper Le Figaro said on Friday that, despite Fillon's support, the Paris project is lacking funds.

Plans are reportedly well advanced for a formula one race at Disneyland Resort Paris, which is about a half hour drive from the capital city, but the project is lacking about $31m in necessary funding, Le Figaro said.

Disneyland Paris' owner, Euro Disney, is reportedly willing to host the event on its grounds but argues that the French government should provide the money.

05/10/08 Rumor has it that Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA are looking at Disneyland Paris again. The theme park has outlet stores, 5,800 hotel rooms, plus another 2,400 that are run by other companies, all necessary for a grand prix. There are two convention centers, shopping, a golf course, perfect transport links to everywhere.

They have an abundance of land. Disneyland has 5,000 acres and they have developed only half of it. Speculation is that is they could do a deal with the people in Dubai who have the worldwide rights to build the F1 theme parks, it would be a perfect place for the Grand Prix.

They are building MotorCity which includes residential, business, sports and leisure facilities on a 880-acre site in Dubai. That includes a racing circuit, karting tracks, a commercial zone with car dealerships. There are offices and two residential zones, one with a lot of expensive apartments and another thing called The Green Community. The whole thing has cost them about $3bn to build and now they want to sell that expertise to other places. Rumor is they are building something like it for the Russians and it all fits in perfectly for a new French GP.

03/13/08 The first round of the French municipal elections took place last weekend and the results in Versailles suggest that unless there is a huge upset in the second round this weekend, there is little chance that the French Grand Prix will take place there in 2010. The pro-Grand Prix candidate Bertrand Devys managed to pick up 24% of the votes in the first round, but his republican rival Francois de Mazieres scored 39%. He is opposed to the proposal of a Grand Prix. The socialists are also against the race and their candidate Catherine Nicholas scored 18% so there is little chance that Devys will be able to make up the difference in the second round.

This means that the French Grand Prix is once again in doubt as Magny-Cours has reached a point at which the race cannot be run without the Federation Francaide du Sport Automobile (FFSA) losing money. There are hopes that there could be other projects in the Paris area but the socialists have a firm grip on the city with the city's mayor Bertrand Delanoe, a rising star of the left and one of France's most popular politicians, received a resounding thumbs-up for his pro-environment policies. He is an alliance with the Green party and thus the idea of running a Grand Prix on the streets is unlikely at best.

12/11/07 The future of the French Grand Prix will be considered by the French government shortly and more information has been coming to light about plans to establish the race in the commune of Versailles at the Camp de Satory. This is on a plateau to the south of Versailles, on the south side of the N12, which is one of the major roads on the south side of Paris.

Satory has been one of France's longest established military bases and the eastern part of the site remains in operation. On the south side of the site there is an area which belongs to the government-owned arms manufacturer Nexter (formerly known as GIAT Industries). This includes a vehicle testing track which is regularly used by Citroen and indeed the Citroen Sport WRC team is located in this sector. To the north of that, however, there is a 150 acre area which used to be used as a tank testing ground. The city of Versailles has been discussing what to with this for some time with calls for more housing or to create some form of business park. This land is for sale at the moment and the plan is for it to be developed into a park which could be transformed each year into a Grand Prix track, in much the same way as happens in Albert Park. More at

06/06/07 (GMM) Another name can be added to possible alternative venues for the French grand prix — Versailles.

With the race almost certain to move away from uninspiring Magny Cours after this season's running, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is keen to set up a new French event either in downtown Paris or the capital's Disneyland Park.

A report in the sports publication L'Equipe on Wednesday, however, said officials of Versailles – which is not far from Paris itself – had put forward the historic city or suburb as a possible alternate F1 venue.

France's minister of culture Christine Albanel, however, who is a former Versailles official, is quoted as saying by the news agency AFP: "I am worried about this.

"If the grand prix takes place in Versailles, then at least 100,000 spectators will come. And that will lead to large problems."

[Editor's Note: Versailles and grounds are a UNESCO World Heritage site, which would make such an event a virtual impossibility. That would be akin to running an auto race on a track built in Yellowstone National Park.]

05/31/07 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has given a bleak assessment of the future of formula one racing at Magny Cours, after organizers recently announced that the circuit is unlikely to host the French grand prix in 2008.

The race's promoter confirmed in March that a deal had not been reached with the F1 supremo to run the event beyond this year, but vowed to reconvene in July to "re-examine the situation".

When he was asked if the unpopular destination would host F1 for the last time on July 1 this season, however, Ecclestone bluntly told the sports newspaper L'Equipe: "Yes."

The 76-year-old said he would prefer to host next year's French grand prix on the streets of Paris, with the famous Champs-Elysees as part of the route.

"Everyone has dreams, and I will try to carry out this one," Bernie explained, also not ruling out the venue Disneyland Park Paris as second-choice.

03/26/07 If F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had his way, the French grand prix would move from rural Magny Cours to the capital city Paris. In the French magazine Autohebdo, the 76-year-old referred to a formula one race in Paris as a longstanding "dream".

"Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world," Bernie said.

Autohebdo reports that Disneyland Park Paris, which is about 30kms from the centre of Paris, is a possible venue for a grand prix track. Current venue Magny-Cours is often referred to as one of the annual calendar's blandest stops, and Ecclestone has criticized the French government for failing to support the race.

But the Briton said: "I don't imagine that they will let one of the biggest sporting events of the year disappear."

03/21/07 Bernie Ecclestone says that he would like to see the French Grand Prix moved to the region of Paris, rather than struggling on trying to survive at Magny-Cours.

"It is clear that the French government has not done anything to help Magny-Cours," Bernie told Autohebdo. "For two years the autoroute has been stopped six miles from the circuit and they say that it could be another four or five years before the last bit is finished. President Francois Mitterand came to the first Grand Prix at Magny-Cours in 1991 but Jacques Chirac has never been to a race. Having lost the America's Cup bid for Marseilles and the Olympics Games bid for Paris in 2012 – both projects in which the government was ready to invest tens of millions of euros – I don't imagine that they will let one of the biggest sporting events of the year disappear."

"Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world," he says. "For me a Paris GP has been a dream dating back several years, even to the days of my old friend Jean-Marie Balestre. There are some excellent solutions in the region."

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