2008 French Grand Prix preview: Last Tango in Magny-Cours

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1999 French Grand Prix, Magny-Cours, start, 1999

For the second year in a row Formula 1 heads to the Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours expecting it to be the final visit.

I?ve never found it the most exciting of F1 circuits – in fact, for me it’s the closest track I haven’t been to.

And when we discussed the expected dropping of the track last year few of you seemed sad to lose it either.

Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Williams-Honda, Paul Ricard, 1987, 470313

I always thought that France ?ǣ the country that gave the world Grand Prix racing ?ǣ should have its round of the world championship at a truly excellent venue.

The much-loved circuits at Reims, Rouen-les-Essarts and Clermont-Ferrand certainly fit that bill. Even Dijon-Prenois and Paul Ricard had some character. But charmless Magny-Cours does not ?ǣ at least, not to me.

The Circuit de Nevers was a club circuit before the incoming President Mitterand decided to turn it into a venue capable of holding world-class events. Geographically, the track was in the heartland of Mitterand?s electoral support and it is said that some of his political allies did rather well out of the construction contracts that came out of the development.

In 1991 it replaced the circuit Paul Ricard which previously boasted one of the longest straights in Formula 1. This seems to have been a preoccupation with French circuit designers ?ǣ look at the dizzying length of the original Mulsanne at the Circuit de la Sarthe, home of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Magny-Cours may lack the epic Mistral straight for which Paul Ricard was renowned (which has been revived since it became a testing facility). And it has no equal for the picturesque appeal of Roeun, or the daunting challenge of Clermont-Ferrand. But it has at least been a capable host of the French Grand Prix.

It may be derided as unglamorous but (unlike some venues on the calendar whose right to hold a race is never questioned) I have not heard of team staff being mugged at gunpoint when they venture between track and hotel.

Above all, Magny-Cours has been home to F1 in France and the present alternative ?ǣ no French Grand Prix ?ǣ is much, much worse than contemplating another dull race at Nevers.

Grand Prix racing was born in France. And if Bernie Ecclestone can?t make his Paris Grand Prix pipe dream a reality in 2009, F1 should come back to Magny-Cours once again, and preserve that vital link with its heritage. France has lost its F1 teams, and was many years without an F1 driver until Sebastien Bourdais arrived. It shouldn’t lose its Grand Prix as well.

Alain Prost, Renault, Dijon-Prenois, 1981, 470313

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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17 comments on “2008 French Grand Prix preview: Last Tango in Magny-Cours”

  1. TommyBellingham
    18th June 2008, 15:05

    I can only remember one good grand prix at Magny Cours. 1999 wet race, absolute classic! I did go to circuit in 2002 and was nice to watch a bit of history seeing Michael match Fangios record but races are often dull.

  2. Well, it’s happened at last – I wrote on very similar lines this morning, Keith, posted it, came over here and found your article. Sorry about that – pure coincidence, I assure you.

  3. michael counsell
    18th June 2008, 16:12

    I wasn’t anyhwhere near born when Reims was used as a racetrack but how much character does a triangle have? While Rouen-Les-Essarts sounds more suitable for rally cars than F1 cars.

    Motor racing may have officially started in France but car races would have occurred as soon as two car owners met!

    A more relevant link to the history of motor racing is to run regular re-enactments of the initial race rather than staging a modern day F1 race in the same country.

    The biggest motor race in France anyway is Le Man 24Hrs, not the Grand Prix. Le Mans itself probably shares more with the original races than F1 does due to the variety of machinery from manufacturers big and small on display.

  4. Clive – I was going to reply with “yeah, well, mine’s longer” but thought better of it. Great minds think alike!

  5. It isn’t the worst circuit. Some Tilke’s works are far beyond when dull races come to my mind. In fact, Magny-Cours has one of the most exciting chicanes of all tracks… even more exciting if you can see how Alonso overtaked Heidfeld last year :-)). What makes boring races isn’t the track itself, but the conservative tactics, the excess of electronic aids now banned, and the excess of aerodynamic grip.

    On the other side, I would not be angry if Bernie makes it finally and we can see an urban race at the streets of París.

  6. I’m going to buck the trend here and show a little support for Magny-Cours. Its always surprised me that its never been very popular with the drivers, as in my sim racing I’ve always enjoyed racing the circuit.

    Also, I feel the reputation for producing boring racing is a little undeserved. The run down to the Adelaide hairpin is one of the best overtaking opportunities of the season, and would be even more so with next years technical regs allowing cars to run close through turns one and two. Furthermore, I’ve never been to the circuit, but I imagine seeing the cars through the fast chicanes from the grandstands is breathtaking.

    The circuit location is the killer and its hard to see a way around that. If F1 has to leave, its essential a replacement is found. France deserves a Grand Prix. I can’t for the life of me understand why historic races like France and Great Britain are constantly under threat when every year we happily head to the Hungaroring.

    Could the HTTT at Paul Ricard not be modified sufficiently to host the French Grand Prix?

  7. I´ve seen in the autosport.com prediction for hevy storm for Sunday. Is it possible, are they trustful?
    If so Hamilton might have a good chance, so others have.
    I hope it is going to be a second Monte Carlo.

  8. by the way what does the T of T-storm means?

  9. If you mean the little weather graphic they have on Autosport – don’t trust it, it’s very imprecise and very often wrong.

    However their guys who run the Autosport Live system pay close attention to the weather radars and tend to call the forecast accurately. And right now I’m afraid they’re saying it’s going to be a hot, dry weekend…

  10. Ben Goldberg
    19th June 2008, 5:40

    Yep, a T-Storm is a thunder storm.

  11. talking about the last tango in Magny Cours – don’t they have contract running till 2011 ? I believe the decision to run the GP in Magny Cours for the last time in 2007 came originally from France, not from Bernie.

    the whole circus surrounding this Grand Prix is a bit confusing …

  12. Last I heard their contract expires in 2009:


  13. Headline in 2011 : “Romain Grosjean wins for Renault at Magny-Cours” . Hope they keep the GP there.

  14. The contract is with the organiser, not the track. If the same organiser has more than one track, there’s nothing to stop the race from being switched. If, on the other hand, a different organiser ends up in charge of a track Bernie wants, then he has to somehow convince the organiser to transfer the race rights.

  15. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    19th June 2008, 13:07

    cant see anything other than a ferrari 1-2 probably kimi as the winner, i reckon kubica 3rd and kovalanein wioll either be 4th or have another crap race (1 of the biggest dissapointments of the year for me) i reckon hamilton might make 5th or 6th but thats about it, should be good to watch im flat out for 72 laps though.

  16. Fantastic background on the history of how the race ended up at Magny-Cours- I had always wondered who decided to hold it there with seemingly everyone complaining about it’s location. It is difficult from a logistics standpoint to hold such a big-time event there, but I do agree that the race should continue there until a viable alternative has been secure and proven to work. If that means a street race in Paris, perhaps FOM should wait to see how the events in Singapore and Valencia turn out this year, as some of you have previously suggested.

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