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Negotiations underway for return of Canadian Grand Prix

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The Canadian Press
6/18/2009 12:57:26 PM
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QUEBEC - Negotiations are underway with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone for a potential return of the popular Canadian Grand Prix to Montreal in 2010, Quebec Finance Minister Raymond Bachand confirmed Thursday.

Istanbul took Montreal's spot on the circuit this year but this month's race in Turkey was hamstrung by poor attendance.

"It's common sense that Montreal should have a Formula One Grand Prix," Bachand said.

"You saw how many people were in Istanbul this month -- 30,000 people.

"We get 300,000 for the entire weekend," Bachand said.

Bachand told reporters that the federal and provincial governments are ready to kick in $5 million in financing while the City of Montreal is offering up another $5 million from a hotel tax to get the race back to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The finance minister says he's confident but added that F1 has its own financial problems that need to be resolved.

"Everything is not settled. We have discussions that are still going on with Mr. Ecclestone. Until things are signed, they are not finalized," Bachand said.

"I'm confident we'll have the F1 back in Montreal next year," Bachand said.

Former Montreal race promoter Normand Legault made similar remarks this week, hopeful that the race would be restored by 2011 at the latest.

The 2010 F1 schedule is to be unveiled before the end of the month.

Both the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal and French GP were dropped this season after organizers failed to meet Ecclestone's money demands.

Federal and provincial ministers as well as Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay attempted to convince Ecclestone to keep the race in Montreal, even travelling to England to meet with him.

But the Canadian event was dropped in favour of a new race in Abu Dhabi, despite Montreal being popular among drivers and teams.

The Turkish Grand Prix was handed Montreal's dates for the first weekend in June.

The controversial Ecclestone was asking for payments of nearly $175 million over five years -- too rich for Montreal organizers who felt the demands were outrageous.

Bachand said the government has never stopped talking with Ecclestone, even after the Montreal race was pulled.

Bachand said organizers are not looking for a one-time deal. They want a long-term commitment and a minimum five-year deal.

The Canadian Grand Prix was one of the sport's best-attended events, drawing more than 300,000 spectators for three days of competition each year since 2001, with 120,000 at the track for the race on Sunday alone.

The event drew an estimated $100 million per year in revenues and economic spinoffs to the city.

The Canadian Grand Prix had been part of the F1 calendar since 1967. The only year since then that it wasn't held was 1987, due to a dispute between sponsors.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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