A financial bail-out is needed 'very soon' if the Canadian Grand Prix is to return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2009, it has been urged – as supporters rally round to save the race's immediate future.
The popular race – held every year bar one since 1978 around Montreal's evocative Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on the Île Notre Dame – was controversially axed from next season's calendar last month, as a result of outstanding debts owed by outgoing race promoter Grand Prix du Canada to F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone.
Since then, frantic work has been going on behind-the-scenes in Québecois and Canadian political circles in a bid to raise enough money to get the event re-instated. Most recently the Montreal hotel association has pledged to add a one per cent 'grand prix' tax to the standard rate of all rooms in the city – taking the rate from three per cent to four per cent – and will donate all the extra money raised to the organisation of the race.
According to French-language Canadian newspaper La Presse
, this could generate as much as $5 million a year, in addition to which both the Québec and Canadian federal governments are vowing to invest $2.5 million apiece.
That will bring the total to $10 million, with Ecclestone demanding three times that amount in order to give Montreal back its slot on the schedule. It has also been suggested that the city's mayor Gerald Tremblay could be prepared to cut the annual cost of leasing the track to just $350,000.
With a rescue plan due to be presented to the Formula One Management chief executive on Thursday (20 November), Tremblay – a key figure in all negotiations about the race's future – stressed that speed is of the absolute essence.
“I think we need an answer very soon,” he told Montreal's Gazette
newspaper. “He (Ecclestone) is not interested in where the money's going to come from, he just wants to get the money to which he thinks he's entitled.”