The Canadian Grand Prix looks certain to go ahead next season, after organisers confirmed that a financial package had been put in place to compensate teams running outlawed tobacco sponsorship.

The race, which takes place at Montreal's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, looked set to be axed from the schedule after a seven-year lead-up period to a total ban on tobacco advertising expired, but was given a provisional slot on the 2004 campaign after promoter Normand Legault insisted that he would find sufficient financial recompense to persuade the tobacco-branded teams to run.

The race was all but secured when F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone okayed a US$22million 'rescue' deal, thought to be less than the initial amount being demanded to remove the contractual clause allowing cancellation if cars were unable to run with tobacco branding.

"We have reached a deal with Formula One Management and Bernie Ecclestone, who represents the teams, and the Canadian Grand Prix will be on the calendar in 2004 and beyond," Legault told a news conference in Montreal yesterday [Tuesday]

Legault admitted that he would not have been able to rescue the race by himself, and paid tribute to the partners that helped him find the finances to ensure its place on the calendar. Both the federal and Quebec governments have agreed to donate C$6 million to the cause, while Labatt Breweries will contribute another C$5 million, leaving Legault to make up the shortfall through sponsorship and increased admission charges.

"There were those who doubted that I would be able to do this, that I had the ability to keep the race on the calendar," Legault continued, "They do not know me very well. These three last months have been particularly testing, but I never abandoned my goal. All the time I had in mind that, alongside my own personal desire, this event is of spiritual importance to the city of Montr?al. I was conscious of its value to the community and to our city."

 

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