Deal was to expire this year

Updated: February 5, 2004, 1:54 PM ET
Reuters

BERLIN -- The German Nuerburgring circuit, one of the world's most prestigious racing tracks, will hold Formula One races until 2009.

Track promoters and regional authorities said on Tuesday their contract with Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone, due to expire in 2004, had been extended by five years.

Nuerburgring has been the venue of the European Grand Prix for the past five years. It is one of two Formula One races staged every season in Germany, the other being the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, which has a contract until 2008.

International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley said on Monday he would like the Formula One calendar to be cut back again to 16 races from this year's 18.

Mosley said some European races, including traditional ones, could face the axe and that it would be difficult in the future to have two races in one country.

Italy also has two grands prix, at Monza and Imola, but Ecclestone said at the weekend that 2004 would be Imola's last appearance on the calendar.

This year's European Grand Prix at Nuerburging will take place on May 30. The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim is on July 25.

Tuesday's announcement means world champion Michael Schumacher, who has won at Nuerburgring three times, will still have two home races to look forward to next year.

It was also great news for the western German Eifel region, a remote hilly area highly dependent on the race, which generates an estimated 100 million euros in revenue every year.

"We are very happy to have succeeded in what were very difficult negotiations," Nuerburging executive manager Walter Kafitz told a news conference in the nearby city of Mainz.

A circuit with a rich tradition which has witnessed memorable victories from the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Graham Hill, and Jackie Stewart, Nuerburgring hosted the German Grand Prix from 1951 to 1976.

It was included back in the calendar in 1984 and 1985 before becoming a permanent venue again in 1995 on a modernized, shorter track. Around 150,000 spectators watch the race every year.

The track promoters and the region have invested around 100 million euros to improve the circuit over the past few years with face lifts for the stands, the pit lane and the start area.

"We see ourselves as being in pole position," said Kafitz. "We're one of the top motor racing tracks in the world."