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Motor racing - Switzerland to host first race in more than 60 years

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Motor racing - Switzerland to host first race in more than 60 years

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By Alan Baldwin LONDON (Reuters) – Switzerland, a country that banned motor racing in 1955 after the sport’s worst accident at Le Mans, will return to the international calendar next year with a round of the electric Formula E championship in Zurich. The restrictions on circuit racing were lifted in 2015 for fully-electric vehicles. Jean Todt, president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), said on Thursday that the scheduling of the June 10 race was the achievement of an important goal for the sport’s world body. The FIA, which also governs Formula One, has headquarters in Paris and Geneva. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the core fundamentals of Formula E — driving the electric revolution and sustainable mobility,” said series chief executive Alejandro Agag in a statement. “Following the recent law changes this race was also made possible with the instrumental support of our Swiss partner, Julius Baer.” The 1955 ban followed the deaths of at least 83 spectators, with more than 100 injured, at that year’s Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race in France when the Mercedes of Frenchman Pierre Levegh went into the crowd. The last race in Switzerland was held at the Bremgarten circuit, near Berne, in 1954. While there was a 1982 Swiss Formula One Grand Prix, it was held at the Dijon-Prenois circuit in France. Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi was Formula E’s second champion in the 2015/16 season and several of his compatriots have competed in Formula One over the years. The Sauber Formula One team is Swiss-based and several top drivers have made Switzerland their home, from seven times world champion Michael Schumacher to four times title winner Sebastian Vettel, now with Ferrari. “Only a few years ago it seemed impossible because of the local legislation, but thanks to Formula E we have managed to bring racing back to my country,” said Buemi. The 2017/18 calendar was published after a meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris. The Zurich race was listed as pending approval of the national sporting body. Other new races will be held in the Chilean capital Santiago, Sao Paulo and Rome.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)
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