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Canadian GP promoter sees Stroll boost

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The newly announced Williams Martini Racing driver for the 2017 season Lance Stroll attends a media conference at their base in Wantage, Britain November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh
The newly announced Williams Martini Racing driver for the 2017 season Lance Stroll attends a media conference at their base in Wantage, Britain November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

By Alan Baldwin

GROVE, England (Reuters) - Lance Stroll's arrival in Formula One with Williams will be a big boost for his home Canadian Grand Prix with organisers close to a new deal to keep the Montreal race on the calendar, promoter Francois Dumontier said on Thursday.

"My first thought goes to the fans. The 10-year wait is now over," he told Reuters at the Williams factory after the former champions presented the 18-year-old Canadian as a race driver for next season.

"The Grand Prix of Canada will celebrate 50 years in 2017 and we see Lance as a nice gift to celebrate this," he added. "Of course we think it's going to help ticket sales."

Canada has not had a Formula One driver compete at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve since the late Ferrari great's son Jacques, the 1997 world champion with Williams retired a decade ago.

Stroll is also Montreal-born and will be the youngest driver on the starting grid, now that Red Bull's Max Verstappen has turned 19.

Villeneuve had already won the Indy 500 when he made a sensational debut in 1996 but Stroll will have plenty of attention on home soil even if he is not immediately in a position to win races.

"I think it's going to be a huge thing," said Dumontier. "We remember when Jacques was driving, the fans were there and cheering for Jacques. I think they will do the exact same thing for Lance."

The Canadian race was listed on the provisional calendar published in September with an asterisk alongside it.

Formula One's 86-year-old commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has been pushing for improvements to the circuit, whose contract is up for renewal next year.

Dumontier said the talks were ongoing and close to a resolution.

"I am very confident that in the next few days everything will be sorted out," he said. "Discussions have been going well with Bernie, myself and the city of Montreal. I think in the next few days this will be behind us."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by...)


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