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Italian Grand Prix set to remain at Monza for next three years

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The Italian Grand Prix is set to remain at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza until 2019 following an announcement from Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone and the Automobile Club d’Italia on Friday.

Monza has hosted all but one Italian Grand Prix since the formation of the F1 world championship in 1950, but faced an uncertain future after negotiations over a new contract stalled.

Ecclestone stressed that he would hesitate to find an alternative venue for the race if an agreement could not be reached on hosting fees, leading to discussions with Imola, the former host of the San Marino Grand Prix.

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Ecclestone and ACI president Angelo Sticchi Damiani confirmed that a deal had been agreed to keep the race at Monza, although it is yet to be signed off.

“Regretfully, legally we can’t sign it here, but more important is that we have an agreement thanks to our lawyers and we are getting all the small details sorted,” Ecclestone said.

“There is no problem in having the race here. The contract will be for three years but I hope we are here for 100 years.”

Damiani has long expressed a desire to keep the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, revealing back in June that a breakthrough in negotiations came around the Monaco weekend in May.

While Imola has enjoyed significant upgrades since it last hosted F1 back in 2006, Monza’s contract extension is likely to be very well received throughout the paddock given its history and high-speed nature.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994