PEOPLE: JEAN-MARIE BALESTRE
Name: Jean-Marie Balestre
For 13 years Jean-Marie Balestre was the most powerful man in the motor sport world as president of the Federation Internationale de Sport Automobile (FISA). Balestre is a passionate racing fan and a man who has done much for the sport although he has often been a controversial figure. After a colorful wartime career he helped his longtime friend Robert Hersant to build-up a publishing empire (which included Le Figaro), in which he took a prominent position.
In 1950 he proposed the establishment of a French motor sport club and was a founder member of the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) in 1952. He was an important figure in the world of karting and in 1961 was the first president of the International Karting Commission of the FIA. In 1973 he became FFSA president and five years later president of the International Sporting Commission of the FIA. This he transformed into the FISA, an autonomous federation within the FIA in 1979. As FISA president Balestre took part in the famous fight for the control of F1 racing - known as the FISA-FOCA war - with Bernie Ecclestone and the other F1 team bosses between 1980-82. The result was a compromise which gave Ecclestone commercial control of F1 but retained sporting power for the FIA.
In 1986 Balestre became president of the FIA in addition to the FISA. He remained controversial, particularly in his battle to improve safety in F1 - a campaign which included pushing through new normally-aspirated engine regulations in 1989. Two years later one of Balestre's earlier FOCA rivals, Max Mosley, stood against him for the FISA presidency. Mosley won the vote and two years later Balestre did not oppose Mosley when masterminded the merger of the FIA and FISA and stood for the office of FIA President. Balestre remained the president of the FFSA until the end of 1996.