FEBRUARY 20, 1995
Mosley and Ligier - a strange love affair?
The FIA president Max Mosley visited Ligier last week to help the team celebrate the start of its 20th season in Formula 1 racing. Ligier's long - and occasionally-distinguished - history, however, is still shorter than the 25-year-old feud between Mosley and the man now in charge of Ligier, Tom Walkinshaw.
It is common knowledge in F1 circles that Mosley and Walkinshaw do not get on and that the rancor dates back to when Walkinshaw drove for Mosley when the FIA president was the boss of March Engineering. This personality clash is understood to have been the root cause of many of the problems last year between Benetton (for which Walkinshaw was working) and the FIA, and there is no question that Walkinshaw was the target for the "management changes" which Benetton agreed to make after the Hockenheim pitlane fire.
And yet, Mosley was at Ligier last week, according to a Ligier press release, "to see for himself the extensive technical facilities available at Ligier which has long been the only French team with the capacity to design, wind-tunnel test and manufacture in-house the parts necessary to build a Formula 1 racing car."
This is public gibberish because Mosley is no stranger to Ligier: he represented the team at FOCA meetings for many years and it was Mosley's high technology engineering company - Simtek Research - which built the Ligier wind tunnel for the team in the late 1980s.
The entire 20th anniversary celebration seems to have been little more than a publicity stunt intended to push the point that Ligier is supposed to be a French team - something which has largely been forgotten in France since the new ownership (be that Benetton's Flavio Briatore or Walkinshaw or both) took control.
It is clearly a delicate time for Ligier because its long-established money supply is under threat as the French government-owned companies (notably Elf and Gitanes Blondes), which have long been its supporters, are being privatized. At the same time French president Francois Mitterand (a friend and patron of Guy Ligier) is about to disappear from office, and the new government will not pour the same sort of money into Ligier.
There are also fears in the Magny-Cours area that the Ligier operation there will soon be shut down and everything transferred to a new base in England.
In an effort to achieve these goals Briatore told the gathering that: "Ligier must remain what it always has been, one of France's motor sport's leading ambassadors."
It is curious that Mosley should feel the need to be involved in this sort of PR exercise, unless he used the trip to have a chat with Walkinshaw to ensure that the Scotsman understands that pushing into the "grey areas" of the regulations will not be tolerated by the FIA.
Ligier will reveal its new Ligier-Mugen Honda JS41 in the first week of March and, if there is time available, the car will be tested at Magny-Cours before being flown out to South American for the first race of the year.
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