Happy Alain Prost

Alain Prost's ambition to become a Formula 1 team owner took a huge step forward last week when Jacques Chirac was elected president of France. Chirac is a motor racing fan and a friend of Prost; and, as president, he will be able to exert considerable influence in French business circles to ensure that Prost gets what he wants.

Prost is bidding to land the considerable sponsorship funds from Gitanes Blondes, Elf and Loto, which are currently being poured into Ligier. All three companies are likely to be keen to be involved with Prost, who is one of France's biggest sporting names. The French government also controls 51% of Renault, which means that if Chirac wants Prost to have Renault engines, it will be possible despite what the current Renault management is saying. Even if Renault refuses to give Prost engines - as is currently the case - Chirac will probably be able to help Alain secure a deal with Peugeot.

The French election result is disastrous news for Ligier, which was hoping to hold on to its sponsorship, if necessary, by arguing that the government cannot put around 300 people out of work in the Magny-Cours area. The new president, however, has little reason to defend the area which was one of the few places in France which actually voted against him.

The election of Chirac will also probably affect the future location of the French Grand Prix, currently taking place at Magny-Cours. The race is thought likely to move to Paul Ricard for the 1996-2000 contract before moving to a new facility near Paris. One possibility, which was put forward some years ago, was for a Grand Prix at Montlhery. Work would require considerable government funding, but as Chirac will be president until May 2002 this is a possibility.

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