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MAY 29, 1995

Marlboro sounds alarm bells

WALTER THOMA, boss of Philip Morris EEC, warned Formula 1 that it must put the sport back into Grand Prix racing if it wants the big sponsors to stay involved.

Thoma was speaking at the annual Marlboro Press Dinner at the Loews Hotel, Monte Carlo.

He described the 1994 season as "a low point in the history of F1. A sad and damaging year" which had been tainted by "accusations of cheating and sharp practice".

He went on to say that hopes for a better season in 1995 had been dashed by the fuel "fiasco" at the Brazilian GP and spoke of a "growing public apathy towards Grand Prix motor racing".

"Grand Prix racing has lost its vision and is in danger of becoming less than a first-class sport," he explained. "The major concern is that the public are becoming troubled by what they see and hear. For them, F1 no longer appears to abide by sporting values... and once that happens the public will stay away, turn the page or switch channels.

"Importantly for F1 so will the sponsors. Sponsors want to sponsor a sport, not a circus and not a series of appeal court hearings.

"F1 now needs to work very hard to regain public confidence and credibility as a top-of-the-line sport. It needs to demonstrate that sporting values are its number one priority."

Thoma concluded that: "we are fortunate to have a governing body in motor racing that will listen," and called on the FIA to "put the sport back into the sport and to deal with rule breakers in a fair, consistent and effective manner."