Belgians to ban tobacco sponsorship

THE Belgian parliament is expected to vote later this month to ban all tobacco advertising from January 1, 1999. The ban, which will include sponsorship, was forwarded to parliament after being passed by the government's health commission.

There could be serious repercussions if the ban is confirmed because F1 is less and less keen on racing where tobacco advertising is banned. There is also no shortage of countries which want a Grand Prix and pressure on European events - particularly the smaller countries such as Portugal and Belgium.

If the country did not have a magnificent race track at Spa - with a remarkable history - it would probably not have a race today. Banning tobacco sponsorship would add to the reasons not to race at Spa.

Such a ban would also do serious damage to the local racing scene - in which tobacco companies Bastos and Belga play an important role. The French did serious damage to their national racing when tobacco advertising was banned and one of the reasons that there are only two Frenchmen in F1 today is because of that.

At the moment, however, there are no immediate worries for Spa and work is being done at the exit of "The Bus Stop" chicane before the pits. The intention is to create some run-off area by straightening out the track. This requires a large area of hillside to be bulldozed away. This will, however, create space for a new grandstand and new commentary boxes.

The circuit - which is still largely laid out on public roads - is due to become a private closed track within a couple of years once work on roads by-passing the facility is completed.

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