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Troubles for Canada

IT is ironic that with Jacques Villeneuve the strong favorite to win the Formula 1 World Championship this year, the Canadian government is risking the health of the motor sports industry in the country with tough anti-tobacco legislation.

Players Ltd. - which is the biggest sponsor in Canadian motor racing - says that it will cancel all its motor racing sponsorships with immediate effect if the controversial Tobacco Act becomes law later this week.

Players sponsors drivers in CART, Indy-Lights and the Toyota Atlantic series. It is also the title sponsor of the Canadian GP. This is not likely to affect the race this year as it is quite likely that a replacement sponsor could be found in the next six weeks thanks to Villeneuve's high-profile. The important effect will be that Canada's younger generation of racing drivers - such as Greg Moore and Patrick Carpentier - will lose their backing and may not be able to replace it. A similar ban in France a few years ago wrought havoc in the junior formulae, leaving France with a generation of wasted talents and a rapid decline in the number of French drivers in F1 racing.

Players says that it is being forced to act because the Canadian government is intent on enforcing the new law, which includes a ban on Canadian companies advertising at foreign events which will be broadcast into Canada.

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