JUNE 9, 1997
Prost and France
ALAIN PROST's political connections have been severely weakened by the arrival of a Socialist government in France - and the nomination of a Communist as the new Minister of Youth and Sport - but the turnaround of fortunes may end up working in Alain's favor.
An unhelpful government will make it easier for Prost to draw away from the idea that his team is "a national team" and makes it easier for him to have his cars built abroad.
The aim at the moment seems to be for Reynard Racing Cars to build Prost chassis. Adrian Reynard's company has recently been granted planning permission for the construction of an all-new technical center on a 14-acre site at Brackley but this is intended to house Reynard Composites and Reynard Special Vehicles and it looks more likely that talks going on between Jacques Villeneuve's manager Craig Pollock and Tyrrell are connected with Prost and Reynard.
Tyrrell has little to offer Pollock except an experienced and talented design staff and a purpose-built F1 production facility - two things which Prost needs.
The connection between Prost and Pollock appears to be through a Swiss company called Star Racing Promotion, which recently registered "Prost Grand Prix" as an international trademark. Pollock's companies often include the word "star" or its derivatives, notably his Stellar Promotions and Monaco Star, which has registered the "Jacques Villeneuve" trademark.
The links between Prost, Pollock and Reynard - and their relationships with British American Tobacco - suggest that they will all ultimately be involved together in an F1 team.
Prost can no longer count on much help from the French government. Alain is a well-known supporter of President Jacques Chirac - a republican - and the announcement that he was moving his race team from the socialist stronghold of Nevers to Versailles caused a storm of outrage amongst socialist politicians who relocated Ligier to Magny-Cours in the late 1980s as the centerpiece of a plan to create industry in the area. By removing the team to Versailles Prost has torpedoed that entire scheme.
The only saving grace in the whole situation is that the Sports Minister, 48-year-old Marie-George Buffet represents the working-class Paris suburb of Blanc-Mesnil and many of her electorate work at the massive Peugeot-Citroen factory at Bobigny. It is, thus, not in her interest to publicly hinder the efforts of the Prost-Peugeot F1 team.
There is some good news for Prost at Versailles where the mayor Etienne Pinte was re-elected and so the decision to build the new Prost R&D center and team base is unlikely to be overturned.
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