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JULY 21, 1997

Prost threatens to quit France

ALAIN PROST says that he will move his Grand Prix team to England if there is too much political interference in its activities from the French authorities. Prost told the French financial newspaper L'Echos that he was not prepared to put up with administrative meddling in his affairs and has contingency plans for a factory near Oxford if the French refuse to grant him permission to move the operation from Magny-Cours to a new site being prepared at Satory, near Versailles.

Prost's comments follow delays in the granting of permission for the transfer by the Comite de Decentralisation - a body which is responsible for moving firms out of Paris into the French provinces, where jobs are desperately needed. "The decision to move from Magny-Cours is a business decision," says Prost. "Ligier was not efficient in the past, not because of the very competent staff but because of the team's isolation. All I care about is winning. If I am prevented from winning I will take the necessary action." The committee must endorse his move when it meets on July 24.

In recent weeks Prost - who hopes to have his new factory ready in February next year - has canceled his plans for governmental help in the project and is now committed to an entirely privately-funded project which will be much less complicated and therefore quicker to achieve. It will also avoid criticism and comparison between Prost and the old Ligier team, which was funded almost entirely by French government money.

Prost's comments came just days after French President Jacques Chirac made his first TV appearance since his cohabitation with the Socialist government began, warning them not to disrupt French industry with "obsolete and absurd regulations".

The government spokesman said that Chirac did not appear to understand that the French people had voted out the Republican principles which Chirac stands for when Alain Juppe's government was ousted in elections at the beginning of June.