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Curtains for Spa?

ANDRE MAES, who runs the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium says that the circuit could lose its Grand Prix in 1998, following the news that the Belgian government has passed a law banning all tobacco advertising and sponsoring from the beginning of 1999.

Maes said that he was fearful that the calendars - which will be decided when the FIA World Council meets in Paris on Friday - may exclude the Belgian race - thus sending a message to other European governments that motor racing is not happy at being pushed around by anti-tobacco legislation.

"The FIA can use Belgium as an example to all the other countries," Maes told Belgian television, adding that "Belgium is very small on the world scale".

Last week the mayor of Spa, Joseph Houssa, warned that the tobacco ban in Belgium will force the closure of the circuit and claimed that tobacco-sponsored events in Spa - which include a cultural festival - generate $58m a year.

Maes added that the day after the Belgian parliament voted for the tobacco ban the Dutch national sporting authority applied for Spa's end of August date.

Maes also said that all FIA events in Belgium could be sacrificed and that Belgium had only six days to find a solution. This appears to be a little wild but may be a scare tactic to create pressure on Belgian politicians to rush through some kind of amendment before the FIA World Council meets. This is unlikely to happen and so we should expect that the F1 calendar will be published without Spa.

In F1 circles such an idea is not welcome and there are questions being asked as to whether it is right to sacrifice the best track in the calendar for the sake of brinkmanship in the tobacco war...

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