Formula One future uncertain

FORMULA ONE faced an uncertain future on Friday night as the Association of European Car manufacturers (ACEA) signed an agreement to go ahead with plans to set up a rival series in 2008.

ACEA, made up of Fiat, DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Renault and BMW, signed a deal on Friday to form a company that will introduce a "premier global series" that will come into force "no later than January 1st 2008."

That date is one day after the current Concorde Agreement, a legally binding document concerning the commercial running of the sport, expires.

The ACEA's latest action will come as a shock to Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, who thought he had smoothed over the initial threat to set-up a rival competition.

That threat had been made amid concerns that German media companies Kirch and EM.TV, who recently purchased 75 per cent of Ecclestone's SLEC holding company, would turn the sport onto pay-per-view television.

SLEC is the holding company which owns the commercial and broadcasting rights to the sport, and Kirch recently made assurances that they would keep the sport on free-to-air television.

But the ACEA wanted a share of SLEC and negotiations were thought to be taking place to make that happen.

The ACEA statement, issued through Ferrari owners Fiat, added: "The goal of the manufacturers is to promote the interest of the sport, to make sure that the races are made freely available to the broadest possible public worldwide, and that the income greatly benefits mainly those who invest in order to render the competition possible."

Fiat chief executive officer Paolo Cantarella will become the first chairman of the company but the position will rotate annually and additional manufacturers willing to take part in the new series may join in the future.

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