A significant happening in Monaco

THE World Motor Sport Council meets in Monaco today and all the issues of the moment will be sorted out - probably without much drama. This evening the motor racing glitterati will gather for the FIA Prizegiving gala which will consecrate Michael Schumacher as the World Champion of 2001.

For the last two days an interesting event has been taking place, the first Motorsport Business Conference has seen delegates from all over the world meeting and discussing common problems facing the sport: how will motorsport cope without tobacco, what does motorsport need to do to improve, where are the revenues coming from as new technology creates diversity of viewing and cuts into television's ability to pay and how is motor racing coping with new media. There have also been discussions about the relationship between teams and drivers, safety, manufacturers in the sport and globalization. The exchange of ideas going on will have benefits for many as the way of thinking in the United States and in Asia is very different to motorsports traditional base in Europe.

There have been curious moments. At one point a delegate from CART said that the US tobacco companies were already planning to support motor sport beyond 2006 despite the fact that the FIA has said that it will probably ban all global tobacco advertising. Did that mean that CART would go against the FIA? There were talks of CART globalization but there was no answer to the question of how the series can overcome the deal with the FIA which stops CART going global, except on ovals.

It was widely felt that in many ways Europe is a long way behind the US in terms of marketing and merchandising. It was also very clear that come what may Formula 1 will survive and still keep pulling in the same kind of money (perhaps a little less). What was not clear was how the rest of motorsport is going to pay for itself. There were some interesting insights into technological developments in media with an impressive display of virtual advertising and interactive gaming. But can they work in a world where rights are so tightly controlled? And Formula 1's attitude towards the Internet was highlighted by two completely diverse views on how to deal with the authorities and a plaintive cry from the audience asking how can serious, professionally-run websites get accreditation in F1.

For a first attempt the conference was a success and it is hoped that in the future it will be repeated and will attract others from diverse backgrounds to discuss issues, propagate ideas and exchange information in the hope that by working together motorsport will grow stronger as a unit rather than weakening itself against rival sports with political splits.

"It is a war," said Williams's F1 marketing director Jim Wright. "It is not a war between F1 and CART or NASCAR. It is a war against tennis and golf and others sports for TV coverage."

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