AUGUST 12, 2003
Never trust a man who says he is the Prime Minister...
Bernie Ecclestone has fallen victim to a Canadian prankster, who rang his office in London, claiming to be the Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien. In fact it was a pair of disc jockeys who are well-known for such activities.
Sebastien Trudel and Marc-Antoine Audette spoke to Ecclestone about the problems related to the Canadian Grand Prix but, according to transcriptions of what was said, Ecclestone seems to have been very sensible.
Ecclestone said that the race had been called off because the teams have a problem with their contracts with the tobacco companies.
"They have to compete in so many races or at least mustn't miss so many races," says Ecclestone. "If not they reduce their sponsorship. That's what the problem is."
Ecclestone said that the tobacco exemption for the last six years has been a big help.
"We had a beautiful relationship with you over the years for which I thank the Canadian government very much indeed for the exemption, and I was hoping we could continue this. When I was informed that it had stopped it put us in a very difficult position. We are not trying to blackmail you, believe you me. We have enough people that want races but it's not that. We love Canada, we love Montreal, we love everything there."
Ecclestone then asked whether it would be possible for the exemption to continue but said that "the last thing I want to do is cause you problems".
The prankster then pretended that Chretien was looking for a job in Formula 1 when he stands down at the end of this year. Ecclestone remarked that "we are not strong in North America, maybe that would be good."
The interview ended with the prankster collapsing into fits of laughter.
The serious business remains and we hear that moves are afoot for the Canadian government to come to the aid of the race in Montreal by supplying some of the funding that is needed and, presumably, renewing the tobacco exemption for a few more years...
Audette and Trudel, who are known as The Masked Avengers, broadcast on the French language radio station CKMF-FM and have a long list of victims, including Jacques Villeneuve, Microsoft boss Bill Gates and singers Celine Dion and Britney Spears.
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