MARCH 17, 2004
Swiss to try to reinstate racing
Sources in Switzerland are suggesting that the country is becoming more serious about its attempts to overturn the ban that exists on competitive motor racing. The Swiss banned races in 1955. We hear that there are also developing plans to build a Formula 1 level racing track in the country, which would be popular with the F1 authorities because Switzerland (at the moment) is not a member of the European Union. The green lobby in Switzerland is still very powerful and it would obviously take time to get through the necessary processes and then build a track. However there is a lot of logic in such a move as Switzerland is one of the few countries that is actually home to an F1 team and a number of big sponsors and headquartered there. In addition the fact that Switzerland is not in the EU but still in Europe is a massive bonus for F1.
There is a long tradition of racing in Switzerland dating back to the 1930s when the old Bremgarten circuit in Berne was one of the great tracks of Europe. The Le Mans disaster of 1955 resulted in the 1958 Road Traffic Act in which Article 52 states that circuit racing is forbidden. The law does not stop hillclimbs and slaloms as cars are not competing directly against one another. In the 1960s there were some major hillclimb events in Switzerland, notably the Ollon-Villars and Sierra Montana-Crans courses which both hosted an event which was known as the Swiss Mountain Grand Prix. These attracted some of the top F1 names of the era. There were two Formula 1 races which were given the title Swiss Grand Prix but both took place at the Dijon-Prenois circuit in France.
The first moves towards changing the legislation came a year ago but we hear that efforts are now intensifying as the EU ban on tobacco sponsorship tightens.
It is worth noting that there are no shortage of race fans in Switzerland. A few years ago 1500 people turned up to watch Sauber test driver Enrique Bernoldi going up and down runways at the Buochs military airfield near Lucerne.
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