Saving Spa

The regional government of Wallonia in Belgium met yesterday to discuss the problem of the Belgian Grand Prix and concluded that the best way forward was to negotiate with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. The local Minister of the Economy, Employment and External Trade Jean-Claude Marcourt has been nominated to lead the discussions about how the race at Spa can be saved. The Walloon regional government wants the race to go on but cannot afford the losses that have resulted in recent years. The body had to lend $18m to the race organiser this year so that he could pay the race fees to the Formula One group. The promoter has since gone bankrupt with losses of $11m.

The major problem is that crowd numbers have fallen dramatically because of the need to raise ticket prices to meet the costs of staging the race. This is a common problem at European races and in most cases the local government is needed to step in and underwrite the events. The Belgians however are not keen in continuing in this way and it is hard to see how FOM could drop the prices without all the other race promoters finding out and demanding similar concessions.

In the circumstances it is not hard to see why the Grand Prix Manufacturers Association think that there would be no problem signing up races for an alternative championship.

Ecclestone used to promote the event himself but it is unlikely that that will happen again as the banks that own FOM are not keen on losing money.

Finding a promoter who can make money at Spa is obviously a challenge.

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