MAY 21, 2009

The French GP faces a new challenge

The President of the Conseil General of the Yvelines departement Pierre Bedier agreed some months ago to bankroll the construction of the new French Grand Prix circuit at Flins. Bedier was enthusiastic that the race would regenerate the departement, which has long been the centre of the French automobile industry. It was a good plan. The negotiations over a promotional deal with Bernie Ecclestone has not been going very well but the other day Mr E dropped in to see Prime Minister Francois Fillon, and he explained that France really wants a race.

There has been a slight glitch, however, as Bedier has been fighting a conviction on corruption charges, dating back to 1998 when he was the mayor of the town of Mantes-la-Jolie. He was prosecuted and in 2006 was found guilty of the charges and given an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a fine of $40,000. He was also deprived of his civil rights. He appealed and for the last three years this has been going through the due processes. On Wednesday the appeal court threw out his final appeal. This meant that he no longer has the right to stand for public office and thus has to surrender his position as the head of the departmental government. He has also lost his job as deputy (in effect the MP) for the departement. Replacements will be appointed in the fullness of time and stopping the F1 project may not be possible now the money has been voted and budgeted. The word is that if he is not allowed to hold a political role, he may be happy being the race promoter, representing the Lagardere Sports group, which is negotiating with Ecclestone.