Safer Grand Prix circuit gets green fight

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(First Edition)

CLASHES between the road lobby and green groups are a fact of life, but when the road in question is the Monza Grand Prix circuit Italian passions run high.

After the deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger at the San Marino Grand Prix earlier this year, Formula One drivers, led by Ferrari's Gerhard Berger, have demanded that the Great Curve at the Monza track be made safer. But The problem is that 524 trees, many of them oaks more than 200 years old, stand in the way. Tough, say the drivers, fans and circuit officials. Men's lives, not to mention the economic benefits and prestige of the circuit, are more important than trees.

Greens, nature lovers and forestry officials in the Lombardy region disagree. The wood is 'a most important gene bank' for species that are dying out in the region, states a forestry report prepared for the Ministry of the Environment. The Bosco Bello, or 'beautiful wood', is one of Europe's biggest urban parks, created in 1805. for Eugene Beauharnais. The circuit, ecologists point out, arrived only in 1922.

Such is the anger on both sides Passions are running so high that one group of fans was caught taking a chainsaw to the first few trees, and a Green councillor received death threats before the vote on Tuesday night.

After 30 hours of heated debate, the decision to cut the trees down was squeezed through. The final word, though, rests with the Culture Minister, Domenico Fisichella, who has the power of veto over the scheme and . Mr Fisichella has made it clear that he and he alone will decide on the fate of the wood, leaving the track authorities far from jubilant at their initial victory. They warned yesterday that the race could be taken away from Monza and given to the track at Mugello, or, horror of horrors, to Germany.

Schumacher dilemma, Page 40

'We already know,' said Rosario Alessi, the president of ACI, the Italian Automobile Club, 'that Chancelllor Kohl is very keen to have the race at Nurburgring'.