Motor Racing: French expect grands prix reprieve

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The Independent Online
THE FRENCH sports minister, Frederique Bredin, has given guarantees which should ensure that the country's Formula One and motorcycling grands prix are restored to the international calendar. The races were scrapped last month because of controversial laws banning tobacco advertising and sponsorship.

But Bredin, announcing plans to provide around pounds 50m in compensation this year to sports which fall foul of the country's anti-tobacco laws, said the government wanted to protect French motor sports.

The Formula One race was originally planned for 4 July at Magny-Cours, but was dropped because the French motor sports federation could not guarantee that cars travelling to the circuit would not be seized by the authorities. The decision followed a regional court fine of more than pounds 3m on the British team, Williams-Renault, for carrying tobacco advertising in last year's Australian Grand Prix, which was shown on French television.

Bredin said France had since amended the law to allow tobacco advertising to be televised from countries where this advertising was legal. She added that there was also an agreement not to seize cars travelling through France. The French federation said it would decide later this week whether to approach Fisa, the sport's governing body, about reinstating the race.

Cyril de Rouvre, the head of Ligier, has responded to criticism in France of his decision to hire two British drivers, Martin Brundle and Mark Blundell, for the French Formula One team. He said that the French drivers he approached, Erik Comas and Yannick Dalmas, were either too expensive or had clashing commitments.

Fabrizio Barbazza is to drive for the Minardi Formula One team this year. The 29-year-old Italian replaces his compatriot, Gianni Morbidelli, and teams up with the Brazilian Christian Fittipaldi.