Prost bankruptcy 'total failure for France'

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The Independent Online

The Formula One team of four–time world champion Alain Prost was ordered closed by a French court yesterday, after the financially troubled company failed to find new sponsors or buyers.

Prost, the driver who dominated the sport in the 1980s and early 1990s, said the move reflected "a total failure on the part of France."

"We never had any contact with a French sponsor, buyer or investor," he said after leaving the courtroom.

The Versailles court's decision to put Prost Grand Prix into liquidation comes less than two months before the opening of the 2002 season with the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 3.

Prost, whose team has not won a race since it was formed five years ago, indicated he would not appeal.

"It did not come as a surprise," he said of the court's decision. "It is an acknowledgment of failure, which must be assumed. My first thoughts are with the team. I want to thank them for having participated in this challenge. We must help them," he said.

Prost filed for bankruptcy in November, attributing the move to poor results, a bad economic climate and the withdrawal of several sponsors, including engine–supplier Peugeot. He said the economic slowdown had made finding new sponsors difficult.

Judicial administrator Franck Michel explained his decision to liquidate the team by saying it was unlikely it could survive.

"It needed significant funds that were immediately available, and above all, a business plan behind these funds. Those guarantees were missing," he said.

Former Formula One driver Jean–Pierre Jabouille told France–Inter radio the closure was "a very hard blow for all those who love F1, and for those who love motor sports."

The company employs some 240 people and is facing debts of 30.5 million euros ($26.2 million.)

Prost was a world champion four times. He won 51 Formula One races during his career from 1980–93 – a record until Michael Schumacher won his 52nd race in September.