Expatica news

Belgian Grand Prix set to stay

12 January 2006

BRUSSELS — Belgium is reportedly poised to clinch a deal ensuring the Formula One Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit remains a part of the racing calendar.

The country nearly lost the race after the company that organises the event filed for bankruptcy after a severe decline in ticket sales.

But the regional Wallonian government, who bailed out the race last year is close to signing a deal with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone that would secure the fixture.

The government was contracted to cover the losses from the race until 2010, but the new agreement is expected to see Ecclestone shorten the contract to three years in return for track upgrades and operating costs.

Michel Daerden, budget minister for the French-speaking Wallonia area, told regional parliament that an agreement with F1’s commercial rights owner was imminent. “I am looking at the infrastructure dossier. It is practically finalised, without much else to say. I have here a near agreement,” he said.

The future of the race at the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit – regarded by many drivers as their favourite – was thrown into doubt after poor ticket sales forced its promoter to go bankrupt. A proposed deal with the government of nearby Luxembourg fell though, before Ecclestone offered to promote the race himself.

But that suggestion met with opposition from local politicians, who raised concerns over how the fee charged by Ecclestone might impact in a region with a high rate of unemployment. Despite its problems the Belgian Grand Prix remains on the 2006 calendar, and is scheduled to be run on 17 September.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news