Expatica news

Wallonia fails in bid to host 2006 Grand Prix

20 January 2006

BRUSSELS — There will be no Francorchamps Grand Prix staged in 2006, Movement Reform MR leader Serge Kubla told the Wallonian Parliament on Friday.

The Liberal leader’s statement confirmed reports on French-language radio station Bel-RTL that there would be no Grand Prix this year, known as the Great Prize of Francorchamps, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported.

The former economy minister — who had worked tirelessly in his former position to bring the Grand Prix back to Wallonia — based his statement on information provided by sources close to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Talks are still being held between Ecclestone’s group and the two Wallonian delegates, Libert Froidmont, the government representative for the Wallonian participation firm Sogepa and Yves Bacquelaine, the head of the Francorchamps circuit’s promotion company.

These talks are focused on various problems such as investment needed to refurbish the Francorchamps-Spa race circuit to bring it into line with modern standards. Another problem is that 19 races are planned instead the desired 17.

In the meantime, the clock is ticking and it is now almost impossible for the refurbishment to be carried out before the summer, Kubla said. It means the race will not be staged this year.

Other sources have also raised the alarm, such as the chairman of the inter-municipal company operating the circuit, Jean-Marie Happart.

Kubla pointed an accusing finger at the Wallonian government, claiming it had acted too slowly and should have responded to problems at the start of last year when financial problems around the race first appeared.

“Instead, it has politicised the dossier to the extreme. They dramatised affairs and started negotiations again to draw up a new contract despite the fact that was not the problem,” he said.

“I was a target of all their attacks because they did not want to reveal the differences they had worked themselves into.

The [Socialist] PS was a prisoner of its own discourse: no public money for the Great Prize, while the [humanist] CDH repeated: ‘A Large Prize for a small price’.”

The Belgian Grand Prix has been at the centre of controversy in recent months as the Wallonian government tried to renegotiate a much-criticised contract aimed at keeping the race in Francorchamps.

In October 2003, the race circuit’s promotion company, a government authority, signed the controversial contract with Ecclestone. It committed the government to paying EUR 14-17 million each year until 2010 to host the race.

But the Wallonian government’s financial backing of the Grand Prix is under fire at a time when the region’s economy is stagnating. This is in contrast to initial hopes the race would help boost the region’s economy.

[Copyright Expatica News 2006]

Subject: Belgian news