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The Spa Saga

NEWS STORY
31/01/2006

Around two weeks ago, comments made by a Belgian politician, widely regarded as a loose cannon, resulted in a media frenzy, with website headlines claiming; "No Belgian GP in 2006", "Bernie drops Belgium" and "Bernie has cancelled the Belgian GP". Even the BBC, opted for the sensational approach with "Ecclestone 'pulls plug' on Spa GP", before later amending this to "Belgian GP facing Ecclestone axe".

Contacted by Pitpass that same day, a spokesman for the FIA said that the sport's governing body was "unaware of any change to the circumstances" surrounding the Belgian event.

Meanwhile, Bernie Ecclestone was up a mountain in Austria with (FIA President) Max Mosley and (Red Bull owner) Dietrich Mateschitz.

Only a week earlier, Ecclestone had told Alan Baldwin of Reuters that a deal regarding the Belgian Grand Prix was "close" and that he was confident the issue could be resolved.

"We are working on it and we are getting there," he told Baldwin.

"It's what they want," he added, referring to the prospect of him taking over as promoter. "It is not ideal but we have got to save Spa."

Then, a week later, following the Belgian politician's comments, the Grand Prix was back under threat, only now it appeared that the stumbling block wasn't merely money but redevelopment of the pits and paddock.

Since then, nothing, other than an interview Ecclestone did with a Belgian journalist last week, when the Englishman claimed; "It will be difficult."

As it stands, and with just over five weeks to go before the season kicks off, we are still unsure whether we will have a nineteen or eighteen race calendar. The FIA remains unaware of the problem, indeed nobody appears to know what is happening, not least the people at Spa, who seem unable, or unwilling, to respond to any enquiry.

Though this lack of news might suit some, Pitpass has to ask what about the race fans who were intending to attend the Belgian Grand Prix, what about the race fans who have already booked their tickets?

We have received e-mails from a number of fans concerned at the lack of useful information and the fact that they may well lose their money.

Reader Jeff Kew writes:

"We attended the 2005 Belgian Grand Prix and on race day booking forms for 2006 were being given out at the entrances. These promoted discounts of up to 36% for booking before November 1st 2005. At this time there were no media reports of the promoter being in financial difficulty

We faxed a booking form for 2 Grandstand seats at Eau Rouge for 2006 on 13 September, cost 586 Euros (412) to DDGP who subsequently confirmed the booking

On October 27 we discovered via the media that DDGP had been declared bankrupt with losses of $11.75M (with presumably all the advance income from bookings for 2006 - of which it is likely there are thousands - given the promotion of 2006 on race day and the early booking discounts)

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