A Set-up?

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We wonder what they would say in Belgrave Square if FISA suddenly announced that they were going to hand over organisation of the RAC Rally to the AA. It sounds ludicrous, but the dictators of Paris have declared their intention of doing something very similar indeed, though not concerning the RAC Rally.

Many years ago Wylton Dickson, promoter of past marathons to Sidney, Mexico and Munich, declared that he was already advanced in negotiations to run, in 1982, a Motoring Challenge to commemorate the 75th anninversary of the 1907 Peking to Paris race.

In his dealings with FISA, he was eventually told that Jean-Marie Balestre would himself take over negotiations with the Soviet Union, but when it came to putting rubber stamps on paper it transpired that those negotiations had not taken place. As a result Dickson was forced to choose a route which did not cross Russian territory.

Eventually, he got the support of not only the Chinese, but the authorities of all the other countries through which the challenge would pass – all except France, that is. The French national club passed the buck to FISA, who in turn passed it back again, and the result of this massive, in-house, Parisian procrastination has been postponement after postponement.

Balestre used these delays as his reason for deciding to run a Peking to Paris event himself. What he carefully avoided was any reference to the fact that he himself was responsible for them. What an incredible gall the man has!

An “American backer” is said to be behind Balestre’s plan. We trust that it is not connected with Caesar’s Palace (which offered sponsorship to Dickson years ago). If so, someone ought to tell Balestre that gambling is illegal in China.

The FISA president is embroiled in other problems, too, not to mention the recently published book on motorsport finances against which he spoke vehemently at a hastily called press conference last month. He has an argument of considerable proportions going on with the Automobile Club of Monaco, and it is popular opinion in French rally circles that the Monegasque club may find it difficult in future to get permission to use French roads for the Monte Carlo Rally.

Without them, of course, there would be no rally, and the way would be open for France to run its own winter event in the Alps. Corsica seems to be out of favour, and we believe the intention is for France to create its own World Championship rally on the mainland, at the expense of Monaco. “Tour de France” has been mentioned as a likely title, but we are told that this has long been registered to the newspaper L’Equipe, which perhaps explains the deep huddle in Portugal by Balestre and an executive of that publishing house.

Wily are the ways of meddlers, and it’s high time Balestre played it straight with the countless sportsmen affiliated to the organisation which he seems to regard as his personal property. I he can’t, then for Heaven’s sake let’s cut the corkscrew roots beneath him.

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