The Six-Year Plan

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Those in Grand Prix racing are accustomed to the manners of FISA president Jean-Marie Balestre, but when he invited himself to the Automobile Club de l’Ouest’s traditional conference at Le Mans we knew it was an occasion not to be missed.

The ACO had responded to suggestions of having an interpreting service arranged (the majority who are crammed into the conference hall are British, German or Japanese, with French in the minority) and had also invited leading team managers.

It’s probably a blessing, in a way, that only the French understand JMB perfectly when he gets into full flood about the state of motor racing, and what he’s going to do about it. He is a big man, with a powerful presence, a strong voice, and two pairs of spectacles which are alternated with his mood, though he stares people down better without them.

A couple of hundred international journalists were straightaway offered a scoop, the proposals which M Balestre would make to FISA on June 27-28. In particular, they would concern and interest those involved in prototype sports-car racing and in rallying, the president confirming that, for as long as he had anything to do with it (and six years was the term he had in mind), Group A would have an absolutely assured future.

We heard a lot about “my proposals”, “my leadership”, “my opinions”, and an assurance that motor sports would not be as sound as they were today had we not had such a strong referee, so firm and fair. As a result of FISA’s valid and credible structure of regulations there was an unprecedented level of support forthcoming from manufacturers, and for that we should thank. . . well, guess who.

“These manufacturers are not philanthropists,” thundered JMB, who could make an undertakers’ convention sound like the whoopee of the year, “and I commit myself that in the next three years at least, if there is no recession, there will be unprecedented growth in motor racing, a great revolution” — the realisation of a personal ambition that would produce a strength not equalled in the past 35 years. We will have the same motor for three contemporary world championships!

Stripping out the hyperbole, JMB was not telling us anything new. The 3.5-litre Grand Prix engines we know all about. Of the 3.5-litre ProCar series we know as much as we want to know, which is not a lot. The 3.5-litre class of the World Sports-Prototype Championship is already accepted by all the leading manufacturers now involved. What is more to the point is an aspect only touched upon by Balestre, the equivalencies of turbocharged, stock-block and rotary engines which would enable Mercedes, Jaguar, Porsche, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota to stay in business.

In the short term, at any rate, these equivalencies are vital to the future of Group C sports-car racing.

Turbocharged engines will be phased out by the end of 1990, as we have known for many months, and as the fuel-consumption formula is to be abandoned engine power will, instead, be controlled by means of inlet-tract orifices not greater than 55mm in diameter. Balestre, though, said 57mm in diameter. Max Mosley said he was quoting from an old agreement now changed in committee, but others were not so sure. Stock-block engines would be limited by restrictors too, said Balestre, saying that without penalty a Mercedes 5.6-litre stock-block would beat the 3.5-litre racing engine every time.

He also said rotary engines would be banned eventually — a statement that appalled Mazda’s Takayoshi Ohashi, who was sitting directly behind JMB and, like everyone else, looked totally bemused by the half-hour haranguing session.

The general drift was perfectly clear, that not only would 3.5-litre racing engines be part of the new prototype World Championship series, but they would be the vital component. Alternatives from Jaguar and Porsche would only be permitted, from next season onwards, providing their performance was inferior to that of Formula One engines.

The fact is that 3.5-litre Grand Prix power units are likely to be extremely unreliable over a 1000km distance, until they have been developed thoroughly and expensively, as Matra’s glorious V12 was in the 1970s . . . We must not detract from these power-units, except to observe that they hold no interest for Jaguar and little for Porsche, both of which prefer production-based components.

Americans present in the room, and there were a number, were further astonished when Balestre proclaimed his lifelong friendship with Bill France Snr, though admitting to some lively arguments, and noted that the IMSA organisation seemed to be aligning its regulations closer to FISA’s Group C.

Since precisely the opposite is the case, the observation might have been merely a device to introduce the proposal to include next year’s Daytona 24 Hours as the first round of the World Championship. “Our regulations are not the same, but we can work out the details later.”

The format of the 1989 World Championship might be changed substantially if present negotiations with organisers in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil are successful. There will be three regional championships in America, Europe and Pacific Asia, with a title for each one, but the regulations must be identical, and a World Championship might comprise Daytona, races in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, plus participation in five out of six European races at Le Mans, Silverstone, Jarama, Monza, the Nürburgring and Brno.

If the negotiations failed, the 1989 World Championship would comprise simply the 24-Hour races at Daytona and Le Mans, plus one race in Australia and one in Japan. If the first, and major, proposal gets off the ground, though, participation in all but one race would be compulsory for manufacturers and drivers wishing to participate in the championship, and drivers would be required to have super-licences.

As a corollary, Chris Parsons has been reinstated as the World Championship co-ordinator, though with no connection with the entrant’s organisation, OSCAR, which will cease to exist under the new format.

Megolomania and paranoia are two conditions which come to mind when listening to Balestre in full flood, and one inevitably wonders how he commands an important position whilst in such an unstable condition. He has, of course, been attended by men in white coats for his heart ailment, which one recalls brought about his final and irrevocable resignation from duties! The trouble was, motor racing just couldn’t exist without him, so he returned by popular request.

His real power is intimidation, as becomes clear when Jean-Louis Schlesser, Bernard Cahier and others ask questions. Schlesser is put down smartly for defending stock-block engines. (“You are a driver, and have no business to ask questions at a press conference”), but Cahier is dealt with more savagely when he asks if the team-managers on the platform, silent so far, might be invited to state their opinions on Balestre’s pronouncement. “Non,” explodes Balestre. “Cahier, you are well-known as a trouble-maker. This is my press conference. You have the next two days to ask their opinions, so do it then”.

At this point, there is some mild barracking. A couple of Americans jeer, though not very loudly. Balestre’s face is a mask of anger, his eyes penetrate every corner of the room. There is silence, then he gathers his papers and rises from his seat. There is no ovation, no thanks, just a low murmur as he sweeps from the room pursued by anxious officials.

And we’ve got him until 1994! MLC

Related articles

Related products