Thursday April 19th, 2001
By Adrian Warner
Leading carmakers are not bluffing in their threat to set up their own rival Formula One series because they want more say in the way the sport is run and more financial return from their investments, Jaguar boss Bobby Rahal said on Thursday.
"I have seen nothing that has led me to believe that this is posturing," Rahal said. "I don't think they will be satisfied going forward with the same rules as now as a 'sponsor'. They want to be part of the decision-making process in the future.
"It costs them way too much money not to have greater participation in the revenue. They have to get a return on their investment. I don't think the return can be in just image. They have to have a hard return."
Paolo Cantarella, chairman of the European Automobile Manufacturers' Association (ACEA) and of Fiat, said two weeks ago that the carmakers would move to set up a rival series.
Italian giant Fiat owns Ferrari, Ford Motor Co has Jaguar, and Renault has the Benetton team. Other major European manufacturers involved are DaimlerChrysler and BMW.
Car manufacturers use Formula One in a bid to boost the image of their cars in the marketplace. Rahal told the "Sportbusiness2001" conference in London that Jaguar had entered racing to attract younger drivers to their brand.
A deal between the teams and Formula One chiefs about sharing revenue is due to expire at the end of 2006.
Rahal, an American who also owns a team in the U.S. CART series which split from the IRL (Indy Racing League) in the 1990s, said he believed the manufacturers all agreed on their aims which included influencing the sporting, as well as the commercial, side of Formula One.
Asked if that meant they would want to influence where Grand Prix would take place, he told Reuters: "Certainly. The rules and things of that nature."
The carmakers fear the purchase by Germany's Kirch group and EM.TV of 75 percent of Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone's holding company SLEC could lead to coverage of the sport being restricted to pay television.
Speaking after addressing delegates at the business conference, Rahal said he believed terrestrial television should be the main voice of the sport although other channels could be used beside it.
"Terrestrial is an absolute must for the manufacturers and the sport. You have to broadcast the sport to the widest possible audience," he said.