Italy could face ban over ruling

 

MOTOR RACING officals have admitted that Formula One teams could refuse to compete in Italy next year in the wake of manslaughter charges brought over Ayrton Senna's death.

The San Marino and Italian Grand Prix were put under threat after team chief Frank Williams and five other people were charged following the Brazilian's death two years ago.

The sport's world governing body, FIA, warned they could face "difficulty" in persuading competitors from outside Italy to participate.

That warning came in the wake of comments made by Benetton's Italian director, Flavio Briatore, who has said he would boycott the two races if anyone was convicted.

Briatore's concern received immediate backing from veteran team chief Ken Tyrrell, who said: "It is a matter of the gravest concern because it could affect motor racing around the world.

"I have no doubt that teams will get together to decide what action should be taken.

"I think the fact that it has happened to the Williams team is the most worrying aspect of all. They are, arguably, the most reliable team in the history of Formula One.

"You can only achieve that reliability by absolute excellence, superb design and making sure every nut and bolt is secured. If this can happen to them, what chance is there for the rest of us?"

FIA added that even more difficult could be getting its international officials to carry out their official duties in the wake of the decision to prosecute.

One of FIA's race directors, Belgian Roland Bruynseraede, was also charged along with Williams, the team's technical director Patrick Head, chief designer Adrian Newey, Imola's track director and a former official.

Senna, the three-time former champion, died when his Williams car smashed into a concrete wall after he lost control at the Tamburello curve during the San Manno Grand Prix at Imola on May 1st, 1994.

Marx Mosley, FIA's president, has immediately written to the body that controls motor sport in Italy asking for a quick solution to the problem.

"This is a uniquely Italian problem requiring a uniquely Italian solution," said Mosley, who suggested next year's races would not be affected despite the concern over team's and officials boycotting them.

"Whatever the outcome, no other country is involved and the Formula One World Championship will not be affected; nor will the World and European Rally Championships."

The first hearing will take place in Imola on February 20th, though all six have the right not to attend.

Manslaughter charges can bring prison terms of up to seven years in Italy, though FIA said yesterday its legal advice indicated all would be acquitted.

But with proceedings likely to continue for several months, doubts will persist over the San Marino race in Imola on April 27th and the Italian Grand Prix at Monza on September 7th.