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Ron Walker to head global Formula One circuits body
The circuits that host Formula One races have come together as a body in order to better represent themselves within the sport.
The new international organisation, the Formula One Promoters Association (FOPA), will be looking to present a united voice for their interests, which many promoters believe have been threatened by proposed rule changes.
A year of negotiations have gone into the creation of FOPA, which is headed by Australian Grand Prix Corporation Chairman Ron Walker.
The Association has been created at an important moment for the sport as a new Concorde Agreement, the contract that binds the teams, F1's owners and international governing body the FIA together, under negotiaion, with the current agreement expiring at the end of this year.
Key to the promoters' aims appears to be acquiring an input into technical changes that may affect the sport and in consequence the potential revenue from paying fans. Last year they paid £330 million (A$600 million) for the rights to host races, representing approximately one third of the sports' income, and look to paying spectators to cover these costs.
A proposal by the FIA to introduce 1.6-litre four cylinder engines last year seems to have been crucial to the decision to form FOPA, because of concern that fans would stay away as the new engines would not deliver the sound fans they expect during F1 racing.
Circuits threatened to withdraw from the sport prior to the FIA changing the proposal to a six-cylinder single turbo engine.
Walker explains "the circuits are concerned by the constant changing of rules by the FIA, which is confusing the fans and affecting ticket sales."
Neil England, Chairman of UK-circuit Silverstone adds "we have historically lacked a co-ordinated voice and the Formula One Promoters Association gives us the opportunity to have that."
In relation to the sound of F1, England adds "as promoters we believe that the noise of the cars is a key part of the spectator experience and we are concerned with anything that might impact that."
The new organisation, for the moment at least, is likely to be supported by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, an ally of Walker, who is also opposed to rule changes that may effect the spectacle of the sport and had threatened to sue the FIA over the proposed engine changes. However, in the long term the issue of the cost of hosting races will almost certainly reach the agenda, which may prove more troublesome, with many of the non-government backed circuits finding it increasingly difficult to meet the prices demanded by F1.
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