ACEA, the association of automobile manufacturers, together with Italy’s Fiat, this weekend formally announced their intention to set up a new series of motor racing events in an attempt to break Formula One’s stranglehold.

The decision is the culmination of a series of increasling less veiled threats by the carmakers - BMW, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat, Ford and Renault - over the past few months [WAMN: 02-May and 05-Apr-01]. The coalition, which invests invest over $1 billion in Formula One every year, represents over half the cars on the F1 starting grid – DaimlerChrysler (McLaren), BMW (Williams), Fiat (Ferrari), Ford (Jaguar) and Renault (Benetton).

The new venture has been triggered by a dispute over the broadcasting rights to the sport, currently under transfer to Germany’s Kirch Gruppe by ailing EM.TV. There is widespread concern that this could lead to F1 events being seen only on pay-TV.

According to a Fiat spoke: “The goal of the manufacturers is to promote the interest of the sport, to make sure that the races are made freely available to the broadest possible public worldwide, and that the income generated benefits mainly those who invest in order to render the competition possible.”

The sport’s Swiss-headquartered governing body, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, has close links with F1. Despite these, it said yesterday it would approve the upstart events provided they met international rules and safety criteria.

However, current contracts will block the launch of the new racing circuit until 2008 at earliest.

News source: Handelsblatt (Germany)