Jean-Marie Balestre, controversial FIA president whose motorsport legacy is forever linked to Formula One's FISA-FOCA feud in the early 1980s, has died in his native France. He was 86. Balestre became president of the International Sporting ...
Jean-Marie Balestre, controversial FIA president whose motorsport legacy is forever linked to Formula One's FISA-FOCA feud in the early 1980s, has died in his native France. He was 86.
Balestre became president of the International Sporting Commission of the FIA in 1978. That entity became FISA, the rules-making sporting arm of the FIA, over which he presided from 1979 to 1991. He was president of the FIA from 1986 to 1993.
As FISA president, he fought the Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley-led Formula One Constructors Association on issues such as television revenues and technical regulations. The struggle for control of F1 saw races canceled. At length, a compromise let Ecclestone oversee the sport's commercial direction and the FIA its sporting directives. Balestre was signer to the first Concorde Agreement in 1981, the name taken from the site of FIA offices, the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
Balestre won a significant court case brought by Peugot that established the rules of World Rally Championship, one of three championships overseen by the FIA, and established powers of the federation. A loss in the case might have bankrupted the FIA.
Balestre earned the ire of Ayrton Senna in 1989 when the Brazilian accused Balestre of helping his countryman Alain Prost to win the world driving title because Senna had been disqualified from his race victory after colliding with the French driver at Suzuka, Japan. Balestre threatened to withhold the Brazilian's superlicense for the 1990 season unless Senna apologized.
Recorded as having been a member of the French SS during World War II, Balestre went into publishing after the war. His ventures included a French motorsport magazine, Auto Journal. He was a founding member of the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA), in 1950, and in 1961 became the first president of the International Karting Commission of the FIA.
Elected FIA president in 1986 while retaining the FISA presidency, Balestre worked to improve F1 safety, establishing crash testing and pushing for a rule enacted in 1989 that only normally aspirated cars could compete. Mosley defeated Balestre in election for the FISA presidency in 1991. Balestre faced defeat as FIA president in the 1993 election so stood down, whereupon Mosley replaced him and the FIA absorbed FISA. Balestre retained the FFSA presidency until 1996 and continued to work as a member of FIA committees.