Friday 28th March 2008
Jean-Marie Balestre (86), who once was the most powerful man in motor sport for 13 years as president of the Federation Internationale de Sport Automobile (FISA) between 1979 to 1991, died. He was heavily involved in what is colloquially called the FISA-FOCA war, a political battle over finances and control of the Formula One World Championships between 1980 and 1982. Balestre and his opponent, Bernie Ecclestone, settled the dispute after Enzo Ferrari brokered a compromise. Balestre signed the first Concorde Agreement, under which FOCA was granted the commercial rights to Formula One while the FIA retained control of all sporting and technical regulations. Balestre was elected as president of the FIA, while remaining president of FISA, in 1986 and is credited with establishing specific crash test requirements for Formula One cars, significantly improving the safety of the sport. He was also a key proponent of the switch to naturally aspirated engines in 1989, also arguing that such a move was essential for safety reasons. In 1991 he lost the election for FISA president to Max Mosley. With the merger of FISA and the FIA he also lost the FIA presidency to Mosley in 1993 and retreated to the presidency of the FFSA until the end of 1996.