Belgium Grand Prix is off for 2006
We previously mentioned the speculation regarding the future of the Belgium GP for the 2006 season. Now it's official - Belgium had been removed from the 2006 calendar by the FIA making it an 18 race season (to the relief of team personel we assume).
The race was previously left of the calendar in 2003 after a row about the Belgium government's unilateral introduction of a ban on tobacco sponsorship. Before 2003 the race was promoted by one of Bernie's own companies (chaired by his wife). Spa was sorely missed though and with cooperation from the Belgium government, the race was back on the calendar for 2004. The terms of the deal, we are told, ensured that FOM would get their money for the race regardless over what happened with the contract guaranteed by the local government of the Wallonia region where the circuit is located. Arguments over local taxes (Spa is half in one local region, half in another and they both wanted to tax it), poor attendance and the high fee charged by FOM lead to the new promoter of the race, Didier Dufourny, filing for bankrupcy after losing a reported €15M on the 2005 race.
Bernie has since stepped in to promote the race again, but the poor state of facilites at the circuit for both teams and fans meant work needed to be done to keep his highness happy. It's now been concluded that there isn't enough time left to complete the extensive renovations demanded and so the race is off.
Spa Francorchamps has long been the fan's favourite circuit, to watch on TV anyway, and it was sorely missed in 2003. However, the 2004 and 2005 races were not classics and we now have the Istanbul round competing to be fan favourite with it's infamous turn 8 claiming many drivers during the inaugural 2005 race. That along with complaints about the 19 race season being too long, maybe it's not such a disaster that Spa is off the calendar again.