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Turkish Grand Prix organisers fined

September 20, 2006 11:03 IST

Turkish Grand Prix organisers were fined a record $5 million on Tuesday for inviting a Turkish Cypriot leader to hand out the trophies after last month's Formula One race in Istanbul.

A spokesman for the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) confirmed it is the biggest fine in motor racing history.

Despite the unparalleled penalty handed out at an extraordinary meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council in Paris, the Turkish authorities expressed relief that their race had not been axed.

"To be honest, I did not expect a fine that high. Presumably the FIA did not think that our defence was adequate," Sports Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin told the CNN Turk news channel.

"What is important for me is that the Formula One race will be held in Turkey next year," he added. "There was some expectation that it could be taken off the calendar."

The furore erupted after Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, introduced to millions of viewers around the world as the 'President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus', presented the winner's trophy to Ferrari's Felipe Massa.

Cyprus has been split since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded the northern part of the Mediterranean island after a brief, Greek-inspired coup. Only Turkey recognises the north.

POLITICAL NEUTRALITY

The FIA, representing 213 national motoring organisations from 125 countries, was concerned that its political neutrality may have been compromised.

It found the National Sporting Authority of Turkey (TOSFED) and the organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix (MSO) guilty of breaking FIA statutes, the international sporting code and Formula One regulations and imposed the fine jointly.

MSO head Ilhan Parseker told Turkey's state-run Anatolian news agency that the atmosphere at the meeting had been positive.

"What was important for us was that the races at the Istanbul Park would continue without interruption. We respect the fine which has been handed out," he said.

"We never exploited sport for the sake of politics. We leave the general public to make up their mind about the decision," added Murat Yalcintas, chairman of the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with CNN Turk.

However, Cyprus Automobile Association chairman Philios Zachariades told Reuters: "the fact that Turkey was condemned is what is relevant.

"We don't think the fine itself is really important, but that Turkey was condemned, because Mr Talat is not the head of any state."

The fine eclipsed the $1 million meted out to then-champions Ferrari, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello after the Austrian Grand Prix debacle of 2002.

Ferrari ordered Barrichello to let Schumacher win that race, despite the Brazilian leading throughout, but the FIA punishment related to what happened afterwards when the two drivers switched places on the podium.

The Istanbul Park circuit, Formula One's newest, has been highly praised by drivers and teams after two races there, with some likening it to Belgium's classic Spa track.

Source:
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