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Jean-Marie Balestre passes away 28 Mar 2008

(L to R): Max Mosley (GBR) legal adviser to FOCA with Jean-Marie Balestre (FRA) President FISA. United States Grand Prix (West), Long Beach, 15 March 1981. World © Phipps/Sutton

Former FIA President Jean-Marie Balestre has died at the age of 86. Born in 1921, Balestre was a founder member of the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) and went on to become a major proponent of improved safety in Formula One racing.

Frenchman Balestre was arguably best known for his role in the so-called ‘FISA-FOCA war’ of the early ‘80s, the dispute between the FIA’s then sporting arm, of which he was then President, and the Formula One Constructors’ Association, headed by Bernie Ecclestone. Its settlement would ultimately see commercial control of the sport pass to Ecclestone, with the FIA retaining a regulatory role.

In 1986 Balestre added the FIA Presidency to his remit (FISA would later be absorbed by the FIA), and continued his Formula One safety campaign, pushing through the move to new normally-aspirated engine regulations in 1989.

Balestre was succeeded by former FOCA adversary Max Mosley as FIA President in 1993, but remained at the helm of the FFSA until 1996.