Jean-Marie Balestre, the great enemy of Ayrton Senna

The Frenchman was the president of the FIA ​​and with several of his decisions he always harmed the Brazilian for the benefit of Alain Prost, his compatriot.


When talking about the great rivals that the Brazilian had Ayrton Senna during his campaign in the F1 the figure of the French always stands out Alain Prost as they both staged great battles, even when they were teammates in McLaren. However, there was another person who could well be described as the "arch enemy" of the paulista, although they were never measured within a track.

It's about the Gaul Jean-Marie Balestre, who was at the time the top leader in motor sport as president of the International Federation of Sports Motorsports (FISA), between 1978 and 1991; and the International Automobile Federation (FIA), between 1985 and 1993.

Jean Marie Balestre and Bernie Ecclestone
Jean Marie Balestre and Bernie Ecclestone.

Balestre, born on April 9, 1921 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, came to motor racing through journalism as the head of a successful automobile magazine called Auto Journal. Many years before that, in full Segunda Guerra Mundial, had a stint in Nazi organizations. According to himself because it was secret agent of the French resistance, although the details of their activities during the conflict were never confirmed.

In 1950 he participated in the founding of the French Federation of Sports Motorsports (FFSA) and eleven years later he was appointed as the first president of the International Karting Commission of the FIA.

During his first years at the helm of FISA, he had to solve the conflict with the Formula 1 Builders Association (FOCA), headed by Bernie Ecclestone with the advice of Max Mosley.

Jean Marie Balestre
Balestre with his compatriot Prost.

The dispute, which came close to dividing the category, spanned three years (1980 to 1982), but ended happily with the Pact of Concord promoted by Balestre that established the distribution of the money generated by the World Cup.

The French manager was also the one who established the need for crash tests specific to Formula 1, a measure that significantly improved the safety of the discipline.

The rivalry between Balestre and Senna began at the moment when the South American showed that he had reached F.1 to achieve great things. In that remembered 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, in which Senna snatched first place from Prost under a deluge, Balestre was the one who ordered the race director, the former Belgian driver Jacky Ickx, to put the red flag, a measure that favored the compatriot of the head of the governing body.

From there they had various crosses. Balestre never minded making it clear that he didn't like Senna. In fact, at the 1989 Belgian Grand Prix, Senna, the winner of the race at Spa-Francorchamps, dared to ignore Prost's arms Nigel Mansell, the escorts ...

Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna assisted by the track assistants at the 1989 Japanese GP. He won the race, but was later excluded by Balestre's decision.

But the most remembered battle between the two took place Japan Grand Prix of that same year when Senna and Prost touched in full definition of the scepter. The Frenchman left, but the Brazilian continued after being helped by the track assistants and returning to the track through an auxiliary lane.

Senna won the competition, but Balestre was relentless: he declassified him for receiving outside help and not doing the circuit correctly, something that left the crown in the hands of Prost.

Everything that happened infuriated Senna, who accused the FIA ​​manager of doing everything possible to favor Prost. "It is clear that political and economic pressure groups manipulated everything behind the scenes to make Prost a world champion," Ayrton said. That phrase was taken as a declaration of war by Balestre, which temporarily withdrew his super license.

Jean Marie Balestre
The public was very clear about who Balestre benefited with certain measures ...

Despite the fact that every time Balestre acted, Prost was always favored, in the definition of the 1990 title in which Senna and the Frenchman touched due to an incident deliberately caused by the Brazilian - as he recognized later - the president of the FIA ​​was He stood by and nothing happened. Perhaps he felt that they had remained at hand because several years later he confessed that in 1989, in fact, he had acted to benefit his compatriot ...

Balestre left the FIA ​​in 1993 and handed over to Mosley, who racked up more votes. After losing the mandate of the governing body, he concentrated on the French Federation, which he directed until 1996. He died on March 27, 2008, at the age of 86.

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Diego durruty

Journalist with 30 years of experience. Worked in magazines STROKE, The graphic, Coequipier y Only TC, on the Internet sites SportsYa!, e-driver.com y kmcero.com and on the radios Rock pop y Vorterix.com. He covered the Dakar rally for the German agency dpa. He currently drives Two Daring Guys, a car magazine that is broadcast on Tuesdays from 18 to 19 by RadioArroba.com; is editor of motorsport in Red Bull Argentina, columnist on the show WorldSport (AM Splendid) and in Surf & Rock FM.  He is also a teacher in SPORTS. Now you can read it on his blog: automundo.com.ar.

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