Record fine imposed on Turkish GP organisers

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Turkish Grand Prix organisers have been fined a record $ 5 million by the FIA.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:37 IST
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Turkish Grand Prix organisers were fined a record five million dollars by Formula One racing's governing body on Tuesday for letting the Turkish Cypriot leader present the winner's prize at last month's race. Turkey, however, escaped the possible sanction of losing the race for next season. FIA's World Motor Sports Council levied the fine on the National Automobile Sporting Authority of Turkey and the MSO, organisers of the August 27 race in Istanbul. The fine eclipses the one million dollars imposed on Ferrari in 2002 after Rubens Barrichello pulled over on the final straightaway to let teammate Michael Schumacher win the Austrian GP. FIA acted against Turkey after Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat handed the winner's prize to Ferrari driver Felipe Massa on the podium. Talat was introduced as president of the breakaway Turkish Cypriot state - which only Turkey recognises - in the north of the war-divided island. FIA said the act may have compromised its political neutrality. Turkish organisers acknowledged they had bent the FIA rules on the podium ceremony, but expressed no regret. Cyprus has been divided into a Greek Cypriot south, representing the island's internationally recognised government, and a Turkish Cypriot north since a Turkish invasion in 1974 that followed a failed coup by supporters of a union with Greece. Ilhan Parseker, a member of the Turkish delegation at the Paris meeting, expressed satisfaction that FIA did not drop the race from next year's schedule. "The important thing for us is that races at Istanbul park continue without interruption," Parseker told state-run Anatolia news agency. "We greet the monetary penalty with respect." Turkish State Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin, the minister in charge of sports, said the fine was excessive and insisted Talat's appearance was within the rules. "Mr Talat gave the prize as a world-known person, not as president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus," he told NTV television. "It's pleasing to be saved with a monetary fine, but still I found the penalty very heavy. It shouldn't have been this heavy." Cyprus Automobile Association chairman Filios Zahariades said the decision showed FIA does not recognise the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state and Talat as a head of state. "We consider this the most important aspect", Zahariades said. However, he said the penalty was not enough, advocating a heavier fine or one-year ban. "But five million dollars is a resounding amount," Zahariades said. (AP)

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