Canadian Grand Prix organisers have hit back at accusations that the event owes a substantial amount of money to the Bernie Ecclestone-run Formula One Management for events leading up to its recent axe from the F1 calendar.
The FIA last week claimed that the decision to drop Canada from next year's schedule resulted from 'a contractual dispute' between Normand Legault, the executive director of promoter GPF1, and Ecclestone, with the amount involved anywhere between $10-20m. The decision, taken by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, means that there will be no F1 race in Montreal for the first time since 1987, despite the Canadian race having three years of a five-year contract still to run.
Event organisers, however, have attempted to clarify the situation, insisting that the period - and amount - involved are not as substantial as claimed, insisting that Ecclestone has 'received and accepted' the terms of payment that were fully agreed to for the 2006 and 2007 events.
"It is totally untrue to suggest that our organisation has defaulted on payments owed for the past three years," Paul Wilson, the vice-president of marketing for the Grand Prix du Canada, pointed out, "It is true that we have a commercial disagreement regarding our monetary obligations, but only for 2008.
"This is the result of an historical difference within the contractual understanding between the two parties. We were working hard to resolved the matter in order to meet our 2008 obligations when Mr Ecclestone, without notice, surprised everyone by unilaterally dropping the Canadian Grand Prix from the 2009 schedule [on] 7 October."
According to the Canadian media, three levels of the national government structure have confirmed that it is vital the every attempt is made to save the event, with representatives of the federal, Quebec and municipal governments seeking a meeting with Ecclestone to discuss what would be required for the race to be reinstated.
Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay, federal public works minister Michael Fortier and Quebec tourism minister Raymond Bachand have already met with Wilson and now hope to meet with Ecclestone to negotiate a 'financially prudent decision' to guarantee the future of the grand prix, which brings a large non-Quebecois influx to Montreal each year.
"We believe that it is important to shed the light on this matter, and to clarify any allegations that could tarnish the reputation of our organisation," Wilson concluded, "We do not accept that the integrity of the Grand Prix du Canada should be called into question, when it is evident that the table is being set for new negotiations with different levels of the Canadian government."