Australia's motorsport sanctioning body CAMS has insisted that safety and not money is its priority amid a row over money that is threatening next year's Formula 1 race in Melbourne.
As AUTOSPORT reported yesterday, a dispute over the fee that CAMS charges to the Australian Grand Prix promoters means there are now doubts about whether the 2011 event will go ahead.
If the matter is not resolved by November 19, then there is a chance that CAMS will request that the FIA removes the event from next year's calendar.
Although Australian Grand Prix chief Ron Walker has accused CAMS of operating a 'monopoly' in the row, the body has now hit back - and insisted it has no option but to charge what it does.
It claims suggestions it is charging £500,000 in fees are incorrect - with CAMS insisting its charges are just £300,000 plus tax and other benefits in terms of corporate hospitality.
"This is an issue about safety and not fees and we do not believe the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix can be run safely without the high degree of professional and safety expertise that CAMS can deliver," said CAMS in a statement issued on Friday.
It added that it had done everything it could to try and find a solution to the problem - but said that there was no other option than for the race to be dropped if the matter was not sorted.
"CAMS is acutely conscious of the need to reign in spending on Formula 1 events, particularly events such as the Australian Grand Prix where any shortfall in direct operating costs are met by the taxpayer," it added.
"CAMS firmly believes that the benefits to the Victorian and Australian economies and communities as a whole greatly exceed these shortfalls in operating costs.
"In August 2010 after months of negotiation CAMS and AGPC's chief executives reached agreement on a proposal which was put to AGPC's board. However that proposal was rejected by AGPC's board.
"Since that time AGPC's board has refused to negotiate further with CAMS and has summarily rejected two revised proposals put to it, despite CAMS and the FIA making it clear that the consequences of failing to appoint an organiser by 19 November will be that the 2011 Australian Grand Prix does not take place. The Victorian Government has been kept informed of developments.
"CAMS and the FIA have also received the advice of Senior Counsel that their actions in putting a fair proposal to the AGPC in no way contravene Australian competition law or are in any way inappropriate.
"To put the current dispute in context, the cost to AGPC of CAMS' services is less than 0.625 per cent of the AGPC's annual budget and the difference between CAMS and AGPC is less than 0.1 per cent of AGPC's annual budget.
"CAMS, as a not-for-profit membership-based organisation, cannot and will not use its members funds to subsidise the Victorian Government's operating costs to stage the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
"The FIA requires that a grand prix may only be organised in Australia if CAMS is prepared to sign an Organisation Agreement with the FIA. At CAMS' request the FIA has extended the deadline for CAMS to confirm it will sign such an agreement until November 19. Under FIA rules, without CAMS agreement as ASN, the AGP will not be conducted."