Some 200 employees and supporters of Alain Prost gathered in central Paris on Friday to back his Formula One team's survival battle and appeal for potential rescuers as the debt-ridden firm nears crisis point.
Factory staff donning Prost baseball caps and scarves said the gathering outside the French Finance Ministry had been organised independently of the four times World Champion, whose team is in receivership with debts of around $28 million.
Wielding banners reading "Alain Prost Grand Prix - keep the dream alive" and flags splashed with the Prost logo, employees posed for the media while they waited to meet government representatives.
"We are not here for money but we want to make our message known," employee representative Franck Doyen said, adding that he hoped the government would help its quest for a "white knight" partner that would keep the firm French.
Prost, who has set a January 15 deadline to find a rescuer, has sounded increasingly glum about the chances of a buyout, although Doyen said the administrator had on Friday confirmed the existence of two serious offers. He declined to give details.
Prost fans from as far south as Marseille braved bitterly cold weather in the French capital to support the employees.
"We wanted to show our moral support by being here today, to show that the team must continue and that it must stay 100 percent French," Anne-Marie Theverin said as she shivered beneath her Prost sweater.
Stephane Ribert, organiser of the gathering and an employee at the Prost factory in Guyancourt, 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Paris, said the workforce wanted to remind the public that a whole company was at stake, not just one man.
"When people think of Prost Grand Prix they just see Alain, and don't realise there are 200 highly specialised staff, plus suppliers with huge expertise, behind him," Ribert said. "This is meant as a wake-up call to French industry... it is frustrating that it could be about to disappear amid virtual indifference and silence."
Prost has said he must find a sponsor or partner by the January deadline if the French team, which are built on the foundations of the old Ligier operation, are to stay in business.