Jean-Marie Balestre (April 9, 1921 – March 27, 2008) was the president of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile between 1985–1993. He was also president of Fédération Internationale du Sport Automobile (FISA) until 1991.
Balestre, who was born in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, first worked as a journalist for Robert Hersant at a successful French automobile magazine called L'Auto-Journal.
In 1985, after Paul Metternich stepped down, Balestre was elected as the newest FIA president.
Balestre banned Group B rallying in the World Rally Championship after Henri Toivonen and Sergio Cresto were killed during the Tour de Corse, and is also known for improving the safety of Formula One by introducing crash test requirements for F1 cars.
However, Balestre's tenure as the FIA President was not without controversy. In 1989, when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost collided at Suzuka, there were implications in Autosport magazine that Balestre was involved in manipulating the World Championship in favor of Prost, as Senna was disqualified, fined and suspended after the race, resulting in Prost becoming the World Champion. This ultimately led to Max Mosley's decision to run for the FISA presidency. Years later, after leaving the presidency of FIA, Balestre admitted to having acted to benefit Prost in 1989.
Following the career ending crash of Philippe Streiff at Jacarepagua and Gerhard Berger's fireball at Imola during 1989, Balestre demanded a safety overhaul for the 1990 season. Balestre's safety implementations included a reinforced chassis, less constrictive cockpits, higher roll-over bars, red lights and a mandatory detachable steering wheel.
These regulations would be implemented at the third round of the 1990 championship at the 1990 San Marino Grand Prix. However the inaguration of the new safety regulations was a dismal failure. In the qualifying session, Pierluigi Martini fractured his ankle when he spun off at Acque Minerale. Eurosport commentator, John Watson noting the new regulations are designed to save drivers. But the front of his car has been ripped off." In the race, Satoru Nakajima received heavy brusing to his left arm after a major accident at Tamburello. Far worse was to come later in the season with Martin Donnelly's career ending accident at the 1990 Spanish Grand Prix.
- ↑ "Balestre admite ter ajudado Prost contra Senna". O Estado de S. Paulo. November 6, 1996. http://acervo.estadao.com.br/pagina/#!/19961106-37639-spo-0038-esp-e8-not. Retrieved July 11, 2017.
|V T E||List of Presidents of the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA)|
|AIACR||De Zuylen de Nyevelt • De Vogüé • De Rohan-Chabot|
|FIA||De Rohan-Chabot • De Liedekerke Beaufort • Carraciollo di Castagneto • Andrews • De Merode • Metternich • Balestre • Mosley • Todt|