German court to accept Ecclestone payment to end bribery trial


Bernie Ecclestone’s bribery trial will end, as the head of Formula One has offered up $100 million U.S. for that ending – this has been identified by a district court in Munich, and state prosecutors plan to accept.

Reports last week indicated this was possible for Ecclestone to pay his way out through a legal out clause, explained a bit further below.

This will end the trial that began in April and has gone on throughout the summer. Ecclestone will be found neither guilty or innocent on the charges.

The trial all stems from Ecclestone’s being accused of paying jailed German banker Gerhard Gribkowsky of $44m for the BayernLB bank to keep Ecclestone as an F1 executive and for CVC Capital Partners to take the sale of F1’s commercial rights at an undervalued price. Though the payment was accepted, Ecclestone denied this was a bribe.

But the out clause to allow Ecclestone to pay his way out of this case refers to a provision in German law.

The BBC reported the quote of an experienced lawyer, Franz Bielefeld, to the Spiegelonline news website. Bielefeld explained to that outlet that this proviso, known as Paragraph 153a, was not just applicable to commercial trials, but could be invoked throughout the court system.

Further clarification here via The Guardian, which explained of the “get-out clause:”

“A paragraph in the German criminal code allows for trials to be ended under conditions which are “appropriate for resolving the public interest in a prosecution,” as long as the gravity of wrongdoing does not outweigh this.”

NBC Sports Group F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton said the decision is due to the intricacies of the German legal system:

Ecclestone, now 83, will be able to continue running the sport for the foreseeable future; however, he’s not clearly out of the woods. As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith notes, a sale of the CVC Capital Partners group is on the horizon.

Though the trial may now be over, the political intrigue will continue to roll on.

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski