L ‘Emirati Mohammed Ben Sulayem was elected president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Friday for a four-year term, succeeding Frenchman Jean Todt, who had held the post since 2009. The 60-year-old former rally driver is the first European at the helm since the creation of the FIA in 1904. Until now, he was vice president of the body for the Middle East region.
In the elections held in Paris, where the FIA is headquartered, he was elected with 61.62% of the votes, compared to 36.62% for his opponent, the British Graham Stoker, 69, FIA vice president of sport. (1.76% abstention). In the campaign of several months, Ben Sulayem claims to be breaking, facing Stoker, Todt’s right hand in recent years and candidate for continuity. The native of Dubai succeeds the Belgian, French, Italian, British and German presidents.
The new president intends to modernize the FIA and make it more transparent. In his manifesto, he promises an external audit on governance, an assessment of finances, and the establishment of budget and financial reports.
“We can never say that our governance is enough, we must always improve, otherwise we are overwhelmed,” he hammered at a press conference after his election.
The Emiratis also want to appoint an executive director at the head of the body, for day-to-day management, which would be the first time.
8,000 competition licenses for 2,800 million inhabitants
On the sporting side, it wants to double the world’s share of motorsport by 2025. To do this, it is targeting developing countries and young people, promising to locally produce entry-level cross-cars (light buggies) and go-karts.
“I always take as an example the two largest countries in the world, China and India. We are talking about less than 8,000 competition licenses for 2,800 million (inhabitants). And there are places like Finland that have over 11,000! There is something wrong, ”he said.
“And if we want to grow and earn trust, we have to make sure we respect diversity and inclusion. “
The 14-time winner of the Middle East rally championship, the Dubaïote has notably received support from this region, which is weighing more and more on the global balance sheet of motorsports, by organizing a series of major events.
Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will host an F1 Grand Prix in 2022, and will be joined in 2023 by Qatar (which supported the opposite bid).
“It is the diversity that counts,” however, assures the president. “I have no preference for my region. “
An Ecclestone branch on the team
Former British co-driver Robert Reid, 2001 world rally champion with Richards Burns, will serve as vice president of sport, a position held by Graham Stoker.
Also on his list of eleven Ben Sulayem names, Fabiana Ecclestone, a Brazilian lawyer and wife of Bernie Ecclestone, the former CEO and promoter of Formula 1, becomes Vice President for South America.
Former Ferrari boss Jean Todt is leaving the FIA after three consecutive terms. The 75-year-old Frenchman made safety his priority. On the circuits, with the general improvement of the vehicles, and on the road, also through his role as UN special envoy for road safety since 2015.
In sporting terms, “we rebuilt the single-seater pyramid (the categories that lead to Formula 1, editor’s note), we created the Formula E championship (electric single-seaters, editor’s note), we launched a world endurance championship with a new category, we have created a world rally-raid championship that will start next year at the Dakar, ”Todt recalled in an interview with AFP.
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