Ben Sulayem, a 60-year-old from the Arab Emirates and a former rally driver, was elected in Paris to the leadership of the International Automobile Federation with 61.62% of the votes against 36.62% of the British Graham Stoker, the right-hand man of the 75-year-old French ex-head of Ferrari: he is the first non-European to hold this position. Angelo Sticchi Damiani, President of the Automobile Club of Italy, appointed Honorary Vice-President.
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On 17 December 2021, Mohammed Ben Sulayem of the United Arab Emirates was elected President of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) for a four-year term. He succeeds Frenchman Jean Todt, who has held the post since 2009. A former rally driver, Ben Sulayem is the first non-European to hold this position and was also the first Arab executive to join the Federation’s World Council in 2008. A former FIA Vice-President for the Middle East region, he was elected with 61.62% of the vote, against 36.62% for his only opponent, 69-year-old British driver Graham Stoker, deputy to Todt himself (1.76% abstention).
The growing influence of Arab countries in motorsport
The new president intends to “modernize” the FIA and make it more transparent. In his manifesto, he promises an external audit of governance, an evaluation of finances and the production of transparent financial and budget reports. The Arab leader also intends to appoint a chief executive to head the body for day-to-day management. This would also be a completely innovative decision. On the sporting side, he wants to double his global involvement in motorsport by 2025. To do this, he is targeting young people and promising to produce locally-made cross-cars (light buggies) and entry-level karts.
The election of the 60-year-old Dubai native was supported by the countries of this region, which are increasingly influential in the global balance of motorsport, organizing a series of major sporting events. Former British co-driver Robert Reid, world rally champion in 2001 with unforgettable driver Richards Burns, has been appointed Vice President for Sport, a position previously held by Graham Stoker. The list of eleven names in Ben Sulayem’s team also includes Fabiana Flosi Ecclestone, Brazilian lawyer and wife of Bernie Ecclestone, who has taken over as Vice President for South America.
For Jean Todt, a future at the United Nations
The future of Jean Todt, former Ferrari Commander-in-Chief, the 75-year-old Frenchman who has made safety his priority, will be at the United Nations. On circuits, with the general improvement of vehicles, and on the road, including through his role as UN ambassador for road safety since 2015. On the sporting front, ‘we have rebuilt the pyramid of single-seaters leading to Formula 1, we have created the Formula E Championship, we have set up an Endurance World Championship with a new premier category, we have created a World Rally-Raid Championship that will start next year at the Dakar,’ Todt recalled, following his appointment. And with respect to the rumours of his return to the Maranello Prancing Horse Team, J.T. labels them as ‘fiction’.
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