19.02.13

Enduring action

Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, President of the FIA Endurance Commission, reflects on the success of 2012 and looks ahead to an exciting 2013 WEC season.

When the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) joined forces to bring World Championship status back to endurance racing after a two-decade hiatus, few expected to see the first season run without a hitch.

But endurance racing is not like other forms of motorsport, and according to FIA Endurance Commission President Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, the nature of the competition makes it an ideal breeding ground for partnership and cooperation.

“Our racing really is about teams rather than egotistical personalities,” he said. “Nobody wins an endurance race if they don’t enter into the team spirit. It means leaving the car in the best possible condition for the next guy to jump into and working with each other. We talk about team spirit in other forms of motorsport but I think in endurance racing you really do have to be a team player of you are going to be able to win.”

The spirit of cooperation that sets endurance racing apart on track extends to the FIA Endurance Commission, where the FIA and the ACO work together to govern the World Endurance Championship. The same approach to teamwork that proves so effective out on track has been put to good use in the boardroom, said FIA President Jean Todt.

“The FIA Endurance Commission plays a key role in finding the right balance between the technical rules, the issues of safety and the right level of entertainment, so as to encourage this world championship to operate within the right framework and encourage more competitors to participate,” the FIA president said. “Thanks to the strong leadership expressed by its president Sir Lindsay Owen-Jones, the commission mirrors the close cooperation between the FIA and the ACO and safeguards the future of this exciting motorsport discipline.”

According to Owen-Jones, that cooperation is an essential pillar of the FIA Endurance Commission. “The main role is to guarantee an equitable, sensible and, as far as possible, a stable set of rules and regulations without which you cannot organise any discipline of motorsport,” he said. “In this particular case, we have an additional role which is to symbolise and make effective the cooperation between the FIA and the ACO, which is the basis for the whole World Endurance Championship.

“We really do have a balanced and complementary group of people and they work very well together. We are extremely lucky that they are all personalities that understand that we have to agree and do everything to avoid the kind of public splits that so often seem to ruin the peace in other championships.”

Proof of the success of the partnership can be seen in the triumph that was the FIA World Endurance Championship’s 2012 season. The strong grid that lined up for that debut year has only been strengthened for 2013, which Owen-Jones said speaks for the confidence the teams have in the FIA-ACO partnership.

“The credit [for 2012] really must, first and foremost, go to the promoter which is the ACO,” he said. “They obviously did a fantastic job attracting the teams and making people happy. I think our contribution is always behind the scenes. The Endurance Commission is there to constantly remind, and be witness to, the ‘Entente Cordial’ between the FIA and the ACO.

“The competitors need to hear this; they need to know this, because this brings credibility, reassurance and some sort or perspective looking forward to the championship both last year and the years ahead. I’d like to think that if we contributed something it was this sense of stability and longevity that helped secure a very good grid for 2013.

“On paper we have everything for the best endurance season for many years and it’s very, very exciting,” Owen-Jones continued. “We’ve got fantastic teams, a very good balance between the different classes and we have a good calendar. Last year ended beautifully and now we should have the strong competition all year. We cannot wait to be at the first race to see it all start at Silverstone where the drivers will compete for the Royal Automobile Club Tourist Trophy.

“I’m very pleased about having the Tourist Trophy as part of the world championship, especially as somebody who raced historics for many years. The Tourist Trophy is one that Stirling Moss quite a few times and when I was a child I remember getting so excited about. The idea that the British round is able to have that title and to remind us of British racing heritage, is a very good thing. The more we can do to give each of the rounds some mystique and history the more we’re going to build an even better championship.”