Passion and innovation: key words for motor sport

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The importance of developing motor sport at the grassroots level was the main point of the introductory address given by FIA President Jean Todt and Angelo Sticchi Damiani, President of the ACI (Italy’s motoring body) to the media attending the fourth FIA Sport Conference, which got underway today at the Lingotto in Turin

“For the FIA, it’s important to ensure that motor sport is accessible to everyone, in all parts of the world,” said Todt. Clearly, not every one of the 150 countries where the FIA is represented can put on a Formula 1 Grand Prix, but it’s important that they can start with the basics. I would cite what the FIA is doing on this front with Formula 4 as an example. The championship currently runs in 12 countries and in fact, it first saw the light of day here in Italy, thanks to the efforts of the ACI. However, there is still a long way to go. A week ago I was in Tibet and I met kids who wanted to race go-karts in a part of the world where there are probably more horses than cars: so for us, success would mean ensuring that these children have the opportunity to try their hand at motor sport. It would be nice to have a Formula 1 Grand Prix everywhere, but we have to remember there are parts of the world where they’ve never even heard of Formula 1. That’s why we have to start with the basics and from there, one can begin to develop an awareness of motor sport and, step by step, start thinking about organising events and, who knows, one day maybe even Grands Prix at the highest level of car racing.”

Passion is one of the key words of the conference, the other being innovation and there is no doubt that Jean Todt is a passionate man, especially when it comes to cars. “I think it’s in my blood,” he continued. “My father was a doctor with no particular interest in cars, but I have always had this passion which has driven me over the past fifty years of my life in motor sport to the point where I have taken on the responsibility of President of the FIA.”

The Italians have always been very passionate about the automobile, nowhere more so than in Turin. Therefore it’s no coincident that when Jean Todt suggested that the ACI should organise this edition of the Sport Conference, it’s President Angelo Sticchi Damiani jumped at the chance. “The Italian motor industry was born here in Turin and  the FCA, its largest motor manufacturer today, which plays a very important role on the global motor industry stage, still has its headquarters here. This is also where the ACI was born and therefore I hope Italy can contribute to making such an important event a great success.”  

While answering questions from the journalists, this press meeting was also an opportunity for Todt to touch briefly on some of the major FIA championships, such as Formula E, the WRC and of course, F1. “I don't remember ever having seen such a young series like Formula E, now in just its second season, generate so much interest: the response from constructors, teams, suppliers and drivers has been amazing. Having said that, one must never take anything for granted and one has to bear in mind that one of the reasons for its success is that the races take place in the heart of great cities. I don’t think it would be the same story if they were held outside major conurbations. You will see when next season’s calendar is announced this Friday, there will be some incredible new elements. As for the WRC, here too, the major constructors are showing a lot of interest, with the return of Toyota and Citroen next year, which is a sign that motor sport is in good health. Finally, I believe Formula 1 is in good shape this season, thanks to the fact that it is no longer totally dominated by just one team, as in the past couple of years. Of course, Mercedes is still very strong, but Ferrari has made a lot of progress, Red Bull is fighting back and Force India are showing well, with Perez twice on the podium already this year. It’s positive that the sport is less predictable, but one should not forget that, historically, there have often been periods when one team has had a clear advantage.”