x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Bahrain gathering underlines region's growing influence

The FIA vice-president ben Sulayem points to the significance of the World Motor Sports Council meeting in Manama.

The World Motor Sports Council (WMSC) will meet for the first time in the Middle East today. The decision to host the meeting in Manama, ahead of this weekend's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, was dictated by the region's widening participation within the sport, according to Mohammed ben Sulayem, one of seven vice-presidents of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), and also president of the UAE Automobile and Touring Club.

"That a meeting of the WMSC is being held in the Middle East for the first time underlines the region's increasing influence in the world of motorsport," he said. "Everybody is happy with the pace of development of the sport here and having this meeting sends the right signals: that the administrators of the sport at the highest levels are acknowledging the growing importance of motorsport in the region."

For a second year in a row, the Gulf will host two Grands Prix with the season once again ending in Abu Dhabi. The meeting will be used as an opportunity to discuss developments within the sport, as well as providing a vehicle for Ben Sulayem and his fellow vice-presidents to congregate for the second time since the appointment of Jean Todt as FIA president last October. A pressing issue for the Emirati will be to secure candidate event status for the proposed Rally Abu Dhabi, which hopes to join the World Rally Championship calendar from next year.

"Motorsport has come a long way in the UAE, and I am convinced that now is the right time to bring the WRC here," he said. "Bringing a round of the WRC to the UAE will also be beneficial to the region as a whole because it will serve as a platform to further promote and develop the sport in the Middle East." @Email:gmeenaghan@thenational.ae