x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Mohammed ben Sulayem plots new route for FIA and motorsport

Emirati to oversee task force to help FIA 'plan and grow' for next 10 years, reports Gary Meenaghan.

Mohammed ben Sulayem.
Mohammed ben Sulayem.

DUBAI // The future of global motorsport is in the hands of Mohammed ben Sulayem after the president of the UAE Automobile and Touring Club was yesterday appointed by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body for world motorsport, to oversee a task force charged with plotting a 10-year plan for the sport's worldwide development.

Ben Sulayem is one of seven vice presidents of the FIA representing 230 member clubs. The road map he is being trusted to create will be the first of its kind in the 109-year history of the Paris-based organisation and is targeting strategic, sustainable growth.

The Emirati's work will start tomorrow in Buenos Aires, where he is scheduled to attend the FIA's Latin American congress in his capacity as chairman of the Motor Sport Development Task Force.

He is then expected to travel to Botswana to meet African member clubs, before presenting his progress to the World Motor Sports Council (WMSC) in Croatia.

"I took the job to chair the task force because it is a big challenge, not only for me, but also the FIA," said Ben Sulayem, a 14-time Middle East Rally champion. "It will provide the road book for the FIA to grow and develop."

While at the WMSC meet, Ben Sulayem will help nominate other members to assist him with the task force.

"To develop an effective plan, it's vital to have full consultation with all the main stakeholders and allow them to have a say in the way motorsport is developed over the next 10 years," he said. "We will be conducting research into global economic and sporting trends to help develop a precise picture of what is needed to drive the growth of motorsport in the immediate future."

Ben Sulayem has been a key figure in the growth of motorsport in the Middle East since 2006 and is widely recognised as the driving force behind the remarkable expansion of the UAE auto club from a small members' organisation headquartered in Abu Dhabi to a large-scale organisation that is now one of only five authorities permitted by the FIA to provide training to other member clubs.

Earlier this year, Ben Sulayem presented a comprehensive plan to develop motorsport in the Middle East and North Africa at the regional congress in Qatar, which was attended by Jean Todt, the FIA president.

It is understood Todt met again with Ben Sulayem at the recent FIA Sports Conference in England, where the task force was again broached.

"It is clear much of this growth will come from the emerging markets, in particular Asia, as with all business, but in order for motor sport to prosper on a global basis, we must first ensure that the foundations are secure at national and regional level," Ben Sulayem said.

"This is why I am keen to be starting the consultation process with the FIA's members clubs, to hear about the problems they face, and discuss what help is most needed to take motor sport forward."

Ben Sulayem will present his strategic plan to the FIA general assembly at the end of next year.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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