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Inside track on a fascinating week of motorsport discussion
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Jun 2013   |  12:22 am GMT  |  16 comments

This week has been entirely taken up for me with FIA Sport Conference week at Goodwood House. It is the first time that the FIA has hosted such an event and they asked me to be conference moderator, which meant animating five 90 minute panel discussion sessions over three days, featuring over 50 speakers, as well as a Q&A with FIA Race Directors Charlie Whiting and Herbie Blash.

The topics under discussion this week revolved around the main challenges facing the sport; specifically safety, sustainability and affordability. FIA president Jean Todt set the tone in the opening speech when he called on the federations to realise that the sport must face up to the threats of face being legislated out of business, “If we allow other actors into our sport, they will define the conditions under which it (motorsport) is practised,” he said. “We know that if we do not assume our responsibilities in this area and if we remain passive, others will take it upon themselves to give a direction to motor sport that may not be in line with our values and which would be detrimental to us in the end.”

The guest speakers and panelists were many and various, from Vicky Chandhok (Karun’s father and Chairman of the Indian motorsport federation) to Lord Drayson, fresh from breaking the world speed record for EVs at 324 km/h, to 1980s rally heroine Michelle Mouton and F1 test crash survivor Maria de Vilotta (above centre).

The over 200 delegates came largely from the national federations of 82 countries, from Costa Rica to Botswana to Barbados to Malta. The sessions were very interactive with the audience and it was fascinating to hear their experiences of trying to organise a rally in Africa or build a new race track in Sri Lanka, which is emerging from years of civil war. Astonishingly, the representative from Syria revealed how active the motor sport scene is there, proving that the sport is central to many people’s lives, even in the most difficult circumstances.

It was interesting to learn that much of the $100 million received from the McLaren fine went into the FIA Institute (the R&D department of the federation) and has been redistributed to these smaller national federations in grants for training of officials and volunteers. This programme sees experienced federations like CAMS in Australia or the MSA in the UK partner with a federation in a developing country to train officials, introducing best practice for safety and race direction and raising the competence of the federation. It’s been a comprehensive programme over several years.

During the week the FIA launched several documents reaching out to the network of national federations, from documents on how to develop as a federation, to medical reports to a Strategy for Sustainability.

One of the most interesting presentations came from Andy Mellor of the FIA Institute, the man who does research into things like cockpit canopies and front roll hoops for F1 cars. Mellor showed videos of crash tests and highlighted the work on areas like preventing cockpit penetration in a T bone accident and ways of lowering the nose of an F1 car to prevent a launch like Mark Webber’s off the back of Heikki Kovalainen’s car in Valencia a few years ago.

On a more light hearted note, Doctor Paul Trafford told of a high profile international driver who was unable to give a urine sample after a race for the anti-doping tests and was forced to wait around for five hours until he could manage it.

It was interesting to learn about the amount of work that has been going on, far more than I had realised from the outside.

But above all, the take home for me was the sheer number of nationalities in the room – passing from the oriental face of the man from Taiwan, to the tanned face of the man from Colombia, to the enthusiasm of the man from Botswana and the calm dignity of the lady from Morocco – you realise that the sport is truly global, as are many of the challenges facing it.

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Great, as always. Thanks James.

I’ll take a look on the FIA site, but I saw something reacently about the FIA adopting a “Formula 4.” Does it follow the de facto formula – used around the world at club levels – of motorcycle-engined cars? It seems to me that such a formula gives a good opportunity to rationalize the formula car ladder AND race meetings. That is, a GP weekend could feature F4, F3, F2 (dead in its spec form, but allegedly coming back as an open chassi formula at a future date) and F1; the single-seater ladder as self-supporting circus.

For emerging federations especially, hosting an international F4 meeting (the way there used to be non-championship F1 races and stand-alone F2 races) could provide closer links between those federations and others, like the MSA, CAMS and ACCUS; and give good experience in of organizing international events.

Heck, an annual F4 event in Barbados sounds like a cross between the Macau F3 event and the old Nassau Speedweeks in the Bahamas.


James do you know if any driver in any level of motorsports has ever tested positive for a banned substance? I cannot think of anything that would be of benefit to them anymore than a can of Red Bull.


AJ Almendinger (think I spelt his name right) had some negative test results a few years ago in NASCAR, as I recall, which led him to leave the sport for a while.


Thomas Enge for cannabis


McLarens $100m went to the gravy train, not a penny received by the marshalls and other volunteers who ensure there are F1 races.

There can’t be many sports, where £billions can be made, that depend totally upon the unpaid work of thousands of people.

Did they get a mention during the conference? I bet they didn’t.


Wow interesting and Im sure quite a challenging role for you James.

Was there any representation from USA ? And which formula / country impressed you most in their ideas ?

Thanks again for sharing such diverse topics.


Yes Tim Mayer was there also ACCUS representative

Barbados guy was very proactive


Well done James! Nice to see another Liverpool connection with Paul Trafford in attendance!


Did Whiting check with the WMSC before speaking?


Does he ever?


Yes, they gave tentative approval provided he checks with all the other representatives first and wears a black helmet 😉


After Gary Hartstein I’ll bet he got permission in writing!


Good to know but is there any chance for us, the fans, to have some transcripts and/or documents?

Or is it that confidential that we will never have anything else but this (very) short summary?


Look at, there’s a lot there


Thanks James, I was there yesterday and couldn’t find anything but the agenda and some pictures… may be I am blind, or it was updated last night…


It’s articles like this which bring me to your site. Thanks for sharing James.

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