The window for candidates to enter the race for the FIA presidency opens in four days time (October 25) and this weekend there were a couple of interesting developments.
Incumbent Jean Todt’s campaign has been boosted by the vote of support of Middle East powerbroker Mohammed Bin Sulayem, who had weighed up standing against the Frenchman, but has now decided to pull back.
Bin Sulayem is President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the United Arab Emirates. In June this year, Todt appointed him chairman of the FIA’s new Motor Sport Development Task Force, which is tasked with establishing a ten-year plan for the sport’s global development.
When David Ward announced his candidacy for president in September, there was speculation that he was either backed by, or acting as a stalking horse for, Bin Sulayem. The former rally ace is one of Todt’s vice presidents for sport, but is known to have had differences of opinion with Todt on the FIA’s direction in the past year. The Middle Eastern vote was important to Todt’s election and his ongoing powerbase.
Appointing him to the Task Force role was Todt’s first act of appeasement and it will be interesting to see what deal has been struck between the two men, which has now led Bin Sulayem to fall into line behind Todt. Either way he is standing with Todt for a second term as a vice president for sport,
“Following careful consideration, I can confirm that I have accepted Jean Todt’s invitation to support his re-election and to stand (myself) for a second term as FIA vice president for sport. It is now time to focus on the big issues facing the FIA,” said Bin Sulayem this weekend.
Ward meanwhile has until November 15 to gather a team together and make a formal entry to the race. When asked by this website earlier this month whether he felt he could garner enough support and votes he said that he was confident he could.
But Ward’s main priority in this election is not necessarily being elected, rather it is drawing attention to what he sees as problems with the governance of the FIA, particularly in terms of financial transparency and the role of the FIA Senate. It may be that he will maximise the opportunities to raise questions between now and November 15, but not actually submit an entry. He has long been a close ally of former president Max Mosley, who helped put Todt into office to replace him, but has been unhappy with his presidency.
He has won a concession from the FIA’s Administrative board, in the form of a clarification over rules and is now challenging the role of Nick Craw, who is one of Todt’s key deputies on the election ticket and also president of the FIA Senate. In that capacity Craw has presided over fax votes relating to the election process and Ward has questioned his eligibility for this, as he is a candidate himself.
Ward’s problem is to gather together a team of seven Vice Presidents for sport and the decision of Bin Sulayem to stick with Todt has made that harder. Ward is struggling to get a vice president from the Central and North America as 11 of the 12 pledged support to Todt before the election began. The 12th, El Salvador, has not responded to Ward’s entreaty.
“If I don’t get that support I will not be able to stand,” said Ward.
Ward is trying to highlight unfairness in the system, which he feels makes it impossible to have multiple candidates and an ensuing debate.
He wants the FIA to drop the need for a presidential candidate to assemble seven vice presidents, arguing that it is fairer for them to be elected locally.
He claims that the reply to his question on this from Craw was, “The idea of electing Sport VPs democratically is not practical.”
On Saturday Ward told the Daily Mail his strategy: “A bit like they do in the financial world, I am stress testing the governance of the FIA and seeing how it responds – and I am showing that it does not have a triple A rating.”
There will surely be more potential embarrassments for the FIA and for Todt, emanating from the Ward camp, but it is starting to look like the Frenchman is on target to win a second term as president.