Ben Sulayem has experience of driving an F1 car, albeit briefly…
Mohammed Ben Sulayem could be set to join forces with David Ward in an attempt depose Jean Todt from the FIA Presidency.
Ben Sulayem had been touted as a third candidate, but a more likely scenario is that he and Ward will eventually team up.
Rally driver Ben Sulayem is President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, and an FIA Vice President for sport. In June he was appointed as the head of the FIA’s Motor Sport Development Task Force, which is charged with looking at the future of the sport.
In that role he attended FIA regional gatherings in Latin America and Africa last month, which would have been a timely opportunity for him to do some networking. He is also due to present a preliminary report to the World Motor Sport Council today. The focus is on how to spend the FIA’s funds at grass roots level – something that will have a wide appeal.
Ben Sulayem was a staunch supporter of Max Mosley, and as such followed the former president’s lead in transferring his allegiance to Todt at the last elections in 2009. However as early as 2010 there were rumours that he would be willing to stand against Todt in 2013.
Given that like Ward he has support from Mosley’s former followers his candidacy would split that backing – unless they end up combining forces.
A cynical view is that Ward has in effect done the ‘dirty work’ by drawing attention to ethics and complaining about Todt’s alleged breaking of FIA rules, so Ben Sulayem can step into the fight with doubts having already been raised in the minds of voters. Ward is very serious about the need for reform in the FIA, but is believed be willing to step aside and back a third candidate who adopted his agenda for change.
If Ben Sulayem’s candidacy is confirmed he will probably get the full support of the Middle East region, which will damage Todt’s prospects of retaining his job. He’s also said to be popular with the African region.
It’s intriguing to note that Ward’s manifesto suggests that the FIA should have a President and CEO, and adds that the FIA should “restrict eligibility for FIA Presidential election to Club Presidents or Senior Office Holders nominated by their clubs.” Ward himself does not fall into that category.
The Gulf News reports a spokesman for Ben Sulayem as saying “At this stage, he has seen David Ward’s manifesto and has now asked to see Jean Todt’s manifesto as well. Any decision he makes after that will be based on what is best for the FIA going forward.”