February 24, 2017 – We had the opportunity to conduct an interview with FIA President Jean Todt during his visit to Lebanon to partake in the FIA Sport Regional Congress which took place at ATCL’s headquarters in Kaslik last week. Several topics were discussed, including regional championships, Formula E and a bit of Formula 1. The interview was featured on Eurosport Arabia.
Q: First of all, welcome to Lebanon. The FIA Sport Regional Congress is being held here for the second time in 3 years. Why did you choose Lebanon and what’s the added value gained by doing it in this country?
A: The ATCL is a very good leader among the FIA members and it has had a strong contribution. Lebanon is a beautiful place where the ATCL have been developing motorsport and mobility, so it’s a tribute to the club and to President Fouad Al Khazen, and of course it’s a very good location – it’s very central. It was a very good opportunity to organize the MENA zone congress here.
Q: The congress has a lot talking points on the workflow, including the Middle East Rally Championship. The MERC is having a difficult time and it had a slow start this year. What’s your advice to turn things around?
A: The Middle East countries are going through difficult times. To organize a rally in Syria, Iran or Libya is not the easiest thing. It’s kind of mixed, which is why we must be close to every club and we must try to understand every single problem in each country. The situation in Abu Dhabi is different from the one in Qatar, Bahrain and other countries, so we have to take that into consideration and we have to support the clubs and encourage the development of motorsport from the grassroots, which is what we’re doing.
Q: Do you think the future in the MENA region lies in Baja, Cross-Country and 4×4 events, or do you think there’s still potential for normal Rallying?
A: Cross-Country and Rallying are within the same family, but it’s very favorable to do Cross-Country in the Middle East because of the suitable road surfaces and deserts. However, there are countries that are great for rallying, including Jordan, Oman and Lebanon. I remember the first time I came here was 40 years ago for Rally of Lebanon.
Q: They discussed Formula E in the congress. Morocco is hosting another Formula E race. What is the possibility to have a Formula E race in a glamorous city like Dubai or Beirut?
A: They are an option considered by the promoter of the Formula E championship, but it was very good to host a Formula E race in Marrakech during the running of Cop22 because it encouraged all the efforts to address Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets 3.6 and 11.2 that are focused on road safety, which is one of our priorities.
Q: We have seen a lot of advancement in international competition since your reign as FIA President. The World Rally Championship is going through a good time. What do you think of the Formula 1 championship? We’re heading into a new era with new regulations that worked well for rallying. What’s your view on Formula 1?
A: I’m very excited, but I would like to see how things go in pre-season testing and I want to hear the feelings of the drivers and teams and then wait for the first race in Melboune, Australia at the end of March. Maybe we can’t make a conclusion after the first race, so I think we will have a good idea about the implications of the new regulations after three or four Grand Prix races.