from FIA Karting
Following the election last December of Emirati Mohammed Ben Sulayem to the position of FIA President, there have been a number of changes in the FIA Karting organisation chart.
Felipe Massa left the CIK-FIA presidency, which he had held since 2018, to take up the post of FIA Drivers’ Commission President. Akbar Ebrahim from India is the new CIK-FIA President as of 4th February 2022, with Britain’s John Ryan as Vice President. With Frenchman Alban Martinet succeeding Kay Oberheide as CIK-FIA Executive Secretary in October 2021, an entirely new team has taken the reins for the 2022 season.
At 58 years of age, Akbar Ebrahim combines a great deal of experience in motor sport and business. In an interview at the end of March, he revealed extensive knowledge of the many aspects of karting today and a longer-term vision of its evolution in close collaboration with the main stakeholders of the discipline.
MR. PRESIDENT, COULD YOU START BY TELLING US ABOUT YOUR CAREER IN MOTOR SPORT?
I have mainly raced single-seaters. I raced in Formula 3 in India for a number of years and then raced in Formula Asia and Formula Ford before competing in British F3 and some F2 events. I also did the occasional rally and touring car race in India. After that, it was time for me to focus on my professional business career.
HAVE YOU STILL KEPT IN TOUCH WITH MOTOR SPORT?
Yes, I have. I started to set up structures to support and develop young talent in my country. That’s when I became more interested in karting. There was a lack of training structures to provide them with the technical bases concerning chassis, engines and tyres. I got involved in the concept of an academy for young people, particularly with regard to organisational aspects.
I had the opportunity to experience driving a kart because I wanted to understand the whole process. Thanks to karting, young people who wanted to progress in motor sport could familiarise themselves with driving, of course, but also with teamwork, collaboration with technicians and other drivers, everything that is important for the future.
I am convinced that karting is also a good education for life and that many values can be learned from it. The projects carried out in India have greatly increased the visibility of the sport and encouraged parents to consider karting for their children.
WHAT IS YOUR VIEW OF KARTING COMPETITION TODAY?
The top level of competition is concentrated in Europe with the FIA Karting events and some private series. The organisation is of a high quality, and the standard of competition is impressive among very professional teams. Events are well attended and the media coverage is interesting. The collaboration with the promoter RGMMC provides very good results. The current categories are well defined and their stability is geared towards success. It is a good platform for drivers who aspire to pursue their careers in motor sport.
Of course, the question of budgets remains if there is to be an increase in the number of participants. The FIA Karting Academy Trophy plays an important role in this area and its success is only growing. We have also increased the number of karts of the Academy from 2022 with the agreement of our partners.
It’s not a revelation to say that the lower echelons deserve our full attention. There is much to be done to broaden the base of the pyramid. The FIA has already started to invest in discovery and education programmes in countries without infrastructure on the African and Asian continents. I am convinced of the importance of these initiatives, whose success depends on the structuring of the programmes and their effectiveness on the ground.
Bridges must then be put in place towards the top level. This will be one of the priorities of my mandate. There is no shortage of ideas, but we must focus on viable solutions. I am fortunate to be able to count on the experience of my Vice-President John Ryan and his in-depth knowledge of the subject.
HOW WILL YOU START YOUR PRESIDENCY IN CONCRETE TERMS?
It is essential in my position to go to the competitions and meet the key players. I plan to attend many FIA Karting events to see how they are run on the ground. I want to establish productive contacts with the manufacturers and teams. I am well aware that this cannot be done effectively during a race weekend. I have therefore planned additional trips to establish close relations with the karting industry in order to understand the various issues. I also need to familiarise myself with the workings of the CIK-FIA working groups and team in Geneva under the responsibility of Executive Secretary Alban Martinet.
I am happy to have been chosen for this mission which includes many aspects. I am fortunate to take on this responsibility at a time when the FIA Karting is well structured with an excellent grasp of the top level and varied perspectives. It will be a significant support to diversify its actions towards new audiences.