Motorsport: FIA boss puts safety first

By Eric Thompson

Formula One Management chief Bernie Ecclestone (left) and Jean Todt before the China Grand Prix. Photo / Getty Images
Formula One Management chief Bernie Ecclestone (left) and Jean Todt before the China Grand Prix. Photo / Getty Images

The president of the Federation Internationale l'Automobile (FIA) Jean Todt is usually associated with Formula One and overseeing the rules for international motor sports.

However, the FIA's global purview is much greater as the governing body for 227 national motoring and sporting organisations from 132 countries.

The FIA's charter states that it is dedicated to representing the rights of motoring organisations and motorcar users throughout the world through campaigns and activities that defend their interests.

Driven had the opportunity to catch up with Todt and sound out his thoughts about the FIA's role with ordinary motorists as opposed to being the overlord of motor sport.

"The FIA is a much wider organisation than just the regulator of competition sport," said Todt. "The other pillar for the FIA is mobility, which is well represented in New Zealand by the AA and your CEO, Brian Gibbons, is deputy president for mobility at the FIA.

"Even when I was at Ferrari I was always sensitive to what was happening on the roads and I wanted to be involved in road safety. I convinced Michael Schumacher and my partner [actor] Michelle Yeoh to become involved in road safety and they became global road safety ambassadors.

"If you take all the road deaths over a year in various countries the figure is quite staggering at 1.3 million but it's the 50 million who are injured that's really the worry.

"It's the lack of driver education that's a big worry and a lot of the accidents are happening in developing countries. The good thing is the UN has taken notice and passed a resolution called Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.

"I feel it's a terrific opportunity to improve [bad driving]. It's going to be difficult, very difficult as only 10 per cent of accidents happen in developed countries while 90 per cent take place in developing countries.

"It's an interesting challenge and probably the most difficult ever faced to try to make roads safer all over the world," said Todt.

He reckons some people aren't so much bad drivers, just uneducated.

"If you don't go to school you can't be a good schoolboy or schoolgirl. In a lot of countries there is no road safety infrastructure or education, and you might have millions of cars of which only 10 per cent are roadworthy.

"A lot of cars are shipped to developing countries that are not safe. In these countries no one is told about safety belts, safe driving or anything like this. There should be checklists to be done before driving - like in aircraft - to make sure the car is safe and the driver knows what to do in the car.

"Road harm is heading towards the catastrophe of Aids or malaria and it will go ahead of these because medicine is finding help and safety is not increasing."

Lucky and unlucky

Two-time World Rally champion and five-time Rally New Zealand winner Marcos Gronholm was bundled off to hospital after a crash at the X Games in Los Angeles.

The Finn landed after a jump but then appeared to loose control of his car and fired into a lamp-post. After medical examination and an overnight stay Gronholm was in good spirits with no major injuries.

No such luck for Aussie motocross rider Robbie Maddison who suffered a collapsed lung, broken ribs and cuts to his right leg after a practice crash for the Moto X Speed and Style competition.

Pikes Peak cancelled

America's Pikes Peak hill climb, where Kiwi rally ace Rod Millen made a name for himself, has been postponed because of the bushfires in the Colorado Springs and nearby areas.

The event was to start next weekend but is now on hold indefinitely.

Pikes Peak started in 1916 and is the second oldest motorsport event in America behind the Indianapolis 500, which began in 1911.

Rally tight at top

At the halfway point in the New Zealand rally season it looks likely the Daybreaker Rally, July 12, could prove pivotal in two major rally series.

Results this year have left the Central Region Rally Series and the Rally Xtreme Challenge wide open.

Only six points separate Graham Featherstone (Lancer Evo 7) and Craig Stevens (Escort Mk II) in the Rally Xtreme Challenge whereas the points gap is even less, just one, in Central Region Rally Series between Tony McConachy and Paul Black.

- NZ Herald

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