In conversation with Graham Stoker, Deputy President of Sport, FIA

In conversation with Graham Stoker, Deputy President of Sport, FIA

The Parx Auto Show was held between February 8-10 at the MMRDA ground in BKC, Mumbai. It’s India’s biggest auto show which saw 400 exotics at one single venue. Never have we ever seen 100 supercars, 100 superbikes, 100 vintage cars and 100 vintage bikes at one single event. It was quite a magnificent setting where people of all age groups got the golden opportunity of witnessing the cars of their dreams. At the event, we got an opportunity to get chatty with a popular figure in international motorsports, Graham Stoker, Deputy President of Sport at the FIA. So, here’s Mr. Stoker sharing his views with us on Formula One, Formula E and the growing nature and potential of India being the next big motorsport haven.

The Indian GP ran extremely fine till the moment it was put off the FIA Calendar

Graham Stoker: We’re totally clear that we’re a sport. We’re recognized by the IOC and there’s no question about that. When the Indian Grand Prix was taken off the FIA calendar, there was nothing to do with the running of the Grand Prix. It was absolutely fine and it was very well executed by the FIA. The volunteers were fabulous and of course, the circuit itself was designed by Hermann Tilke. It’s a great circuit that has come to India. From grassroots, you have a very effective motorsport pyramid. Active clubs, events happening all the time, all around the country, I think that’s great. And if you want to build sustainable motorsport, if you want to have an elite pathway so that the talent comes up, that’s what you need. In terms of F1, there’s the role of the commercial right holders of the various championships. But I’m confident you could run good rallies and good circuit activities. The car industry in India itself values 70-80 billion dollars and if you link that to the sport it’s just incredibly powerful. An iconic name like Jaguar, which is a multiple Le Mans winner, is now owned by an Indian Company.

F1 being a controlled environment today has led the sport to be safer and more efficient than ever

Graham Stoker: In the current time, bearing in mind the incredible contribution on safety, there’s excitement on the track. But there’s also something else. The current engines are 50% efficient. No one has built engines this efficient and it’s remarkable. So, to have premier single-seater racing to be delivered in the safe way that society expects now with a drivetrain that’s 50% efficient, there’s nothing around like that. The whole string of talent too is fabulous. You can access it now. You can watch it on your phone. I get information on my phone which is almost indistinguishable from if I was in a race controlled environment sitting with stewards. The opportunity for the fans to be immersed in the sport has never been better. And F1 always had wheel to wheel racing and fast cars. There was someone dominating because they had that particular combination of car and driver. It’s been going on for decades.

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Formula One will always be the premier racing championship in the world

Graham Stoker: The horsepower, the speed, the drive, it’s clearly the best in the world. Formula E has a fantastic position because we’ve been putting it in cities. We’ve been demonstrating the technology of electric drivetrain to deliver exciting races. You can never do F1 in those circumstances. That’s very different. But both can co-exist.

You never know F1 might be running on hydrogen in the future

F1 will always have the role of maintaining the status of the premier single-seater championship. Maximum horsepower, top drivers, best circuits around the world to deliver exciting racing and a TV audience which follows F1 like having a world cup every two weeks.

Force India did an impressive job

Graham Stoker: Force India, I know them well. And what really took everyone by surprise is that inspite of spending less, they performed impressively. All credit to them. There’s a whole lot to be proud of.

More Sustainable racing from 2021

Graham Stoker: The overhaul of F1 in 2021 is under discussion right now. Our underlying theme at FIA would be to deliver a sustainable championship. To make sure that we have good teams, good drivers and good events around the world.

More opportunities for young talent

Graham Stoker: We’re trying to bring motorsports to people’s attention. A whole range of sporting activities actually go on here. They do Gymkhana Auto Testing and it’s very successful. It is pure grass root. Activities like karting, Gymkhana Auto Test and Cross Car are other ways which we could use to promote motorsport. We now got a whole range of opportunities and together we give grants to countries to develop that sport. When it’s done properly the talent comes through.

You don’t need a track to detect talent

Graham Stoker: We don’t need tracks for talent acquisition. In Europe, Rally Junior France delivered two world champions. It has thousands of drivers going through Rally Junior races. They can partner with manufacturers. You don’t need a track to detect talent. Put them in a car, put them in a cross-car, give them an opportunity to drive cars, tune cars, do an autotest, the talent could be spotted. Things like hardcore track racing come later. The pyramid of the activity is more important. In the UK there’s Bambino Karting that starts at the age of six. That’s not a race, that’s a sprint round track with marshals all over the little track. Get Involved. Even if you’re not driving, there’s hope you can get somewhere in the sport having fun. Marshaling is fabulous, we say it’s the best seat in the house, being a Marshal. The contributions that volunteers make around the world, is quite remarkable.

As told to Suvrat Kothari

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