FIA President Todt praises island motor sport fraternity

President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Jean Todt heaped praise on the island’s motor sport fraternity shortly before he left Barbados on Tuesday (August 8) after a one-day visit in his capacity as the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety. Speaking to the media at Bushy Park, he said: “In Barbados, a small country of less than 300,000 population, there are a lot of skilled people with energy and passion, which makes me very happy.”

Five years to the day since his previous visit in 2012 for the ground-breaking ceremony ahead of the redevelopment, President Todt returned to tour the facility and review the progress made by the Barbados Motoring Federation (BMF) with projects assisted by funding from the FIA Sports and Safety Grant programmes. His party, hosted by BMF President Andrew Mallalieu, also included FIA Vice-President for Sport Jose Abed and Pierre Guyonnet-Duperat, Charge de Mission to the President.

In addition to the substantial funding received towards preparing the Bushy Park Development Plan in 2011, the FIA also supported the Senior Officials Training weekend in January 2013, in which more than 30 local volunteers participated in two days of sessions delivered by Nigel Drayton and Sue Sanders of the UK’s Governing Body, the Motor Sports Association (MSA). The most recent grant has facilitated the purchase of new safety equipment for the Barbados Rally Club, including a mobile fire suppression unit, which was displayed in the Pits, along with a cross-section of the competition and Driving Experience vehicles used at the venue.

Following the tour of the facility, led by Bushy Park Circuit Inc’s (BPCI) Operations Manager Amy Willis, President Todt heard an update from Willis on the phased redevelopment of the 46-year-old venue, which reopened in May 2014. She also covered upcoming developments, including the scheduled completion of the all-arena lighting in October, and the launch of a Driving Academy in collaboration with the Barbados Automobile Association (BAA), aimed at all motorists, not just those with competition in mind.

President Todt said: “You have an amazing facility, which is hosting all different categories of motor racing from karts to touring cars and dragsters, with rallycross happening in another facility. This is a small country, but I saw a lot of energy, a lot of professionalism. When I visited just five years ago, this was virtually an empty field. Now I see a lot of facilities to encourage young drivers, to teach them how to behave on the road, how to drive, and I really hope that a lot of new projects and new initiatives will come soon.”

BMF President Mallalieu also outlined some of Federation’s future plans, including a proposed Caribbean Junior Karting Championship, which he hopes could be launched as early as 2018, assisted by seed funding from the FIA. Of the FIA’s 135 member countries, Barbados is one of only 10 with a population of below 1 million and, with around 350 competition licence-holders, it also has arguably the most active motor sport community per head of the population of any country in the world.

Before the FIA party left to continue their tour in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize and Mexico, Presidents Mallalieu and Todt exchanged gifts during a gathering of senior officials of all eight of the BMF’s Member Clubs: the former received a plaque and Certificate of Appreciation for the BMF’s work on Road Safety, while he then presented the FIA boss with a framed First Day Cover of Barbados Motor Sport stamps recently issued by the Postal Service and a bottle of Mount Gay XO rum. Of the BMF, President Todt said: “It is a very small organisation, but Andrew is a very good leader, he has a very good team around him. Despite the fact that he is running a small organisation, it is well-structured, it is motivated, and the results speak for themselves.”

Earlier in the day, in Barbados in his capacity as the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, President Todt had met the Prime Minister, the Hon Freundel Stuart, Chairman of the Barbados National Road Safety Council, and other Ministers at Government Headquarters in Bay Street, then a group of road safety stakeholders at UN House in Marine Gardens.