Mohammed Ben Sulayem has become the first Arab to earn a place on the most powerful body in world motor sport.
Sulayem, President of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE and a rallying legend in the Middle East, has been elected to the FIA World Motor Sport Council and named as Vice President of the FIA for Sport by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile.
His double appointment was confirmed yesterday by FIA President Max Mosley during the FIA General Assembly in Paris.
It underlines Sulayem’s status as the leading motor sport figure in the Middle East, and recognises the influential role he has played in bringing world championship motor sport to the region.
Sulayem said: “I’m honoured and very happy to have been elected to the FIA World Motor Sport Council. I’m looking forward to playing my part in shaping the future of motor sport, and there are some exciting, and challenging, times ahead.”The World Motor Sport Council meets at least four times a year to decide on rules, regulations, safety and development of motor sport at every level, from karting to Formula One. Headed by the FIA President, its membership is chosen by the FIA General Assembly, which contains representatives from national automobile clubs throughout the world.In a remarkable rallying career, Sulayem won 14 FIA Middle East Rally Championship titles and more than 60 international rallies. In 1991, he launched the UAE Desert Challenge, and quickly established it as the Middle East’s first World Championship motor sport event.
The spectacular rally - staged for the 18th time last week - entered the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies for cars in 1993, and two years later was welcomed into the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship for bikes.
When Sulayem took charge of the ATCUAE two-and-a half years ago, only 90 competitors in the UAE had official licenses to compete in motor sport – most of them in rallying – and there were less than 20 official events staged per year.
Today, the ATCUAE has more than 1200 licensed competitors and oversees a calendar of 140 motor sport events. It is the sole official representative in the UAE of the FIA and its classic car and motor bike counterparts, FIVA and the FIM, and will have an important role to play in the staging of the first Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix next year.
Emphasising his regional influence, Sulayem was an advisor behind Bahrain’s bid for a place in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. After the first Bahrain Grand Prix in 2004, he was awarded a Medal of Honour by King Hamad bin Isa of Bahrain. He was also a strong supporter of Jordan’s successful bid to break into the World Rally Championship. Earlier this year he played a pivotal role in the formation of the Arab Council of Touring and Automobile Clubs, set up to unite the FIA Clubs of the Arabic speaking territories