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FIA in final lap of its own two-man race

With the International Automobile Federation (FIA) still embroiled in a furore over Formula One officiating, the global governing body of motorsport will select a new leader on Friday. 

Jean Todt was already due to step down after 12 years as president before the controversial finish to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix capped a season in which both world champion Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes constantly grumbled about the way FIA-appointed officials had enforced the rules.

At 75, Todt is coming to the end of his third and final four year term.

On Friday, at the FIA’s Paris headquarters, 198 voters will select a replacement in charge of the body, which represents motoring organisations and motorists and sanctions a host of motor-sport competitions.

The race to replace the Frenchman is between Emirati Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Briton Graham Stoker.

The 60-year-old Ben Sulayem would be the first non-European to lead the body, founded in 1904.

As a driver he won the Middle East Rally Championship 14 times. He is the FIA vice-president responsible for the Middle East. 

Stoker is a 69-year-old lawyer who specialises in sport litigation. Since 2009, he has been the FIA’s deputy president for sport.

Ben Sulayem says he wants to modernise the FIA and make it more transparent. 

He also wants to appoint the FIA’s first Chief Executive Officer. 

The Emirati wants to double global participation in motor sport by 2025, and plans to attract youngsters to drive with light buggies (known as cross-cars) and entry-level karts. 

Stoker is pursuing policies dear to the Todt presidency, such as safety (on the track and on the road). 

He proposes to set up an expert committee to look into ways to promote diversity and to expand the influence of the Women’s Commission, created in 2009.

He is also targeting youth, with the promise of a global fund to identify young talent, the creation of driver academies and karting and cross-car schools.  

The body has never had a female vice president, but between the two candidates they have nominated three women in their slates of 11 people to fill leading positions.

Ben Sulayem’s list includes Fabiana Ecclestone, a Brazilian lawyer and companion of Bernie Ecclestone, the former head of Formula One, as vice president for South America, and Anna Nordkvist.

Stoker’s list includes Janette Tan, the Singapore GP’s deputy clerk of the course.

On his campaign website, Stoker lists 25 countries who he says have promised to vote for him. They include Italy, France, Germany, Japan, Argentina and Qatar. 

Ben Sulayem has strong support from Africa and the Middle East, including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, all of which will again host Formula One Grand Prix in 2022.

Motorsport UK has decided to support Ben Sulayem and not Stoker. 

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