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GP Week : Issue 170
Best known for his recent work of the past decade or so in charge of Neste Oil Rally Finland, and his recent post as President of the FIA World Rally Championship Commission, it came as a surprise when the FIA announced this week that Jarmo Mahonen had now been appointed to the new position of 'FIA Rally Director'. He visited the Rallye de France - Alsace and took the opportunity of explaining this new initiative of the FIA, and what he hoped to be about to achieve through this: "I started full time with the FIA last Monday, 1 October 2012. I am moving totally from Finland. About my only possessions back in Finland is my country cottage. “I am therefore leaving the organisation of Neste Oil Rally Finland. There are very competent people able to take over, I can’t see any problem and I expect the new structure will be announced within a couple of months. It is never one man that makes an event a success, so you have to have good employees to implement it.” What brought you to the FIA headquarters in Geneva? JM: In life you need challenges. Our President (Jean Todt) spoke about this change when the top management made a decision to bring rallying back to the place it used to be. My new job is not just the world rally championship, it is to look after rallying, across the board, introducing a new structure of rallying in FIA, bringing more man-power and resources to face the challenges. It will enable us to focus more on regional rallies and the other different championships. A lot of good things are already happening – you’ve got the final decision about the new type of car, you’ve got the new structure in the support championships in the world championship, but what new things have to be arranged? JM: Like in all business you have to start from the grass root level. You must look to regional championships first where I think we have been a little bit too restrictive, not catering for the different circumstances in each country. We have to look first of all at the general philosophies; the FIA is there to help the member organisations to build a good sport on all levels. First of all we must have a global strategy of rallying and then start to implement it together with the various interested parties. We already have a pyramid system in relation to the technical side of the sport; we now need to set up a pyramid system regarding the sport as a whole. Do you have a personal vision of what you would like to achieve? JM: I want to bring rallying to the status it used to have. Recently things have not been so good, but the platform is still there – now it is up to us to deliver. I see a very positive view of the future. We know we are going to have very tough years ahead of us because of the financial atmosphere in the world, so I think for the next couple of years we will continue to suffer because the recession is hitting very hard to our sport. Is your work mainly administrative or commercial or sporting? JM: I am working on the sporting side and on the strategic side – strategy In all respects. We have to take account of the way the world has changed environmentally. Of course we cannot bring back the good old days we all remember ... we have to fit rallying into today’s society. What particular things have not been done that should now be done? JM: There are many things and we have to investigate them all, so it is very difficult to take out one thing. We need the FIA to be a more flexible organisation, we have to be quick to respond, be more adjustable to circumstance, less rigid. How far down will your work take you? Is it just to the international level, or do you want to have influence at national or even national local level? JM: For me it is important to increase the presence of the FIA at the regional level. National federations are looking after the national things; the FIA starts at the regional level and up to world rally championships. it is in the interest of the sport for instance to have common technical regulations for the cars so that we could compete. We have different rally leaders in the FIA at the moment: President of the World Rally Championship Commission, President of Rallies Commission, different presidents of the regionals, WRC Manager Michele Mouton. Is this structure going to be changed? JM: It is too early to say, I have only been in this job three days – we are going to look at the structure, but it is too early to say yet. Of course we are going to make some changes in the long term but it is difficult to say what. I will be working alongside the WRC Manager Michele Mouton. We are focussing already on 2014 and onwards because plans for 2013 are already settled. This gives us time to create the structure to face the requirements. Will you be involved in the commercial side of the sport? JM: My work is co-operation between different departments. At the moment we have a Technical department, Commercial department, Sporting department, so we need a co-operation between them. I believe firmly that on the sporting side we have to understand the commercial requirements. At the moment the system is messy, so we have to get all these departments to work together to a common goal. And what about the media side? We feel there are so many instances especially in the world championship where the media is the last element which is paid attention to. JM: Of course the media is one of the major partners in the sport. When you talk about world rally championship, it is really important to have a good media strategy. The media is a major participant in the sport. When you used to speak with the sporting guys (organising events) you got the impression they did events for themselves, not thinking about the media so much. I’m sure we are going to see changes in our media strategy, because like our President said, the whole FIA is to become more transparent and our strategy is to do that. RALLY >>> INSIGHT New man at the top Jarmo Mahonen speaks about his new ground breaking FIA position 42 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: