President of MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ) Wayne Christie, of Christchurch, has been elected president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Rally Commission, following the 2017 annual general assembly of the world governing body of motorsport last week.
Christie follows two highly-regarded New Zealanders, Morrie Chandler, ONZM and the late Ron Frost, MBE, in maintaining a Kiwi presence at the highest levels of world motorsport. Chandler and Frost, both from Auckland, were also former presidents of MSNZ – Chandler from 1977 to 1998 and Frost from 1958 to 1977.
Chandler has held several roles with the FIA, most recently as one of seven vice presidents on the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) for the last eleven years. Earlier he was one of 25 members of the WMSC – the sport’s top governing body. Chandler was also previously a member of the FIA’s Rallies Commission, then president of the World Rally Championship organisers before being elected president of the World Rally Championship Commission in 2006.
Chandler stepped down from the FIA Vice Presidential role this month, in accordance with the FIA statutes applying an age limit of 75 years at time of election to all FIA bodies. In recognition of his valued contributions over many years, Chandler was honoured with the title of Vice President d’Honneur de FIA during the 2017 general assembly meeting which concluded the FIA’s annual meetings in Paris.
“For a small country, New Zealand punches well above its weight in world motorsport as competitors and in the sport’s administration and regulation,” says Christie who was voted in as MSNZ president in 2016.
“Chandler and Frost, before me, forged significant pathways which assisted us to continue New Zealand’s representation at the highest levels of the FIA.
“Apart from the obvious successes of many Kiwi competitors internationally this year, New Zealand also ranks inside the top ten countries for numbers of motorsport competitors and events held, and this is purely on numbers, not per capita,” Christie says, quoting the FIA 2017 Sport Clubs Data Survey.
Stepping into his new global role as the president of the FIA Rally Commission alongside his MSNZ role and his full-time position with a Christchurch legal firm, Christie says he is better known as a circuit racing competitor.
“I have had some previous rallying co-driving experience, and have stewarded rallies up to New Zealand Championship level. I also bring eight years of experience heading up MSNZ advisory commissions, and it is this experience I believe I can bring to the FIA Rally Commission. There is already so much rally experience within the commission, my role is to help manage and coordinate the knowledge for the betterment of the sport. I’m also fortunate to have many, very experienced ‘rally brains’ in New Zealand who I can draw upon.”
Christie believes he has the skills to make a difference at FIA level. “The MSNZ board agreed that it was desirable for New Zealand to continue its long-standing presence at that level of the FIA. There are several reasons behind this: a lot of work has gone before us that should not be let go lightly; motorsport in New Zealand has benefitted from that level of involvement and can continue to do so; and New Zealand is well respected within the FIA family and can continue to contribute in a positive manner.”
The FIA Rally Commission is responsible for overseeing the welfare of rallying below World Rally Championship level, with a particular focus on the global regional rally championships, such as the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
Christie acknowledges there are stiff challenges facing several of the regional rally championships.
“I’m looking forward to working with the 25 commission members to address the issues and concerns to make rallying in the regions around the world stronger, with key issues such as costs among the biggest hurdles.”
Christie’s position heading the FIA Rally Commission also means that he has a seat on the WRC Commission as well as the Safety Commission.
Two other New Zealanders are also represented at the highest levels of the FIA include New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA) CEO Brian Gibbons who takes over the presidency of the FIA Senate, which oversees the FIA’s management and finances. Mike Noon, the NZAA’s general manager of motoring affairs, was elected president of Region II (Asia Pacific) for the FIA Mobility Programmes Committee. NZAA members Simon Douglas and Dougal Swift were also elected as vice-chairmen of the FIA Mobility Policy Commission and the FIA Mobility Services Commission respectively.
The FIA is comprised of 245 motoring and motor sport club members in 143 countries and has 80 million members. The FIA divides the world into seven zones with New Zealand in the Asia-Pacific region.