Calcutta: While motorsport in India is in the pits, the two bodies that claim to run the sport in the country — the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) and the Motorsports Association of India (MAI) are still splitting hairs. Interestingly, even with the same boss — former racer, liquor baron and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Mallya — it seems the officials can’t sit across a table and do a simple thing: talk.
Petty egos have been blown out of proportion, and every positive sign that emerges, mostly reveals another tunnel at the end of the light.
A few things have come to light in the recent past.
Firstly, there has been this problem of who is in control. The sports bodies claim to perform the rites, while the main muscle remains with two tyre companies — JK Tyre and MRF — at two ends of the spectrum. That has been while the motorcar companies and the oil companies have refused to get involved. It is probably easy to forget that in motorsport — a solid business activity in any logical part of the world — it is the cars that are on show.
Then there is this more contentious problem of legality of authority. While the Federation Internationale De L’Automobile (FIA) had given four-wheeler licence rights to MAI and not to FMSCI, the FMSCI has licence for two-wheelers from the world two-wheeler sport body, the FIM. However, the government of India recognises the FMSCI as the only supreme motorsport body in the country.
This was driven home in a recent court case (there have been many court cases and more are promised) where a Delhi high court order said that the MAI had no right to call the Karnataka 1000 rally “unauthorised” as it had in a circular of July 7, 2002. The learned court, in effect, said it would prefer dealing with the FMSCI.
Then comes an interesting missive from the FIA, to the FMSCI — a July 22 letter from FIA legal assistant Severine Hilweg, regarding an “affiliation request of the new club in India.” It states that the new applicant, the Federation of Indian Automobile Association (FIAA) has applied to the FIA “to become a member… according to article 3.2 of the FIA statutes.”
The problem is, says the letter, that “Article 27 Admissions” of the FIA statutes state that “if the association presenting the request belongs to a country where the FIA is already represented, the Secretariat of the FIA shall inform any member Club, Association or Federation of that country which shall state within one month whether they object to this request.”
The aberration is in the fact that this wasn’t the procedure followed by the world body while assigning member status to MAI.
The status of main motorsports body of the country (a 17-year status) was taken away from the FMSCI by the World Motor Sports Council (WMSC) in April 2000 by using their “emergency powers”, the MAI benefiting in the process.
The decision of the WMSC was challenged by FMSCI and the tribunal held that the order was only temporary. The General Assembly later said that the two bodies should try and work out their differences under the common chairmanship of Vijay Mallya.
Whatever the merits of that judgement of the General Assembly — not much except court cases have developed from that — the question which remains to be answered is how, in the first place, did the MAI come to be'
In his reply to the July 22 letter, FMSCI president Anand Swadi questions why this “no objection” clause was not invoked when the MAI submitted its application for membership to the FIA.
The question leaves the very existence of the MAI a legal issue. A perfect case for more court cases. One can guess how, in the process, motorsport can suffer.
Meanwhile, the kick-off of the national karting season has been announced — JK Tyre sponsors the circuit that was a resounding success last year — and Formula III or Formula Nippon qualifiers have emerged from here. The National Motocross’ inaugural leg was announced and cancelled (because of the objection from the Army), and as motorcar companies and oil companies keep mum, there seems to have a great deal of time to kill.
Fortunately, the above rigmarole is likely to be placed before the FIA’s Ordinary General Assembly on October 2 in Paris. Not that the overall problem sees any solution quickly, but with the entire issue now hinging on a legality, there could be tricky problems in store for the FIA. Any positive move there will only benefit Indian motorsports.