Thought leadership series
Topic

Thought leadership series

Graham Stoker: The quiet revolutionary running for FIA president

In the latest part of the #ThinkingForward series, Graham Stoker has spoken about his decision to stand for the FIA presidency in the election to be held later this year.

Graham Stoker is the most powerful figure in motorsport you’ve never heard of. As FIA Deputy President for Sport since 2009, he’s been Jean Todt’s right-hand man, modernising the FIA, the global motorsport governing body, driving through programmes to develop the sport around the world.

He has been in the room where it happens for decades; a key player on the World Motor Sport Council, he was involved in high-profile cases like Crashgate (Singapore 2008), Spygate (McLaren 2007), the 2010 Ferrari team orders as an arbitrator and was a driving force behind getting the motorsport restarted in 2020 after the initial COVID-19 shock.

Now, as Todt steps down as FIA president, he’s running for the top job in the election to be held later this year. He spoke exclusively to Motorsport.com for the #ThinkingForward series about his decision to stand.

“I think motorsport has done a fabulous job during this pandemic,” says Stoker. “As we come out of it, I want to make sure that we build confidence and get investment back, that we have a steady steering out of this pandemic. And that we also deal with some of these challenges that are facing us. I mean, the whole issue about drivetrains, what fuels we should be using, let’s switch that round into an opportunity. So that's it, I suppose at the heart, I want to try and make a difference.

 

 

“And I think I've got the skills. I have experienced so many key decisions in motorsport, and got a real insight; I've been through two Concorde agreements, renegotiated the World Rally Championship, we set up a new championship in Formula E. I want to use that experience.”

 

Stoker caught the racing bug as a child, “I was reading Autosport when I was 12,” he says, and had been interested in driving only to come up against the barrier that blocks so many who aspire to race: the prohibitive cost. It gave him a lifelong desire to make the sport more accessible and much of his energy in the last 12 years has been towards growing grassroots motorsport, with the clubs in 146 countries that organise motorsport events and overseeing accessibility programmes like FIA Women in Motorsport.

Alongside his career as a barrister, he went into the sport’s administration in the UK. After five years as permanent steward in the British Touring Car Championship he became chairman of the RAC Motorsport Council, playing his part in saving the British Grand Prix that was under threat from the late Max Mosley, then FIA president, and Bernie Ecclestone, who compared the 2000 event to a ‘country fair’. Stoker worked with the national and regional government to have new roads constructed by 2002 to improve access for the 120,000 F1 fans.

Stoker then became an F1 Steward and took a seat on the FIA World Motor Sport Council. This led him into contact with Todt, who had been looking for a running mate as Deputy for Sport who knew all the corridors of the FIA, ahead of the 2009 election after Mosley stood down.

“You have to remember by that stage, I'd been on the International Court, as a judge with the FIA, I was running the anti-doping panel, I'd become a Formula 1 steward,” says Stoker, in an interview conducted before Mosley’s death on Monday. “I knew the World Council, and knew the clubs around the world, the 146 nations that we operate in. So that's what I brought to Jean's team.

“Jean was acknowledged to be one of the best managers of his generation. And I brought the knowledge of the clubs, the knowledge of the FIA. We've worked together, and I'm proud to say I've been elected three times with his team. It's been such an interesting time.”

Stoker has chosen nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen as his running mate as Deputy President for Sport, having been chairman of the FIA Drivers Commission for five years.

So how does Stoker see the role of the FIA in modern motorsport, and how does it help the sport to grow? “It's not only delivering and organising safe and genuine sport, but also growing the sport, looking for talent around the world, driving some of the policy debates, reaching out to our unique industry with its advanced engineering,” he says. “All these things that a modern international federation does. Not only that, our mobility pillar reaches out to all the motoring drivers around the world. I mean, we're operating in 146 countries. We have so many members. And really, that does lead to an opportunity where we can drive through some of the thought processes and make a difference to the way policies are formulated. I'm very interested in driving policy decisions.”

Stoker describes the 12 years of the Todt FIA presidency as a “quiet revolution”, aimed on modernising the federation.

“Looking back on what we've achieved, really it’s been changing it from a regulatory body to a modern international federation,” he explains. “Things like developing our clubs with major programmes all around the world, supporting our clubs, making them stronger. It's our core business to organise events. That's really what this is all about, organising safe, genuine events, but also moving into other areas of inclusivity with women in motorsport programmes to try to detect talent around the world, grassroots programmes. Something I’m passionate about is social responsibility and the role we take, for instance, in delivering STEM education.”

Stoker has a driving sim rig in his home, “I love driving round Le Mans,” he says, and he’s committed to developing Esports and sim racing as a new frontier for the sport. A recent boost came with the International Olympic Committee now willing to accept racing Esports in its programme.

“That will go forward to the Olympic Games in due course, which is very, very exciting,” but it’s the accessibility it offers which appeals to him the most. “You can take it around the world, we can take it to Africa, we can take it to Asia, anywhere. We can put up these simulators and try to attract youngsters and get them into our sport. It is a fabulous thing, it's part of our sport, and we're going to grow it. It's going to get ever stronger.”

 

As for the future for real motorsport, there are plenty of obvious threats and opportunities. The main challenge used to be safety and that is still a crusade, but sustainability is now the greatest challenge.

“We've got to act to protect our sport, “ says Stoker. “We've got such a great story to tell, like the Formula 1 engine at the moment, over 50% efficient. No one's ever built an engine that efficient. Formula E, look what we're doing there with rapid charging and battery technology. I think hydrogen is going to come in; we saw that last year, with the course car at Le Mans, I think hydrogen is going to be a big part of our future. And the other thing I think that's fascinating is e-fuels and the ability to capture carbon from the atmosphere, and with solar energy, create a synthetic fuel that we can burn in our engines. Every time we start an engine up we'd actually be helping climate change. I mean, there are so many opportunities.

“And then there is the whole idea of inclusivity, reaching out around the world. My experience, that difficulty I had carrying on with my driving, I want anyone with ability around the world to get an opportunity to get into a competition vehicle, rally or race, without any connections, just through talent. I think that's a real goal that we should deliver on. Those challenges, they're there, but I think we can meet them. I think this is a time of opportunity. And I’d really like to be involved in it, delivering some of the solutions.”

The FIA presidential elections will be held at the end of 2021 before the FIA General Assembly and prize giving in December. So far there is one other confirmed candidate, former rally driver, Mohammed Bin Sulayem.

shares
comments

Related video

Graham Stoker launches FIA presidential bid
Previous article

Graham Stoker launches FIA presidential bid

Next article

Alonso: Second place used to lead to ‘funeral’ atmosphere

Alonso: Second place used to lead to ‘funeral’ atmosphere
Load comments
How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison Prime

How getting sacked from Benetton made Mercedes' Allison

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells Stuart Codling about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him.

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Prime

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as Ben Anderson discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren Prime

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver for McLaren

From being lapped by his own teammate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Prime

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing wind tunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher Prime

The invisible enemy that's made Hamilton's title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles as a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021
Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay Prime

Why F1's inconvenient penalties have to stay

OPINION: Quibbles over the length of time taken by Formula 1's stewards over decisions are entirely valid. But however inconvenient it is, there can be no questioning the importance of having clearly defined rules that everyone understands and can stick to. Recent events have shown that ambiguity could have big consequences

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax Prime

The mistakes Red Bull cannot afford to repeat in F1 2021's title fight climax

OPINION: Red Bull has had Formula 1’s fastest package for most of 2021, but in several of the title run-in events it has wasted the RB16B’s potential. It cannot afford to do so again with Lewis Hamilton motoring back towards Max Verstappen in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining

Formula 1
Nov 23, 2021
Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings Prime

Qatar Grand Prix driver ratings

Qatar was a virtual unknown for most as Formula 1 made its inaugural visit to the Gulf state, and tyre management quickly emerged as an even more critical factor than normal. Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that two of the championship's elder statesmen produced standout drives

Formula 1
Nov 22, 2021