The FIA Sport Conference 2018 hosted by the Automobile Association Philippines (AAP) focused on two things: involving more young people in motor sport either as fans or as drivers, and making it more accessible to the general public.

The FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) as the governing body of all four-wheel motor sport worldwide, cannot hope to be as recognizable as the NBA or FIFA.

People all over the world play basketball, so the games of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in the United States have a global television audience.

In the same way, people in hundreds of countries play football, thus the popularity of the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup.

As Formula One Group CEO Chase Carey pointed out at the first plenary session of the FIA Sport Conference, “Billions play soccer, there are not billions who race.”

Formula One, the World Rally Championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans – all motor sport events sanctioned by the FIA – do have fans worldwide, but few can afford to participate as drivers.

Thus the FIA Sport Conference tackled motor sport’s biggest obstacle for aspiring young drivers: the big money required to progress from karting to single seater to Formula One, assuming that a driver has the talent and determination to reach the pinnacle of motor sport.

Malaysian TV commentator Alex Yoong, a former F1 driver, said that young Asian drivers who want to reach F1 should be sent to Europe when they are nine or ten years old and stay there with their families to grow up in European culture amid the European level of competition.

Former Filipino race driver Marlon Stockinger narrated how he, after starting to race in go-karts at age eight or nine, was sent to the United Kingdom at the age of 16 to pursue his dream of trying to make it to F1. He had to live there to imbibe the European way of life and level of motor sport competition. (He returned to Manila after some years.)

Both Yoong and Stockinger welcomed the FIA’s plan to launch the new Regional Formula 3 Championships in Asia.

F3 Asia promoter Davide de Gobbi, who participated in the panel discussion, said the FIA wants to bring a new platform for young drivers in Asia to have the same level of competition as they have in Europe. F3 Asia will begin in July and race across Malaysia and China.

Yoong expressed the hope that eventually Formula 3 and Formula 4 in the future would be strong enough in Asia so that drivers can stay here and learn the right foundation, therefore when they go to Europe they can be competitive right away.

Carey said that while a healthy Formula One is important, it could only benefit from a healthy universal sport as a whole.

“It’s about developing a sport at a grassroots level,” Carey averred. “At the end of the day for Formula One, we want the 20 best drivers in the world, but we also want drivers from around the world to have the opportunity to get involved through grassroots efforts.”

The importance of grassroots level motor sport was also emphasized at the second plenary session by Philippine National Slalom Champion Milo Rivera, who grew up racing karts with the ultimate goal of Formula One.

But after the step from karting to single seaters proved to be difficult due to the financial requirements of the sport and of training in Europe, he turned to gymkhana racing and became very successful in it.

Rivera said that the good thing about gymkhana racing is that it can be done in a parking lot or industrial area within city limits instead of in a race track, which is usually located far from the big cities and populated areas.

He added that motor sport can be made more accessible and enlarge its fan base through a proper grassroots program that includes karting, gymkhana racing, and rallycross.

The FIA Sport Conference 2018, which was attended by over 300 delegates from 93 countries, was hosted by AAP on June 04-06 at the Conrad Manila with the support of the Department of Trade, Petron Corp. as Official Energy Partner, Hyundai Asia Resources, Inc. as Official Vehicle Partner, SMC Asia Car Distributors Corp. (BMW Philippines) and Philippine Airlines.



AAP president Gus Lagman, FIA president Jean Todt and FIA deputy president for sport Graham Stoker after the June 04 press briefing.



Malaysian racing driver and TV commentator Alex Yoong, Formula One Group CEO Chase Carey, Filipino race driver Marlon Stockinger, FIA F3 Asia Championship promoter Davide de Gobbi.



Eleven-time Formula One winner Felipe Massa talks about his motor sport career staring from karting at age 8.