John Grant Q&A

The Motorsports Association (MSA), the national governing body of motorsport in the UK, has appointed John Grant as chairman-elect. Grant comes from a career as a top motor industry executive (including time at Ford) and is an enthusiastic amateur competitor. He takes up the position of MSA vice-chairman with immediate effect, and will take over from the present chairman, Michael Limb, on his retirement in December this year. He explained his views on his forthcoming role.

John Grant Q&A

First, the international reputation of British motorsport is not as strong as it should be. Britain, more than any other country, is the home of world motorsport and the MSA should play a bigger role internationally. But, to do this, it needs to have a much stronger reputation. This has suffered for a number of reasons, partly to do with the British Grand Prix, partly to do with its relationship with the FIA. The success of this year's Grand Prix should help to turn this round and we now need to build on this.

We also need to address our reputation and role within the UK. Our customer research tells us that the MSA is seen as too bureaucratic and too reticent to take the leadership role that our members think we should.

Another issue is the question of funding. As in many other sports, not enough money is finding its way from the top of motorsport down to the grass roots. One of our primary responsibilities at the MSA is to look after the development and support of motorsport at the grass roots level and we have to approach the question of how this can be funded with a completely open mind.

There are a number of further issues resulting from the current state of the economy, as a result of which some of our championships are not as healthy as they used to be. Here, the MSA has already seized the initiative in rationalising series to ensure fewer, but better quality, championships with longer entry lists and more enjoyable racing and rallying.

The most important task over the next 12 months will be to drive forward the work that's already started to develop a new strategy for motorsport in the UK. This is a major undertaking for the MSA. It is particularly important that we don't attempt to do it in isolation but in co-operation with the other interested parties. These include, for example, the MIA and AMRA, the bodies that represent the businesses involved in motorsport - the manufacturers of vehicles and components and the providers of the services which make the motorsport industry such an important part of the British economy. The Department of Trade and Industry are another interested party as they are promoting the development of motorsport industry clusters to help revitalise the nation's engineering industry. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport also have an interest in promoting motorsport, so there are a lot of parties we need to work with in developing this new strategy. Although each of these has already done good work on their own specific objectives, it will be quite a task to bring all the pieces together and to ensure everybody is working in harmony. To this end, I will be devoting a lot of my efforts to supporting Colin Hilton, the chief executive of the MSA, and establishing and promoting relations with the other people involved.

It's too early to say anything specific, as it's early days and I haven't gone into it yet in great depth. However, it is clear from the initial feedback that the MSA's traditional roles - the governance and administration of motorsport and, through our IMS subsidiary, the promotion and organisation of the major international events - are alive and well. The new role emerging from the Strategic Review is that we need to expand the MSA's involvement in the development of motorsport. We are strengthening our organisational capability to enable us to take on this new development role.

First of all there's an important job to be done - in restoring our relationship with the FIA, in enhancing the reputation of the MSA in the UK, in developing a new strategy for UK motorsport, in sorting out funding for the future - and that's just for starters. So it's an immense challenge - and I like challenges. The second and equally important point is that I'm a huge enthusiast - I've had a lot of fun in my years as a competitor in rallies, races and other forms of motorsport but it's a long time since I did anything to contribute to the sport. The opportunity was presented and I decided the time had come for me to give something back.

When we regain our seat is not for me to judge, but it is a high priority to restore the MSA to what I would regard as its rightful position as one of the more senior ASNs on the World Council. Whatever the reasons may have been for losing our seat, these need to be addressed - and this is already happening. For example, the successful running of the British Grand Prix this year has undoubtedly helped to repair some of the damage that was done by the unfortunate experiences of a couple of years ago.

It undoubtedly helps. Without some experience of competing, it would clearly be more difficult to develop the depth of understanding of the sport or to be able to establish the credibility that one needs to have here. It's very important for all our audiences, whether at the professional or the club level, to have faith in the MSA. They have to believe the sport is being run by people who understand their concerns. I've been fortunate to have competed over the years in grass roots motorsport and in international events and I've had some involvement in the professional end of motorsport as well, through my time at Ford and Jaguar, and I think that will be an enormous help.

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