Agree with him or disagree with him, today is FIA President Jean Todt’s 70th birthday and it is only right and fair that we should mark the date.
Most people are slowing down by the time they reach this age but Todt shows no signs of backing off from his various roles as FIA President and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Envoy for Road Safety. He has yet to decide whether he intends to stand for the FIA President role again in 2017.
Todt has enjoyed a very successful career in the sport, dating back to his days as a rally co-driver with Guy Chasseuil in 1966. He went on to co-drive with some of the great names in rallying, notably Rauno Aaltonen, Ove Andersson, Hannu Mikkola, Guy Fréquelin, Achim Warmbold, Timo Mäkinen and Jean-Pierre Nicolas. He was appointed Director of Peugeot Talbot Sport in 1982 and stayed in the role for 11 years, winning the World Rally Championship in 1985 and 1986 with the Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 driven by Timo Salonen and then Juha Kankkunen. After falling out with the FIA after the cancellation of Group B, Todt took Peugeot to the deserts in 1987 and began winning the Paris-Dakar. He hit the headlines, particularly in 1989 when he tossed a coin to decide which of his drivers should win the event. The team won four consecutive Dakar victories between 1987 and 1990. The firm then turned its attention to Le Mans and won the race in 1992 with a Peugeot 905 driven by Derek Warwick, Yannick Dalmas and Mark Blundell. This was followed by a 1-2-3 victory the following year. By then Todt’s desire to move to F1 had been rejected by the company and so we joined Ferrari in 1994 and, in uncompromising style, led the team to five consecutive Workd Championship titles with Michael Schumacher between 2000 and 2004. He then became CEO of the whole Ferrari company before handing the F1 team over to Stefano Domenicali at the start of 2008. He stood down as Ferrari CEO shortly afterwards and then declared himself a candidate for the FIA Presidency in the autumn of 2009.
I certainly don’t agree with everything he has done along the way – we had our first fight in the town of Gao in Mali, in January 1989, when he tossed his famous coin to decide the event, something I felt was outrageously unsporting and told him so. However you cannot deny his record of achievement in the sport.
For these achievements, he has been recognised in France with a Grand’Croix of the Legion d’Honneur, the highest award possible for a French citizen, and something exceptionally rare outside political circles.
It is a litter-known fact that he was also the associate producer of the film The Lady, which starred his wife Michelle Yeoh in the role of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2011.