CHENNAI: Very few at the Federation of Motorpsorts Clubs of India remember when exactly Vijay Mallya became chairman of the body. Most officials say ‘he was there when I came’. Former president Vicky Chandhok is one of the few who remembers how far back Mallya and FMSCI go. “If I remember right, he has been chairman for 29 years. He became India’s nominee to the world body some time in the early 1990s.”
For three decades, Mallya was the biggest name in Indian motorsports, bigger than even the likes of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, who actually raced at the highest level. As the honorary chairman of the FMSCI, its official representative to the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile and part-owner of the ‘Indian’ F1 team, Mallya hobnobbed with the who’s who of the motorsport world. Even after he left the country last year, he continued as India’s representative at the FIA, despite having his passport revoked.
But all that is over!
Mallya’s long-time association with Indian motorsports looks over after reports emerged of the businessman, who is facing extradition to India over unpaid debts, quitting his post as India’s official representative to the FIA.
The development was confirmed by FMSCI president Akbar Ebrahim. “Mallya has resigned from his post in the World Motor Sport Council and is no longer our representative at the FIA. We will choose a replacement for him in December when his tenure is set to end,” he told Express. Until then, it is expected that his deputy Chandhok will represent India at the world body. Mallya was the first Indian to be elected to World Motor Sport Council, in 2009, and was re-elected for a second term.
Mallya is the no longer chairman of the FMSCI after his term ended in January. The FMSCI did not renew his term, Ebrahim said. “His term as honorary chairman ended in January and we chose not to renew it. Our constitution does not require that we have an honorary chairman as it is a non-executive post, so we have chosen not to have one currently,” he said. Interestingly, FMSCI officials had told Express there was no need to remove Mallya, back when the 61-year-old’s passport was revoked last year. Mallya left the country in March 2016.
Mallya’s final link with Indian motorsports may also be set to be broken. Ever since he bought it in 2007, the Force India F1 team has long been held as India’s representative in the sport, despite being headquartered in Silverstone in England. The presence of the Tricolour on the team’s livery vanished this year after a sponsorship change led them to paint their cars pink. And now ‘India’ may also disappear soon from the team’s name.
According to reports, the team registered a series of companies under the name ‘Force One’ in the UK, which may be a step towards a possible rebranding. Mallya had also spoken out previously about how he wanted more international flavour to the team and had termed the Force India name ‘psychologically restrictive’. While the team had managed to court some local sponsors when the Indian Grand Prix was around, sponsors lost interest with the race’s demise in 2013.