FIA president Jean Todt made a surprise appearance Saturday at Daytona International Speedway as a guest of FIA Senate president American Nick Craw, with FIA vice president Mexican Jose Abed also attending.
In the morning, he watched the Grand Am race, handing the trophy to the winners in Victory Lane, before joining the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers meeting ahead of tonight's 400-mile race. Later, he met with the media to discus the reasons for his visit and other topics.
Q. What brings you to Daytona?
Jean Todt: It's very interesting to see what's happening in America as to motor racing and, thanks to my friend Nick Craw, the president of ACCUS and president of the [FIA] Senate as well, he organized this trip and I'm attending today the Grand-Am race and tonight the NASCAR race.
I met all the France family, I met some teams, some drivers and you know, you can learn from what is happening here, what's a bit unusual for you.
Q. What's your first overall impression?
JT: I did not see a lot of people [in the grandstands] so it means that Grand-Am is less popular in Daytona than NASCAR, but it was still a very competitive race.
It was interesting to see the rolling start, with the sports cars first and then the GT cars. It was hard competition and the use of the safety car was interesting as well. So, as I've said before, there's quite a lot you can understand about American racing.
Q. The FIA has not been too involved in NASCAR as America's most popular racing series. Any plans to change that?
JT: There already is some contact and some synergy but, of course, everything is open for the future. We're talking with endurance racing as well and you have the Le Mans here in America, you have IRL [IndyCar], which I have not yet seen, which is another quite popular event in America. If we can make some different racing, different synergy for the future; it's open.
Q. What's the current link between NASCAR and the FIA?
JT: There's some support in safety. Safety is very important for the FIA, for NASCAR organizers, for [NASCAR president] Mike Helton, who's very much involved as well as the France family.
Next year will be the decade of action for 'Make Roads Safe' for normal car users. Too many deaths in the roads is the word in America, so if we can have some programs to support, to be more efficient, using racing all over the world, it would be a good opportunity.
Q. A very competitive season unfolding, and some tough races for Michael Schumacher recently in F1. What's your verdict on the season thus far?
JT: You know, it's all depending on the car you drive. Michael is a great person, a great champion. I mean, I don't know somebody else who has won seven titles, 91 Grands Prix. Some people when they judge, they must be very careful, very respectful of what he has been doing.
Considering the Formula 1 World Championship, it's very open. It's a big fight, we've had five different winners this year out of nine races. It's not yet halfway though the championship, it will be halfway after next week's British GP, so it's a very attractive championship.