Accusations fly ahead of FIA presidential vote

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The Independent Online

Campaigning for the most powerful position in world motorsport descended into a slanging match today with FIA president Max Mosley and would-be successor Ari Vatanen trading blows in an exchange of letters.

The governing International Automobile Federation published accusatory correspondence between the two men while calling in a statement for an end to negative campaigning ahead of the 23 October election.

In his letter, dated 14 October and issued through his lawyers, former world rally champion Vatanen complained that the "principle of neutrality has been flouted constantly by the FIA".

The Finn accused Mosley, who has publicly backed former Ferrari boss Jean Todt to take his place, as being the first to "violate" that principle.

Vatanen also said a strongly worded letter sent by Mosley to Jordan's Prince Faisal, one of the Finn's leading supporters, had been defamatory and reserved the right to take legal action.

He also suggested FIA resources had been used on Todt's behalf.

"I request that you stop and that you ensure that staff members on the payroll of the FIA and organisations which depend financially on the FIA stop these practices which up until now have constituted a violation of the principle of equality among candidates to the presidency of the FIA," he wrote.

Mosley replied the following day with a letter expressing surprise at the criticism but reiterating his support for Todt's campaign.

"The essence of a free and fair election is that the merits of the different candidates are debated," he wrote.

"It is not a violation of any legal principle for anyone to think that you are a less qualified candidate than your opponent for the role in question."

Mosley, who faced calls for his resignation last year when he was involved in a sado-masochistic sex scandal, urged Vatanen to provide evidence of any wrongdoing so that the FIA could investigate.

"In an election people take sides," added the Briton. "Someone paid all the expenses for a large number of clubs to attend an election rally for you in Jordan. There have been similar efforts on your behalf in other countries.

"Perhaps you should take advice as to whether such direct financial aid is lawful. I suspect the response will be that it is inappropriate but not illegal."

While Vatanen has been backed by Formula One teams and manufacturers, Todt is claiming considerable support within the governing body.

The Frenchman said this week that commitments of support showed a large majority of clubs in favour of his team in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.