Mate Rimac, Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Todt, and World Motorsport Elite Celebrate 115 Years of Auto Racing in Croatia

Daniela Rogulj

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More than a century of continuous commitment to the development and promotion of motorsport in Croatia briefly turned Zagreb into the capital of auto racing on Saturday evening. 

A gala dinner to celebrate 115 years of organized auto racing in Croatia gathered the leading people of world motorsport in Zagreb. Organized by the Croatian Car and Karting Association (HAKS) and president Davorin Štetner, the president of the World Automobile Federation (FIA) Jean Todt, the former Formula 1 world champion, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the owner of Rimac Automobili, Mate Rimac, and the cream of the world and European sports arrived in Zagreb!


Mate Rimac, Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Todt, Davorin Štetner

“It is an incredible passion that we could see in the film about the development of organized auto racing in Croatia and the development of the sport in these 115 years. That energy is encouraging, and the whole FIA ​​is looking forward to it,” said Jean Todt, adding that the WRC race in Croatia proved to be exciting and well organized.

“This is thanks to the federation, the organizers, the Government of the Republic of Croatia, and the City of Zagreb, and it is really worth watching the drivers compete on difficult tracks, where there is no room for error.”


After taking Jean Todt through his complex in the Concept Two car on Saturday, Mate Rimac stated that the arrival of the world motorsport greats is the greatest recognition for Croatia and the Croatian Car and Karting Association.

“All these people who came here are important people who see positive things in our country – the energy of people who are committed to organizing races like this in Croatia. This is important for us, not only in sports but also in economic terms,” Rimac said.

The host, the president of the Croatian Car and Karting Association Davorin Štetner, said in an emotional speech that the response of the guests, the great effort of all involved in the sport, but also the current WRC race in Croatia is a great recognition of the efforts of octane enthusiasts for decades.


“Courage, passion, endurance, and the ability to constantly adapt to unpredictable conditions – these characteristics are essential for our sport. I want to thank everyone who contributed in any way to the development of the sport. This dinner was conceived a little differently, but the pandemic ruled, and we couldn’t celebrate it with representatives of the 88 clubs that actually make up the alliance. The names gathered at the Sheraton today are the pinnacle of world motorsport, and I am very proud to have this recognition! Our 115 years, top experts, and most importantly – an interested audience, are responsible for the fact that the country is today in the rank of the best hosts, drivers, and organizers of car races. Regarding the WRC, it is the icing on the cake of this celebration, and the teamwork of all involved is deserving of winning the race and excellent grades so far. Still, we will celebrate on Sunday afternoon when the race is over. The match for WRC to stay in Croatia starts already at this moment, and I hope that after these first days of racing, all institutions have recognized its size and importance! I am encouraged by the words addressed to me these days by the owner of the WRC, the president of the FIA, and the leaders of the strongest teams,” said Štetner, reminding that this HAKS anniversary will be further enhanced by the race at Grobnik in September, when Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 F1 world champion, will be on the track as part of the NASCAR GP.


“It is never easy to organize a world competition for the first time, and the team from Croatia succeeded. Congratulations to Davorin, at whose invitation I came and to the whole team,” Villeneuve commented after the WRC ceremony. “Croatia is beautiful, and I look forward to every arrival, especially when the weather is nice. So far, I have only passed the track in Grobnik on video games, so I’m looking forward to the ride.”

The world’s elite at the celebration also included one of the best rally drivers in history and the current president of the FIA ​​Committee for Women in Motorsports, Michèle Mouton, still, the only woman to win races in the highest FIA World Championship competitions (with male competition), NASCAR Euro Series President Jérôme Galpin, former rally driver who brought the prestigious NASCAR to Europe, WRC Hyundai team chief Andrea Adamo, and Ford M-Sport team chief Malcolm Wilson.


It also included WRC general manager Jona Siebel, who said that the enthusiasm and teamwork of all succeeded, and the WRC owner Thomas Krohne himself. The guests were also addressed by the Acting Mayor of the City of Zagreb, Jelena Pavičić Vukičević, and along with the Minister of Labor, Pensions, Family and Social Policy Josip Aladrović and the Greek Minister of Sports Eleftherios Avgenakis. The ceremony was also attended by State Secretary for Sports Tomislav Družak and sales director of Bell helicopters for Europe and Russia Simon Sirancov, and presidents of the Slovenian and Hungarian automotive associations.


The Croatian Car and Karting Association marked the beginning of the first organized activity when the first Croatian Automobile Club in Zagreb was founded on April 1, 1906. The Croatian Car and Karting Association was formed from this club, today the umbrella and only competent body for organizing, conducting, and supervising all car and karting competitions in Croatia. As many as nine HAKS representatives are active in the bodies of the World Automobile Federation – FIA.

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