He is one of the topliner reputable people in Turkey, at the same time he is a successful businessman. Mumtaz Tahincioglu is the person who has actualized the things that everyone once called “a dream” as the President of Turkish Automobile Sports Federation. His featured identity is his presidentship of TOSFED. And his football passion… And businessman. And family man. And…
As we entered his office in Atasehir, the wall decoration was the first thing to grab our attention. Eye-catching and interesting… “Do you know what is this?”, asked Mumtaz Tahincioglu. We said “No”… “They are tire tracks…”
After all, we were in the office of the person who is the president of TOSFED since 1997 and who had brought the World Rally Championship and, with a 7-year agreement, Formula 1 to Turkey. It is natural that the walls were decorated with extended tire tracks. And nice as well…
His wife, daughter and son are all addicted to motor sports as a family… He had been the president of Galatasaray Sports Club, played professional football in England, and he is the president of Turkish Automobile Sports Federation (TOSFED), board member of Tahincioglu Holding and owner of several companies such as Delon… Naturally, his agenda is busy. And we talked about “everything” with Tahincioglu within this agenda. Mostly, automobile sports and his football passion which didn’t pass away even after having his ears pulled by his father…
A small tip before the interview: The presidency of Tahincioglu is going to expire by the end of this year and he is not planning to be candidate again. Also, although he likes speed and motor power, he doesn’t like motorcycles at all. Apart from riding motorcycle, he even congratulates the bravery of the ones who ride motorcycles. He prefers 4 wheels and just wants the gas pedal when he gets on the track… And he prefers comfortable, silent and automatic cars in his daily life.
You are the one who had brought Formula 1 to Turkey. In this connection, several things, which were mostly positive, have been said and are still being said as well… As one of the architects of this success, how do you assess this process? Do you think that the agreements will be renewed?
We had a seven years agreement which covers 2005-2011. After the races organized for 7 years consecutively, our agreement has expired and because we couldn’t provide an environment for renewing the agreement, Formula 1 isn’t organized in Turkey as from 2012. A 7-year agreement had been drawn up for the first time in Formula 1 history. Normally, the agreements were used to be drawn up between 3-5 years. We wanted to make an agreement with the company which owns all the rights of Formula 1 but as nation, we didn’t lean towards giving the requested amount. The requested environment could be provided but we tried to stand upright as the nation. Unfortunately, standing upright doesn’t work in this business.
Apparently, Formula 1 is a giant organization and a bit show of strength rather than a sport…
Of course… The countries don’t see Formula 1 as just a sport. They think about how they can introduce themselves to the world in cheapest way. As we look at the Formula 1 calendar, there is a difference from past to present. In the past, it was an organization organized by developed countries, because it was used to be seen as just a sport. Later on, it has transformed into a big show of automobile industry. The works of developing countries to bring this organization to their own countries began in the early 1990s. Apart from known European countries, we started the works at the same time with Malaysia and Bahrain. Abu-Dhabi followed us. And then India, Korea, China… Now, Russia is coming and it’s going on like that. That is to say, the theme has changed.
You are the successive president for 5 years…
I’m on this job since 1997. This year is the last one. I will not be candidate again.
Because, I’m against that someone being president more than two periods. Because those two periods is the time course when you can be uber-efficient. After that, no matter how good you are, people want changeability. I believe in this as well. Giving a chance to other people… New projects, new people… My case is different. When I finished the period, the operation to decentralize the federations was started. As one of the individuals who defend decentralization, I was obliged to be candidate in the election during that process. Because my period wasn’t over yet. The process after that – my last one – was the time course that I didn’t want to appear in. I told you the reason just now. The new initials wait and ask “Is it your seat?”. I didn’t experience something like that but I’m jumping the ship by the end of the year because I believe in that.
With your presidency, there were many initials other than Formula 1…
As a businessman, I want to evaluate my presidency in the same way. While I was planning, I had a campaign movement in my way. In the brochures of the campaign that I presented in that time, I said that we want to make the organization which Turkey already organizes in the 4th league of European Rally Championship to proceed into the Champions League. We did it. After that, I said Formula 1. We did it. Along these, there are subtasks of course. International major organizations, education projects etc… Turkey has become an education country. The employees, who we have coached, started to give education abroad. There had been Turkish friends who took part at high level inside FIA – our boss –. Also, I’m a member of the council of motor sports of FIA. These can be multiplied.
Do you mean “I made the way, you’ll keep the ball rolling”?
Of course not. But we have brought the best of everything to Turkey. Such an argument can be put forward, “Okay, everything is nice but among these, we couldn’t present the names from Turkey who can race and become famous yet”. In fact, the names are coming forth but we can’t proceed to the levels that we want.
These don’t happen with only talent. Behind this business, a great deal of money should be spent and the sponsors are necessary. We presented champions from Turkey. We still do. It is impossible for these guys to go all lengths as long as there is no well financial support behind them. I can give you the best example from my son. I brought my son to the gates of Formula 1. He studies in England and races there. He raced in Jason GP2. I experienced the same problem as well. A sponsor was present in that time and supported him to race in GP2 but the sponsor quitted then and the project collapsed. This happened to my son even I could provide opportunity. But it’s not going on with me or the parents of another one.
Where the federation is standing at this point?
Of course people can righteously say “Let the federation create this source”… But we don’t have such a substructure. Not any federation can sponsor a football player. This is both false according to the rule and if you do it, you should do it for everyone. We did everything but couldn’t raise a good sportsman. This is not only ability. Yes, there should be luck. You should be in the right place in the right time. Talent is essential. The environments which will improve your talent as well… And you should have possibilities. Most of the racers do not only race because they have skills. They race because they have a serious financial support behind them.
Is financial support the only problem for Turkey?
Turkey has such a problem. It’s not only for motor sports but for every sport, even for football. We have a problem about performing and watching sports. If you take a look at the number of licensed athletes in Turkey which has a population of 75 million, you’ll see a funny number. We are fewer than the countries whose population is as much as Istanbul. There is 10 times difference between Netherlands and the license number that we have as Netherlands isn’t bigger than Istanbul. In addition, it’s essential to love this business. For instance, how many people watch the races?
For you, motorsports is a passion en famille… Do you have another passion?
I had been playing football caressively and when I was about to play football as a professional, I ended it with having my ears pulled by my father. I have never played in teams one-to-one but due to the college, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday and Manchester United used to call me to the trainings. I attended to the trainings of each one. I was just about to get there, my father got there.
Do you say that I wish I was a professional football player?
Do you have anything that you feel regretful about something?
Of course. That’s exceptional. I would like to experience the pleasure to be a successful football player. But I really know the reason why my father had stopped me. If I rushed into football, I wouldn’t continue studying. I wouldn’t have a diploma. I wouldn’t be a businessman etc… You know, a football player’s life is to a certain extent. There are not many people to be still successful after quitting football. This is the nature of the pursuit.
You were in the management of Galatasaray. Will it recur?
That was not planned. Adnan Polat called me and said “I want to see you in the team”. I said “Yes” for a while. And I quitted after 2 years. That’s another pursuit. My businessman identity and my business don’t give green light to do many things.
Are you interested in classic cars? Or motorcycles?
I don’t ride motorcycle. I don’t like as well. I prefer 4 wheels. Most particularly in Turkey… I admire all the friends who ride motorcycles. I think that motorcycle culture hasn’t formed in Turkey. For this reason, it becomes dangerous. There isn’t enough respect to the ones who ride motorcycles. Besides, it’s a newly started thing to wear helmet. Every place that we broke can be repaired but the head is dangerous.
What do you do as daily sport?
I used to play tennis in the past. These are social sports. But I had herniated disc and I have to be very careful. I mostly try to do physical exercises in the gym. For example, I swim. If I could play football, I’d be very happy but I can’t. Apart from that, I really can’t get round to do those.
Is your daily routine just about the business life?
Of course I definitely work out at home when I wake up in the morning. But not every day… 3-4 times in a week… After quitting the presidency of federation, I will assess that gap by looking after myself much more.
What does pleasure mean for you?
Success… The satisfaction created by success.
Kent, Swiss Hotel etc… What do you do now?
We should divide at the moment. Firstly, there are companies belonging to holding group and secondly, there are companies which I own. Holding was the owner of Kent. Kent was sold. Real estate business and other big projects are going on there. Also, there are companies belonging to me. One of them is the chocolate factory, Delon. We have a company which provides Merchandising service and also we have a vehicle tracking system. This is not only a unit placed in a vehicle. From now on, we follow the work from production to sale. For every single product… That company is called Rota. There are a few more small companies. But of course, federation takes really much time.
You said that federation will come to an end for you by the end of the year. How will be your last hurrah?
My most important one, last duty! Turkey was elected among the 7 countries which have applied. About what? By the end of the year, FIA’s general assembly and the award ceremony of all the championships are going to take place in Istanbul. Everyone will receive their cups in Istanbul in December.
Which cars do you prefer to drive?
I drove all the fast cars in traffic. The track is certainly different. Then, you proceed to a particular point. You see, I’m at that point in the past 10 years. You look for a silent, comfortable vehicle. Sonorous, overblown, fast… I drove all of them.
What is the sports car that you like to drive?
I drove all the sports cars in England. The one that I enjoyed most was Mini Cooper S. Of course, not like today’s Mini Coopers… The real Mini Coopers… A minute car and an enormous engine… The engine was small for itself but the generated power was huge. Apart from that, I drove nice vehicles such as Jaguar but today, I prefer more silent and comfortable ones. The cars with automatic transmission that don’t tire up the driver… We used to drive the ones with manual transmission. Of course, the vehicles on the track have manual transmission. Always…
Do you still get on the track?
Yes. I still have 5 Formula 3 vehicles. We had teamed up in the past.
How often do you get on the track?
Very rare. 1-2 times in a year… I used to drive on the track very often in the past. I had teammates in that time. Cem Hakko, Ali Basakinci etc… We used to race together. When everyone dived into the business world, the vehicles were left to us.
What is the best automobile in the world in your opinion?
Road or racing?
Both of them…
There is no such definition. At this point, I would ask 10 questions. Which criterion determines the best car? It would be an injustice but since the establishment of Formula 1, Ferrari is there. Several teams entered and then left. For example, Mercedes left and returned again.
Which car would you like to drive?
Aston Martin. I like it… Best car? I don’t know.
Which team do you support in Formula 1?
I don’t support any team there. Because each one comes forth in their own way each year. This is not like supporting a football team. However, I believe in two drivers. One of them is Alonso and the other one is Schumacher. But I support Alonso much more. These guys are the drivers who use the worst car in the best way. And in their dialogues with the mechanics, the team gets very important information from them. It’s not the only point to drive the vehicle. The point is being able to explain the vehicle to the team.