FIA Charlie Whiting Award winner on WEC experience
Denmark’s Ronnie Søgård Andersen has won the 2022 Charlie Whiting Award – the prize that honours the memory of the late FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting and recognizes the achievements of aspiring Race Directors.
Round two of the 2022 FIA World Endurance Championship, TotalEnergies 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, was the first event Søgård Andersen attended as part of his mentorship programme that was established for the award winners.
The Dane shadowed WEC’s long time Race Director Eduardo Freitas in the Race Control, who managed a challenging race that was red-flagged on three occasions and featured five full course yellow periods and six safety car procedures.
“The entire weekend has been an out-of-body experience. I had full access to everything from race control to the teams all weekend. The WEC organization, the stewards, team managers and everyone else took the time to answer all my questions and give me thorough explanations,” said the man himself.
“Eduardo is a fantastic race director as well as educator. He managed to explain all of his decisions while running the most complex race I have ever witnessed!”
Speaking of the challenges of race direction in endurance format, Søgård Andersen said: “running multiple classes, with substantial speed differences with both gentleman drivers and pro drivers is much more complex than I expected.”
“This weekend has given me a great insight in the complex world of endurance racing. Learning how to account for this and mitigate the risks that occur during the race will help me a lot down the road.”
The 34-year-old follows the footsteps of his father who was also a race director and currently has five years’ experience as Clerk of the Course and Race Director in his native Denmark.
He has a background as a driver in karting and Formula Ford and has also served as mechanic, race engineer, and team manager. He progressed from flag marshal to scrutineer to Clerk of the Course and most recently to Race Director for the Super GT Denmark series. He has also served as an international steward for TCR Europe and Extreme E’s Arctic X-Prix, and is also a member of the safety council of the Danish ASN – DASU (Dansk Automobil Sports Union).
The 34-year-old is the second Charlie Whiting Award winner after Singapore’s Janette Tan won the inaugural edition in 2021 and worked alongside Freitas during last year’s WEC double-header in Bahrain.
The selection process for the award starts with National Sporting Authorities (ASNs) worldwide nominating an official, who must then complete a comprehensive test. The results of which are assessed by a panel of FIA representatives.
Application for the award is open to Race Directors or Clerks of the Course, with candidates judged both on their knowledge and competency demonstrated at national and international level, as well as their answers to specific hypothetical case studies that evaluate their ability to manage real-life situations.
For the winner, the award includes participation in a mentorship programme under the wing of experienced race directors, allowing them to attend FIA events over the course of 12 months and thus develop their skills and progress in their career.
Søgård Andersen was announced as the 2022 recipient of the award at the virtual Race Director Seminar, an event which brought together over 200 officials working at various FIA competitions worldwide. The award was presented via videoconference by FIA Deputy President for Sport, Robert Reid.
“The Charlie Whiting Award recognizes and nurtures emerging talent such as Ronnie in their career progression as part of the Race Control management team. On behalf of the FIA, I would like to congratulate Ronnie in receiving the award for 2022,” said Reid.
“The judging panel deemed that Ronnie was the outstanding choice for his commitment, professionalism and appreciation of the role of Race Director. Ronnie will now enter into our 12-month mentorship programme as the next important step in his career path and we wish him well.”
In accepting the award, Søgård Andersen said: “I am grateful to even be considered for this award. It’s an honour and a privilege. There are a lot of talented people out there in this field and receiving this award makes me feel very humble. To follow in the footsteps of someone as highly respected and approachable as Charlie is a huge honour.”
“The award brings a tremendous opportunity to follow some of the brightest minds within the FIA Race Control structure. Trying to observe and take in all of that knowledge over the next 12 months is going to be a huge task which I am looking forward to.”
Next on Søgård Andersen’s schedule is ABB Formula E World Championship’s Berlin e-Prix where he is going to shadow Race Director Scot Elkins. After which, in mid-June, he’s going to visit the Hungaroring where he will have the opportunity to experience three different FIA championships – WTCR – FIA World Touring Car Cup, FIA ETCR eTouring Car World Cup and FIA European Truck Racing Championship – all running to different formats and with different requirements in terms of race direction.