Motorsport Law

Gary has a specialty legal practice representing parties involved in motorsport and automotive cases. 
That leads to interesting law cases/issues and opportunities to attend many great sports events or meet some of the personalities behind the scenes – but also leads to some tricky FAQs…
Is there such a thing as motorsport law?

Good question. People used to say the same thing about ‘sports law’ as a field of legal practice, but that debate is now largely resolved.  There are lawyers and firms who keep a busy practice of doing only sports matters (mostly, contracts of one kind or another) and there are professional governance and in-house legal roles aplenty. And specialist sports arbitration panels and forums in most countries.   Not to mention growing case law and other precedents to draw upon from a range of places that helps clarify the way in which existing legal principles apply to the specialist topics engaged by auto racing.

Specialists need to understand the combination of driving standards/rules, technical regulations, class/series regulations, motorsport national codes and FIA-led principles, as well as sports arbitral procedures for disputes.  The combination of man/lady and machine, with all the mechanical technical overlay, in my view makes this definitely an emerging subject in its own right.

What does a lawyer do in car or bike racing?

A lawyer’s role can range from acting as professional liaison for conveying driver, club or sanctioning body concerns, to protests, technical component disputes, stewards’ appeals and disciplinary hearings, specialist contracts, negotiating event management and venue hire deals, resolution of disputes without bringing the sport into disrepute, health & safety risk, sponsorship advice and clashes.

Applying a blend of sports experience, mechanical understanding, as well as good lawyering skills is essential. Having experience of the drivers’ perspective inside the cockpit, visor down, hard at work, really helps. Clients like to feel that their lawyer understands their Series Supplementary Regs as much as their FIA homologations, can distinguish their scrutineer or logbook status from their parc ferme, and knows the special jargon and procedures that stewards and racing officials world-wide work within.

One of Gary’s most enjoyable parts is helping mentor promising junior drivers/riders (pro bono) – stepping them along a professional careerpath, developing the business, communication, corporate skills to lead meaningful relationships with the range of stakeholders working in the motorsports sector.

Who are potential clients or stakeholders in this field?
  • Sports executives, club and sanctioning body leaders or administrators, officials and technical stewards
  • Race work-shops, mechanical or specialist parts providers
  • Professional teams, clubs and promoters, sponsors, media companies, Agents and intermediaries
  • Drivers, riders, automotive athletes and their coaches, parents, patrons and fans
  • Other professional service providers (lawyers, accountants, PR consultants, tax advisers, wealth managers)
  • Event management, sponsorship and marketing professionals.

Gary is lead counsel for Speedway New Zealand Inc, represents up and coming karters and speedway drivers as well as established stars, and a host of tracks/clubs/competitors across different disciplines.

Where do motorsport lawyers hang out?

At the racetrack, of course! Normally in the pits or paddock, not so often in a grandstand corporate box! But also, there are a couple of world-renowned annual conferences, such as:

Motorsport & the Law – run in the UK by LawInSport each year
https://www.lawinsport.com/sports-law-events/conference/197-motorsport-law-conference-2024

The Racing Attorney Conference (TRAC) is America’s annual petrol-law-head event, , organised since 2008 by the Indianapolis Bar Association Sports and Entertainment Law Section
https://racingattorneys.com

Locally the Aust & NZ Sports Lawyers Association annual conference may sometimes include topics or guest presentations focused on a motor-racing issue, often in the aftermath of some high-profile case or sporting event/series problem hitting the courts or media headlines. ANZSLA is now heading into its 33rdannual conference, in Sydney this coming October 2024: https://www.anzsla.com

 

More FAQ Content coming soon.

Motorsport law, by leading New Zealand motorsport lawyer Gary Hughes