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Sunil Vohra: Life in the fast lane

What drove Melbourne’s Sunil Vohra to become CEO of Motorsport Australia

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Sunil Vohra sits at the helm of one of the fastest growing sports in Australia. Just six months into his role as the CEO of Motorsport Australia, the peak body responsible for the administration and development of four-wheeled motorsport in the country, Vohra has already overseen what was by many measures the most successful Australian Grand Prix in Formula 1 history.

But, for Vohra, that is just the tip of the iceberg that is his ambition to take motorsport in Australia to the next level.

AT A GLANCE:

  • Melbourne’s Sunil Vohra became the CEO of Motorsport Australia late last year
  • A lover of cars and racing since childhood, Vohra has also been racing competitively
  • In his role, Vohra hopes to drive sustainable growth in diverse initiatives such as the Formula 1 Pride Hub and Girls on Track
On the grid with Shane van Gisbergen and Motorsport Australia President Andrew Fraser (Source: Supplied)

Motorsport has been a lifelong passion of Vohra’s; so much so that he can’t recall when it first ignited.

“A lot of people in motorsport can easily trace family members who introduced them to the sport, but I didn’t have that,” says Vohra.

 

With son, 14 year old Kamran, at the gates to the F1 Paddock (Source: Supplied)

Nevertheless, his connection to motorsport has endured over the years, from an early love for road cars and performance vehicles, to watching the Australian Touring Car Championship (now known as Supercars) and Formula 1, and eventually, taking part in competitive track racing himself.

But Vohra’s professional life took a different turn. Over the years, Vohra has built a long and successful career in insurance and risk management, working as a senior executive in insurance and large brokerage businesses, as well as consulting with big corporates, including with his own businesses in Australia and in the UK, where he completed his MBA nearly 20 years ago.

That was around the time Vohra recalls seeking a role in motorsport for the first time, in London, the veritable home of global motorsport. But it wasn’t until the top seat at Motorsport Australia serendipitously became available last year that Vohra seriously revisited the idea. “The opportunity to join the peak body in the senior role, and to shape this next evolution of motorsport in Australia was just an opportunity that was too good to pass up,” says Vohra.

That hunger for success runs deep in Vohra’s blood: his older sister Minal is a senior barrister, and his other sister Shyla, works as a Director and Principal Legal Officer in the Commonwealth Attorney General’s Department. But for Vohra, these achievements are just a by-product of the values instilled in him by his parents, including his father Professor Jitendra Vohra AM, himself a renowned cardiologist.

Restless (Source: Supplied)

“The one thing that came from my parents to me and my siblings is that we’re ambitious and relatively restless – and these values are deeply engrained in my character now. I always feel the need to push to quite high standards because anything else just isn’t enough,” Vohra reveals.

There’s little doubt those standards have driven Sunil Vohra to what is a unique position: an ethnically diverse CEO of a major sporting organisation, and that too in a sport that has traditionally struggled with diversity. While Vohra acknowledges it’s a “significant” appointment, he sees it as a natural extension of the work the sport is already doing to improve diversity in its ranks.

“Motorsport is working within communities that are vastly more diverse, and we need to reflect the community values of today,” says Vohra. “That extends to a welcoming and inclusive environment for people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. If you have an interest, love or passion for motorsport, you are welcome – and that has been my experience, too.”

Vohra points to initiatives such as the Formula 1 Pride Hub and Girls on Track, which he describes as “fundamental” to driving sustainable growth in the sport.

Girls on Track, Motorsport Australia
New initiatives (Source: Supplied)
With Guenther Steiner, former Team Principal at Haas F1 Racing Team (Source: Supplied)

Vohra also brings another unique perspective to his role, in that he is an administrator and a competitor. “I absolutely love racing,” he says. “It challenges you in ways you can’t find anywhere else, it requires all of your concentration because it’s actually a very technical, data-driven exercise to go fast. It’s not just bravado, or doing things to a high risk threshold. But the most important thing is the camaraderie and sense of community in amateur racing. I haven’t experienced anything in my professional or social life where that level of support and inclusion comes from a simple love of sport. It’s a unique experience and it’s utterly addictive.”

It’s that experience which allows Sunil Vohra to see Motorsport Australia as a mere extension of the broader racing family. “As a not-for-profit organisation, we’re always trying to do more than we’re resourced to do, but we’re able to because of the enormous passion and commitment within the organisation. My role is to provide an environment where my very passionate and skilled team can do their very best work and to provide a financial structure that allows us to do that, as we continue to recover from COVID-19.”

Formila 1 racing
“What impresses me most in amateur racing is the sense of community.” (Source: Supplied)

Vohra hopes to leave a lasting legacy in the sport. “I certainly feel that my role is one of service to the sport, rather than being about my own individual ambitions. What I’d look to as a marker of success is that I leave the sport in much better health than I arrived – and that’s consistent with the values that I grew up with, and that my family continue to represent.”

For those chasing their dreams, Sunil Vohra’s advice is straightforward: “I’d encourage anyone who has a passion that is important to them to explore, nourish and encourage it, because it’s an amazing place to be when you realise that dream.”

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Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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