MELBOURNE, Australia – The governing body for international auto racing says its Formula One director Charlie Whiting has died from a pulmonary embolism. He was 66.

The FIA issued a statement Thursday saying Whiting died in Melbourne, where the season-opening Australian Grand Prix will be raced on Sunday.

A pulmonary embolism is caused by a blockage in the lung.

FIA President Jean Todt says Whiting had been "a great Race Director, a central and inimitable figure in Formula One who embodied the ethics and spirit of this fantastic sport."

Whiting began his F1 career in 1977 working at the Hesketh team. He joined the FIA in 1988 and became a race director in 1997.

Todt says "Formula 1 has lost a faithful friend and a charismatic ambassador in Charlie. All my thoughts, those of the FIA and entire motor sport community go out to his family, friends, and all Formula One lovers."

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