(CNN) -- Jean Todt has succeeded Max Mosley as president of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) after he was elected to the most powerful position in motorsport on Friday.
Todt, 63, won the FIA general assembly vote against ex-world rally champion Ari Vatanen by 135 votes to 49 in a secret ballot, with 12 abstentions/invalid votes, at the FIA headquarters in Paris.
Frenchman Todt had received the backing of Mosley, who held the position for 16 years, ahead of Finn Vatanen.
Todt's credentials for the job were based on his success with Ferrari where he reinvigorated the ailing Italian manufacturer in Formula One after he joined in 1993 and counted on greater support from the establishment than Vatanen who had campaigned for more democracy and change within the organization.
Luca Di Montezemolo, chairman of the Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA), welcomed the appointment of Todt.
"I would like to send my best wishes to Jean in his new role as I have always appreciated his ability, dedication and commitment," Di Montezemolo told the FOTA Web site.
"I am sure that, under his guidance, the Federation will be rejuvenated and will restore a climate open to dialogue and constructive collaboration with the teams and FOTA, thus ensuring stability of the regulations and the whole environment.
"Formula One is about to embark on a new phase. All the stakeholders must work together with an eye to the future, to increase the credibility and interest generated by this sport, tackling the technical and environmental challenges that await it, while keeping unchanged, those characteristics that have made it one of the most popular disciplines on the world stage."
FOTA vice-chairman John Howett added: "I extend my best wishes to Jean as he takes on this demanding, but crucial role.
"I am convinced Jean's presidency represents an opportunity for all Formula One's stakeholders to unite under his leadership and work together to strengthen our sport.
"FOTA is looking forward to supporting him to broaden the appeal of our sport among fans and sponsors, while respecting Formula One's great heritage to which he has contributed enormously."
Born in Pierrefort, Todt graduated from the School of Economics and Business in Paris and had a successful career as a rally co-driver from 1966 to 1981, ending with a manufacturers' world title win with Talbot Lotus.
After retiring from competition in 1982 he was appointed director of racing activities for Automobiles Peugeot, where he founded the Peugeot Talbot Sport team, which went on to win two world rally constructors' championships, two world rally drivers' championships and four Paris-Dakar victories.
In 1990, Todt became director of sporting activities at the PSA Peugeot-Citroen Group, which won the world sports car title in 1992 plus the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1992 and 1993.
Toft joined Ferrari in 1993 as general manager of its racing division and by 2001 was overseeing all sporting activities for the Ferrari-Maserati Group and helped reinvigorate the Italian manufacturer.
In 2006 he was appointed chief executive officer of Ferrari. During Todt's time with Ferrari, the team won a total 98 grands prix and 13 world titles.
Todt takes over the role at a difficult time for Formula One following the 'Crashgate' affair where Renault were caught up in a scandal where former driver Nelson Piquet was ordered to deliberately crash at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.